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NEW YORK STATE BOYS BOWLING: WAVERLY EXCITED TO COMPETE ON 'LEVEL PLAYING FIELD' AT DIVISION 2 CHAMPIONSHIPS (2023-03-11)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
SYRACUSE  — The Waverly boys bowling team will be making its first appearance Sunday at the New York State Championships since 2017, but things are quite a bit different now.

The Wolverines placed seventh in 2017 in a field that included Large School (Division 1) powers from Long Island, Buffalo, and Rochester. On Sunday, they will compete against schools roughly their size in the Division 2 Championships.

Volunteer assistant coach Greg Joseph, who as proprietor of the Valley Bowling Center has been involved with the Waverly program since Day 1, is happy to see a level playing field.

“Right from the beginning, we wished we were able to bowl against teams our own size,” he said. “Some of our teams were so good.

“This is going to be the first time we’ve ever gone up against the smaller schools with a team like this, that has great potential,” said Joseph. “We’re excited about our opportunity — there are nine teams to beat.”

Waverly head coach Derek Bowman believes his team can compete for a state title.

“I’ve looked at the scores from the other State Qualifiers … our numbers compare to them,’ he said. “Does that mean, we’re going to go and win? No, but we can compete and possibly do very well.

“That’s been the message to the guys this week,” he added.

Bowman has also been working with his team, which only has own bowler (senior Zach Vanderpool) with experience at States, in dealing with the nerves associated with state tournaments.

“As much as you want to look at it, and say ‘it’s just another day, it’s just another tournament,’ it’s not,” he said. “And, I think the kids understand that.

“I tell the kids all the time, ‘we can’t win it in Game 1, but we can lose it in Game 1,’ so if we just stay calm and bowl with the mindset: ‘one ball at a time, one frame at a time, and one game at a time,’ I think we’ll be all right,” Bowman added.

Senior Zach Vanderpool, who qualified for States in singles competition last year, has also talked to his teammates.

“I’ve just told everyone to relax, and take it like anything else, just like we did at Sectionals, and the State Qualifier,” said Vanderpool. “Just have fun, and bowl like you know how to.”

Vanderpool, who has the top average in Section IV and won individual gold at the State Qualifier, said he’s hoping he can take his own advice.

“I always put a lot of pressure on myself to bowl good, but I’ve been trying to relax.

“I’ve bowled in other big tournaments… I’m trying to have the same mindset for States that I have for the other tournaments,” Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool believes he’s going to enjoy this trip to States even more than last year.

“I’d say I prefer bowling with my team, being with my friends,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Vanderpool will be joined at States by fellow seniors Ashton Pritchard, Mike Cole, and Landyn Gunderson, juniors Trenton Sindoni and  Carter Hayes, and freshmen Derek Johnson and Tristan Campbell.

Bowman said the starting five for Sunday is still a work in progress.

“A lot of it’s determined by their performances throughout the season — numbers are numbers. It’s right in front of us.

“But it’s also about who performs in ‘crunch time,’ who has ice in their veins as I like to say,” said Bowman.

“If the first five go out their and bowl well, they’ll bowl all day — if we’re in contention,” he added. “If we fall out of it, I’ll rotate guys in and give everyone a chance to bowl.”

Each year, the state releases the “oil pattern” to be used at States, so teams have the opportunity to practice on it. However, the different machines that lay down the pattern, and the lanes themselves can cause differing reactions for bowlers.

“The pattern is the pattern, so it’s going to play similar, regardless of where you are,” said Joseph. “What might happen is the machine they use on the lane might make it hook more or less than it does somewhere else.

“We’re (coaches) not inexperienced, we’ve been up there a lot of years, we kind of know what may happen,” he added.

The Strike N’ Spare Lanes in Syracuse is hosting the state tournament again this year. Unlike year’s past, teams will not have the opportunity to practice there before the tournament.

“Making quick adjustments is absolutely the biggest key to this weekend,” said Joseph. “They don’t have practice sessions like they use to, so we’re going into it with the 10 or 15 minutes of practice they’re going to give us.

“We’re going to have to make surface adjustments, and line them up a little more quickly.

“Those adjustments are going to have to be very quick .. they’re going to have to make the right moves, and come out of the gate quick in Game 1,” added Joseph.

Bowman agreed with Joseph.

“Making quick adjustments is the big thing,” he sad. “I thank Greg (Joseph) for that, he can see it pretty quick, and Zach (Vanderpool) can see it quick, and understands ball reaction.

“The quicker you can do that and make the transition, the better,” added Bowman. “That’s what hurt us at IACs, we struggled with transition … hopefully, this weekend, we’ll be a little better.”

The Wolverines are also riding a high into this weekend, after rallying from 228 pins down at the State Qualifier and edging Johnson City by 22 pins, thanks to 10th-frame strikeouts by Pritchard and Sindoni.

“It was exciting. After six games, it came down to that 10th frame … luckily, the kids bowled well. A couple of them (Trent Sindoni and Ashton Pritchard) struck out, and helped us get the win,” said Bowman.

“We knew Johnson City was close, we just didn’t know how close it was,” said Ashton Pritchard with a laugh.

Pritchard has been a starter for the Wolverines since 8th-grade, and will be making his first trip to States.

“Going to States means everything,” he said. “I thought it was in the equation this year for us to make States.

“I thought we had a good chance, but IAC kind of dampened it a little bit,” noted Pritchard. “Then, we came back at Sectionals and did well, and at the State Qualifier we bowled really well.

“Yeah, this is exciting,” added Pritchard. “I’ve always dreamed of going to States”

Pritchard isn’t afraid of bowling at a new house.

“It’s always exciting to bowl at a new place,” he said. “You never know what to expect.”

Do the Wolverines have a chance to win a state title?

“I think we have a good shot,” said Pritchard. “We just have to stay with it, and focus on taking it one shot at a time, and not worry about our scores when we’re in the middle of it.”

“I think we’re going to make a run at it,” said Vanderpool “I think we have a good chance

“No one thought we were going to make it this far, but we did,” added Vanderpool.

“We are going to have to bowl well to win it,” said Joseph.

The morning session begins at 9 a.m., with the afternoon session slated to begin at 1 p.m.

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IN PHOTO: The 2022-23 Waverly boys bowling team. … PHOTO PROVIDED.

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