If anyone thought that Schenectady County Community College’s national bowling championship last season was a once-in-a-lifetime feat, they haven’t talked to SCCC bowling coach Ray Ross lately.
“We’re hoping to repeat,” said Ross, who guided the Royals to their first-ever National Junior College Athletic Association crown over the likes over perennial powers Vincennes and Erie Community College.
“We went to a few more tournaments this year, just to prepare,” Ross said. “We went to a big tournament back in December, and then we did well at major tournaments in both Allentown (Pa.) and New Jersey, where we were the top two-year school in both. Back here, we’ve won just about every tournament we’ve been in.”
Ross, who was the well-deserved NJCAA Coach of the Year in 2012-13, feels this year’s group has all the talent and desire to bring home another trophy.
“We had a good recruiting class. We had two big shoes to fill with the loss of Tyler Mochrie and Jeff Karabin, but Jake Rivers has stepped up this year, and so has Casey Schoonmaker and Corey Buckley. We recruited A.J. Welch out of Camden High School in Utica, and we also picked up AJ Indovina and Pat Devoe. I think we have retooled and rebuilt.”
Ross admitted that the most challenging aspect of his coaching job is replacing so many players every year in the two-year program.
“Recruiting is definitely the hardest part,” he said. “We have to find the right bowlers.”
Ross has his own formula for choosing his team.
“The first thing we need is a degree or program that the bowler wants to pursue here,” Ross said. “Then, in terms of bowling, it comes down to whether they have the right timing and release, and whether they can repeat their shots. If they have those three things established, then I want them on my team.
“We take kids who we may have to polish, but that’s OK,” said Ross, who does a great job of convincing many of the Capital Region scholastic standouts to stay close to home and bowl for him.
“Jake Rivers is the perfect example of the kind of bowler who has really stepped up his game in his second season,” Ross said. “He was probably our seventh or eighth guy last year, but he has worked so hard. This year, he is bowling fantastic. He is supplementing all the rest of the guys on the team, and he’s added an extra boost.”
With all the high-scoring conditions locally, Ross said he’s very careful about picking the right bowlers.
“What people don’t understand is that when parents and their high school coaches see the bowlers put up all those great scores, it might not be the same at the next level. At the college level, the lane conditions are so difficult that you have to be very accurate and consistent to be successful. During the first year in my program, a lot of the kids are just getting used to all the collegiate lane conditions. I coach them and show them how to make the right adjustments in order to get to the next level. During the second year here, many of them make great strides, like Casey Schoonmaker and Zach Doty. Last year, both Casey and Zach were in the top 10 in the country for rookie collegiate averages, and this year, they are right there again, only they are even better.”
Scoring averages on the tournament level are much lower than local bowlers are accustomed to. For example, here are the averages of SCCC’s top eight bowlers: Welch (205.7), Doty (203.9), Schoonmaker (199.6), Ryan Karabin (190.6), Rivers (188.4), Buckley (187.6), Charles Moeske (186.1) and Devoe (186.1).
Ross said that the SCCC community is still talking about last year’s national title.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “The support that the school gives the bowling program is unmatched for a two-year school. The amount of money they spend, and the support they give us is amazing. The president of the school showed up when we were honored by Schenectady County and by the board of trustees. I’ve received emails from the vice presidents, the teachers and the other students.”
Ross said he won’t let this year’s group off easy.
“We won last year, but we have a great opportunity to win it all again,” he said. “You never know what will happen, but I want them working hard and striving to do what we want from them in order to be successful. We’ll see what happens. Other than Erie CC and Vincennes, no other program has won the title since 1981. Then we crashed their party last year. We would love to win it all again.”
STRIKES & SPARES
Manuli #1 shot a 2,880 to win the Towne Bowling Academy team handicap tournament. Rounding out the team leaders were Revolutions #6 (2,824), TC’s Crew (2,822), Revolutions #3 (2,784), and 4 States (2,777). Low to cash was the 15th place team with a 2,698. There was a bonus cash allotment for five extra spots at 2,650. The top four singles players were former PBA tour standout Brian LeClair (793), Nick Galusha (778) and Ben Enea (758). Low to cash was 705.
One of the most popular Huck Finn bowling events of the year will be held this weekend with the Super Bowl Scratch Doubles. Top prize will be $2,000 per tandem. There will be one qualifier on Saturday at Spare Time-Latham at 3 p.m., with another squad set for Sunday at 10 a.m. at Boulevard Bowl. The finals will follow at 1 p.m. at Boulevard, with the TV taping Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl. Call Jeff Segel at 439-7628 for reservations.
The following week, doubles action continues with the Huck Finn Mixed Doubles Feb. 9 at 10 a.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl. Entry fee is $100 per team, plus the Huck Finn membership, if not already paid. First place will be $1,400, and second place will be $700. The men bowl scratch, while the women will receive 100 percent of the difference between their average and 220. Again, reservations are strongly recommended, as these doubles events fill up quickly.
Qualifying for the 12th annual Joe Donato Scratch Singles tournament begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. Entry fee will be $60, and the top prize will be $3,500 guaranteed. All squads will advance one in five bowlers. Other upcoming qualifiers include Feb. 7 at both 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at Pin-O-Rama in Utica,
Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. at Hi-Way Recreation and Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Spare Time-Clifton Park. Qualifying continues at numerous centers throughout the area through March 2, when the finals will be held at Towne Bowling Academy. Call 496-7812 or 788-0771 for more information.
The third annual NEBPONY/Huck Finn Adult-Child tournament will be held at Green Island Lanes beginning Saturday at 1 p.m. Other squads will be Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. and Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. There will be two divisions, one for teams with an average of under 360 and the other for teams with an average of over 360. Cost is $25 per team. Handicap will be 90 percent of 225, and one in eight teams will advance to the semifinals, set for March 2 at 1 p.m. at Playdium Bowling Center.
Towne Bowling Academy hosts the Open Doubles Scratch Challenge Feb. 9, Feb. 14 and Feb. 16, followed by the finals Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. Entry fee is $130 per team. Teams bowl four games of qualifying, and one in five advance to the semifinals. In the semifinals, each team bowls two more games, with the top four advancing to the bracket finals. Top prize will be $2,000 per team. Call 355-3939 for more information.
Jonathan Bowman of Peru beat Chad Sutliff of Valatie, 190-176, to win the Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour tournament at Imperial Lanes Saturday. Winning scholarships were Bowman ($275), Sutliff ($175), Austin Van Buren of Altamont ($125), Ricky Rovelli of Albany ($85), Chris Radliff of Schenectady ($60), Justin Carl of Albany ($50), Jay Hadcock of Johnstown ($40) and Billy McGaffin of Amsterdam ($35). The next tournament will be Feb. 8 at 12:30 p.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. Call 982-0035 for reservations or more information.
The University at Albany club bowling team won the Westchester Invitational at Farmingdale Lanes. This is only the third year of existence for the UAlbany team, which included former Shenendehowa High School captain Francesca Brown, Justin Harris, Jeff Lasher, Danny Hofstein, Rachel Szeliga, Josh Vine and Zach Szumloz.
Alex Weglarz shot a 653 and earned $230 at the sixth annual Troy Bowling Association Plastic Ball Tournament at Hometown Lanes. Other cashers were Steve Horton (649, $150), Jason Burger (631, $70), Dustin Paupst (623, $45) and Dave Mineau (623, $32).