SSA’s bowling team knocking down the competition

The thunderous roll of the ball. The sound of the pins crashing when struck. The camaraderie among team members. All three comprise the allure of bowling at St. Scholastica Academy in Covington.

Since 2006 when bowling became a sanctioned sport by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA), the Covington all-girls’ school has fielded a bowling team, and a successful one at that.

The St. Scholastica Doves bowling team made the state regionals its first year. The bowlers were district runners-up in the 2007 bi-regional state playoffs; district champs and state runners-up in 2009; state quarterfinalists in 2010 and 2011; district champs in 2011 and 2012; made the state final four semifinals in 2012 and 2013; were co-district champions and made the state final four in 2014; were undefeated district champs and state champions with a 16-1 record in 2015; and district champs and in the state final four semifinals last year, said coach Peter Bertucci.

He was proud to mention as of March 19, this year’s team is 12-0 and will advance to the bi-regionals March 28 at All Star Lanes. They aspire to make the final four April 7 at the Baton Rouge River Center.

But what Bertucci is most proud of is the team’s culture – its commitment to excellence and high standards of athleticism, community, faith and character.

“What I truly admire is how the team wants the culture to be a certain way, and they make it that way,” Bertucci said of the welcoming nature of the team.

  “It’s a family, because we are all close, and we’ve watched each other grow up,” said junior Amy Schneida, who joined in eighth grade. “We’re with each other every single day and encourage each other to do our very best. We pick each other up when we are down.”

Eighth grader Cali Carroll said she joined the bowling team to try something out of her comfort zone.

“The people are inviting and don’t make me nervous,” Cali said. “They help me out and if I’m struggling at all in a game, they help me and point out things.”

The team has girls from all grades: three seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, one freshman, three eighth graders and two team managers who are juniors.

“For the whole team to work, we need everybody,” Bertucci said. “You don’t have people knocking down the doors to do bowling; you get those special people,” Bertucci said.

In a different league

Initially, the team belonged to the LHSAA New Orleans league. For the past three seasons, the team has bowled at Tangi Lanes in Hammond against teams such as Archbishop Hannan in Covington, Albany, Holden, St. Thomas Aquinas and Ponchatoula, said Bertucci who is assisted by coach John Walsdorf. Bertucci also coaches St. Paul’s team that travels to bowl with SSA’s team.

Bowling season runs from January to mid-April. Some team members bowl on Saturdays in the USB Congress League at the bowling alley, but all practice weekly and bowl two matches a week.

  Bertucci uses a three-game, 600-series benchmark for members. Senior Megan Bounds has had a 267 game. The team average is between 148 to 169 points.

“If we have two bowlers finish in the 170-range, that’s the first time we’ve done that,” Bertucci said.

Long-time members such as senior Meghan Kreeger, who joined in eighth grade, said bowling success combines hitting your mark, your stance and mind set.

“I try to stand as straight as possible, make sure all my mannerisms are in check and to make sure my shot goes right,” Kreeger said.

Coach Bertucci said practices and matches are video recorded and photographed by team managers – who also keep score – to study for individual game improvement. The video is shown at end-of-year team parties.

  “Is this sport mentally tough?” he asked members.

“Yes,” they responded, mentioning how they have utmost focus during play and refuse to be beaten.

“I think it’s tough,” junior Aubry Hymel said. “One game you could be doing really well, and then one thing changes, and if you don’t make the right adjustments, your game could really go the wrong way.”

Senior Cadie Manale, who is swim team co-captain, joined the bowling team and discovered its similar mind set to swimming. While both are more individual sports, she thinks she can be more herself when bowling.

“I’m getting closer to this team and find it’s easy to have conversation with the people around you,” she said, considering her bowling teammates friends for life. “If you are having a rough time, friends on the team are there to put you on track.”

  Manale laughs at the reaction of people when she tells them she bowls. They ask, “Wait, bowling is a sport? People come?” To which she responds, “Yeah!”

Bertucci mentioned the support of parents and the appearance of the St. Scholastica Dove mascot at matches.

Bowling is getting bigger annually, Bertucci said. What’s also wonderful about the sport are college scholarships that three seniors and two juniors have accumulated in the Grand Prix Scholarship Fund through Louisiana Youth bowling.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.

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