This year’s Michigan high school bowling season will be known as the year of the global pandemic. Southgate Anderson’s team of 23 bowlers rolls on despite the limitations set by COVID-19.
Due to the restrictions put in place over the last year by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the bowling season got off to a late start and was interrupted once it started.
The Downriver Bowling League cut its number of head-to-head matches between teams by half, from 18 to nine. Bowling houses that are used to operating to capacity during the season are nearly empty during those matches. No spectators are allowed to watch in person, limited to what they can see at home on streaming cameras provided by the teams. And, of course, all of the bowlers are wearing face protection during the games.
Anderson senior Neil Perok, in his fourth season with the Titans, has really felt the impact. He hoped to improve his skills in the offseason and show up ready to go.
“The lanes were shut down eight or nine months and when I came back everything was lost,” Perok said. “My release wasn’t right. I had low scores. There were big problems when it was time to come back.
“Every time we shut down causes me to lose muscle memory. I was worried there wasn’t going to be a season this year. We’re having a season, but it’s shorter.”
Perok said he’s “OK” with the shorter season – anything as long as the Titans get to bowl as a team.
“I got back in the groove,” he said, noting that his average has climbed to 160 and he’s hoping for bigger things ahead.
Perok added that the off-and-on bowling season has limited opportunities for bowlers to be scouted by college coaches. He said he plans to pursue a degree in engineering at Lawrence Technological University and hopes to bowl on the college bowling team.
No matter what this year turns out to be, Perok and third-year senior Jordan Hunt agree that the season has been memorable and fun.
“It’s fun,” Perok said. “The team is just great. We all have fun when we’re doing this.”
Hunt, who also plays hockey and golfs and is on the track and field team, said she enjoys her bowling teammates and wants to make the most of their time together on and off the lanes.
Making the most of your opportunities is a key, according to Coach Stacey Black-Quantz, who said league rules limit the number of bowlers during matches to six per girls team, six per boys team and six per co-ed/junior varsity squad.
“Honestly, I just want to see improvement,” the coach said. “That means we’re winning. Whether we win at points, that’s a bonus. To see everyone have fun and get better, that’s what I like to see.”
Anderson is about .500 across the board midway through the season. Woodhaven Lanes serves as the Titans’ home bowling alley and the teams compete in various houses in the region. Other teams in the league are Woodhaven, Taylor, Wyandotte Roosevelt, Gibraltar Carlson, Trenton, Lincoln Park and Dearborn Edsel Ford.
Only four schools bowl during each of the bowling dates at a particular establishment. There are two Baker games and two regular games on each day.
Anderson is a team of mixed seasoning and experience. Some join a school team after years of bowling in youth and travel teams. Others are brand new to the sport. Coach Black-Quantz said she enjoys seeing the newcomers improve.
Perok is usually the lead-off bowler on the boys team, something that he enjoys despite the added pressure. Junior Luke Piscitelli, who had the high average on the team last year, is averaging 186 this season, one pin less than junior Nolan Pesci. Both have state tournament experience. A mix of seniors Gabriel Becraft, Steven Thompson, Alex Merriman and Gavin Baksic and sophomore Jacob Beck fill out the boys team lineup.
The girls team is led by Hunt, senior Stefanie Tasevski, juniors Britney Manning and Samantha McCuaig and sophomore Hailey Dupuie. The other slot is usually filled by seniors Annalyse Hudson or Brooke Staten or sophomore Brandy Thompson.
Other boys and girls on the team bowl with the coed squad.
Coach Black-Quantz credited former Coach Sean Sevrence with guiding the team to great heights in the past. She also thanked parent-coaches Ben Piscitelli, Angela Manning, Steven Thompson and Stacey Hudson with making a difference.
“For me, this is all about the kids,” Black-Quantz said. “That’s how I look at everything. I love seeing the kids and their faces when they do good.
“They’re all great kids. I’ve never had any issues with them. I have a great group of student athletes. They’re just amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better team.
“It’s been a crazy season. I’m just glad the kids have a season at all.”