Lauren May Piotrowski is still in shock over the premature end of her outstanding final collegiate season on the lanes.
The Schenectady High School and SUNY Schenectady graduate was enjoying a memorable senior campaign for the University of Pikeville (Ky.) women’s bowling team when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all of her postseason playoff aspirations. The Bears had just won the Mid-South Conference championship for the second straight season and were headed to the NAIA National Championship a couple of weeks ago. UPike also was set to compete in the USBC Intercollegiate Team and Singles Regionals in New Jersey.
But suddenly, Piotrowski’s collegiate career was over.
“We were on our way to the [USBC] sectionals in New Jersey,” Piotrowski said. “We were on the bus, and about halfway through the trip, we got an email that told our coach the NAIA National Championships had been canceled. That was supposed to be held this week.
“When we got the news, it was obviously upsetting, but we tried not to focus on that. We were on our way to the regionals, and we tried to get ready. About an hour or two later, we got a second email telling us that the sectionals were postponed. It was then that we started freaking out. A lot of us were very emotional about it. A lot of my teammates are very passionate about the sport, just like I am.
“I don’t think it hit me at first. I mean, this wasn’t how my career was supposed to end. In fact, I don’t think it all really hit me until this week. I’m not at school right now. My friends are leaving. I can’t bowl, and all the alleys are closed.”
Piotrowski was enjoying a phenomenal season, and it’s no surprise. Known for her accuracy, sharp spare shooting and simple down-and-in style; she won seven Mid-South Bowler of the Week awards in the 2019-20 campaign. She earned one such award a year ago after transferring from SUNY Schenectady.
On Thursday, Piotrowski was named NAIA Women’s Bowler of the Year and first team All-American.
“Coming into my senior year, I was a little bit nervous,” Piotrowski explained. “It was my last year, and I wanted it to be a good one. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. But I finally realized that I just had to bowl and relax. I was working hard with my teammates, and both my teammates and my coach were giving me lots of support. With them behind me, I felt unstoppable.”
Despite an excellent first-half of the season, Piotrowski felt she could be doing better. Her coach suggested a slight change in equipment.
“I’ve always been a low-rev player, and I don’t hook the ball a lot,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to get the corner pins out. When I came out of the winter break, my coach threw a wrist brace at me. He said, ‘Let’s try it out.’ He said maybe it would be just a training tool, but he said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ ”
The new brace worked like a charm and immediately gave Piotrowski added versatility in her game.
“It gave me a lot more confidence playing with the better bowlers,” she said. “Now, I could learn new angles and go further left on the approach. I can hook the ball a lot more when I need to.”
Piotrowski, the Mid-South Conference Bowler of the Year, finished with a 207 overall average this year for the Bears, which is extremely competitive on the challenging collegiate oil patterns she faced. In conference play, she averaged 210.92 for 25 games.
It’s clear that Piotrowski has continued to excel at every level. As a youngster, she became the first female bowler to win back-to-back Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour events. She also was the runner-up in the prestigious Michelle Shafer Scholarship Tournament for juniors and earned a national high school scoring average championship. Later, she appeared on two national junior college championship teams with the SUNY Schenectady Royals.
Despite the recent turmoil, the Storm and Roto Grip equipment fan has developed a plan for her future.
“I’ve decided that I’m going back to UPike for a year to get my masters,” said the business administration and accounting major. “I’ve got an option to get it done in 11 months. I can get a graduate assistant job, so I believe it’s a no-brainer.”
It’s always been on Piotrowski’s wish list to try her hand on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association tour. She almost changed her mind until her recent surge with her new wrist brace.
“I was skeptical about going pro,” Piotrowski said. “I didn’t have much confidence in myself competing at that level. But after taking to a few people, and my coach, I think the wrist brace will help me compete out there. I think I will try it. I’ll go to a couple tournaments, at first. Hopefully, I get sponsored and it will become a regular thing. But I’ll take it day-by-day for now. I’m really looking forward to putting my new wrist brace in action.”
Piotrowski said she is trying to keep a positive attitude while she’s on a holding pattern with her bowling game.
“I still think that all of our hard work this year didn’t go down the drain,” she said. “It’s still good. I do believe that if we were able to compete in those tournaments we missed, we would have won. It kind of sucks. But I’m happy the way we ended our season with the conference championship. What’s going on now is crazy. I honestly think I didn’t face what’s going on until recently. It’s hard to think that my collegiate career is over.”
NYSPHSAA CANCELS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Four Section II teams and two sets of all-star units had been waiting several weeks hoping to compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships at AMF Strike & Spare Lanes in Syracuse, but that event was finally officially canceled this week.
Here is a recap of our local representatives.
Schalmont would have been the boys’ small-school representative at the state event. Seniors Tommy Moyer and Jarred Frank complemented a trio of sophomores in David Squires, Richard Pitsas and Sean Howlan for veteran coach Hugo McGroty, who is also a prominent member of the Section II bowling committee. McGroty has led Schalmont to a sectional crown three times. Schalmont was 11-3 in the Colonial Council this year.
