by Andrew Garda
BELLEVILLE—The Montclair boys and girls bowling teams took to the lanes at Brunswick Zone in Belleville, fresh off their winter break and ready to go. While both squads fought hard, the girls fell to Bloomfield, 2-1, while the boys were swept by Nutley, 3-0.
Though the outcome was not what the teams wanted, head coach Kenneth Schnitzer still saw some positive progress.
For example, Nicholas Ioannou struggled in his first two games and appeared to be down on himself. Schnitzer has the option at any time to pull a bowler from the junior varsity squad to the varsity squad — even in the middle of a game. While he considered it, he chose to stick with Ioannou and see if he could bowl himself out of it.
Ioannou would throw strikes in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames of the third game, before bowling a spare and another eight pins in the 10th frame.
Schnitzer pointed out how Ioannou’s body language had changed in just a short span of time.
It happens that quickly, a bowler bouncing back and rolling confidently and Schnitzer enjoys watching it happen.
The team is split by gender, which allows Schnitzer to give more kids an opportunity to bowl. When the Super Essex Conference formed and split divisions up, many teams merged boys and girls. But Schnitzer said that means only 10 kids can bowl — five on varsity and five on junior varsity. With the team split with boys on one team and girls on the other, 16 kids can play, four on varsity and four on junior varsity for each gender.
Some schools don’t have a girls team, though, and Schnitzer will have each squad facing a different opponent, as was the case on Tuesday.
As a team, the Mounties are still finding their way, but despite that, the camaraderie is obvious.
Dean Schansinger, one of two boys captains along with Alexander Fall, constantly jokes and encourages his team and also spends time running across to the lanes on the opposite side of the bowling alley to check on how the girls are doing.
Schansinger, who said he has been bowling his whole life — and laughingly will say he might have been bowling in the womb — is clearly enjoying himself, and his joy is infectious. He’s having a good time, even though the team is struggling and while he wants to win, he’s not going to mope when he struggles.
If his resiliency can spread to his teammates, they’ll be able to bowl themselves out of tough spots like the one they were in Tuesday, when Nutley’s Jordan Cacio went on a tear, bowling strikes in nearly every frame.
While they couldn’t overcome Cacio’s hot streak, they battled hard and never gave up.
The same could be said for the girls, who managed to beat Bloomfield in the first game, before falling in the last two. Led by captains Molly Miller and Anna Silverman, the varsity girls, like the boys, were a bit uneven, but never gave up and encouraged one another regardless of the outcome on any roll.
“I think the best thing is all the people on the team have a sense of belonging,” Schnitzer said. “It’s a real good group of kids, there’s good chemistry with all of them, so they are really nice to work with.”