“We didn’t jell like we thought we would after a strong start,” McGroty noted. “At the end of the year, it seemed like a long season. There were some questions. We bowled well early in the year, winning the Rotterdam Invitational, and I knew we had the ability. We finally came together at the sectionals.”
Leading the way was Squires, a sophomore who carried a 216 league average, 214 overall. He tossed a 1,351 six-game block at sectionals but was nursing a finger injury at the end of the season.
“David is a really talented person,” McGroty said. “He can hook the ball and go left, or he can use his speed and go straighter.”
Moyer, a lefty, owned a 207 composite average, 202 in league play.
“Tommy is a four-year player and a captain the last two years for us,” McGroty said. “He’s quiet but is our leader. He has a lot of ability and a lot of family support.”
Frank (199 average) came on strong late for the Sabres.
“He’s a three-year player who changed schools to get here,” McGroty said. “Bowling is very important to him. He has tremendous hook potential. When he can hook the ball the way he wants to, he can be unbelievable. In our two-game practice session, he rolled games of 279 and 299.”
Pitsas was second for the Sabres in sectionals with a 1,231 block. He averaged 195 overall, 193 in league.
“Richard starting off the season struggling, but he changed equipment halfway through the year. He’s been unbelievable the last half and has been bowling good everywhere he’s been,” McGroty said. “He has a lot of ball speed and is doing very well with that good equipment right now. He threw some big games in the sectionals to help us get here.”
Howlan was consistent in league (194 average) and overall competition (195). He’s nearly always in the pocket.
“He works hard at his game,” McGroty said. “Sean had difficulties halfway through the year, but he regained the form he had early in the season. He bowled very well for us in the afternoon block of the sectionals.”
Other teams that were supposed to represent Section II at the states were the South Glens Falls boys’ team (large schools), Schenectady girls’ team (large schools), Middleburgh girls’ team (small schools), the boys’ composite team and the girls’ composite team.
South Glens Falls compiled a 49-23 record in the Foothills Council. Every league had its own scoring system. The Bulldogs were led by junior Willis Bickford, who carried a 223 average and shot 1,397 at sectionals, and by junior Mykal Brunelle, who averaged 205 and shot a 1,394. Junior Jacob Hall (213 average, 1,219 sectional block), junior Dalton Jones (199, 1,235) and junior Chris Sharpe (192, 1,183) rounded out the starters for coach Brandon Bickford.
Schenectady (9-5 in the Suburban Council) featured a starting lineup of senior Katie Polomaine (193 league average, 1,265 sectional block), sophomore Kiara Beehm (190, 1,128), sophomore Ashley Wolf (180 average), eighth-grader Selena Wolf (166 average) and sophomore Shane’ Terry (167).
Middleburgh breezed through the Western Athletic Conference with a gaudy 56-0 record. The Knights have been dominant in the small-school division over the last three seasons and were paced by sophomore Jaidyn Rose (189 average), sophomore Cameryn Shultes (184), sophomore Danni Chichester (163), ninth-grader Julia Bingham (150) and ninth-grader Qwen Porter (147).
Both six-player composite teams were also strong. The boys’ all-section contingent included Schenectady senior Seven Terry (209 average, 1,378 sectional block), junior Zach Bogholtz of Columbia (215, 1,375), junior Parker Brown of Averill Park (203, 1,372), senior Jacob LaFountain of Mechanicville (218, 1,356), junior Tyler Mann of Middleburgh (205, 1,339) and senior Max Surprenant of Cohoes (207, 1,326).
The girls’ all-section contingent included junior Lauren Buess of Guilderland (196, 1,336), eighth-grader Jocelyn Smith o Glens Falls (196, 1,238), senior Marisa Heinze of Colonie (185, 1,231) and senior Abbey Fruiterman (194, 1,212) and Hoosic Valley tandem of sophomore Leigha Henkel (193, 1,227) and junior Emily Cumo of Hoosic Valley (178, 1,222).
STRIKES & SPARES
Although all local bowling centers are closed because of state mandates involving the COFID-19 health concerns, here is some national/regional news. The USBC Intercollegiate Singles and Team Championship, set for April 13-18 in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been canceled.
The USBC National Convention is postponed, as is the start of the 2020 U.S. Open and Women’s Championship.
The USBC announced that the Senior Masters, Super Senior Classic and Senior Championship have been postponed due to the COVID-19 public health concerns.
The Senior Masters was a major event on the PBA50 Tour schedule, but the PBA announced that all of its tournaments are on hiatus indefinitely.
The NYS 600 Club Tournament, hosted by the Electric City 600 Club, has been canceled. It was originally scheduled for Boulevard Bowl in June.
This is tentatively the final bowling column of the season as we wait to see if the season will be resumed.