The St. John Vianney girls bowling team finished the regular season with a sterling 15-0 record behind the exploits of team members (front row, from left) Maggie Irizarry and Sam Hager, Sarah Wiessel; back row, from left: Sydney Bohn, Cate O'Grady and Danni Struble. Courtesy photo
The St. John Vianney girls bowling team finished the regular season with a sterling 15-0 record behind the exploits of team members (front row, from left) Maggie Irizarry and Sam Hager, Sarah Wiessel; back row, from left: Sydney Bohn, Cate O'Grady and Danni Struble. Courtesy photo
" She does a lot to try to help the other girls and she’s really a team player. I think it makes them want to do better. " Bill Kusch head coach, SJV girls bowling

When it comes to bowling in the Shore Conference, teams have to be at the top of their game every match.

And the St. John Vianney girls managed to accomplish that every time out during the regular season.

For just the second time in Bill Kusch’s 12 years as head coach, the Holmdel-based school went undefeated with a 15-0 record to win the Shore Conference A North championship.

Unfortunately for the Lancers, they just missed qualifying for the NJSIAA Group I state finals, as they finished third in the Central Jersey Section 1 tournament at Bowlero in North Brunswick Feb. 5. Only the top two teams from each section advance to finals – but finishing third is not too shabby.

Nor was the season itself, which included a 10th-place finish in the Shore Conference Tournament at Lakewood’s Ocean Lanes Feb. 10.  

“In our division, certainly to go undefeated was a big accomplishment,” Kusch said. “In the states it would have been nice to be one of those two teams to advance but it’s been a successful season. We were actually in first after game one, we dropped off a little after the second and third games and Ocean just bowled lights out. We were right in contention, but those other two teams [Ocean and New Egypt] were just a little better.

“But there’s a Tournament of Champions for individuals, and we have Sydney going to that. She’s something else.”

The coach was referring to sophomore Sydney Bohn, who has been one of the state’s best bowlers her first two years in high school.

The daughter of Hall of Fame pro bowler Parker Bohn III, Sydney averaged 205 during the season and qualified for the state individual tournament after finishing ninth amongst all Central Jersey bowlers with a 593 series. The individual finals are Feb. 18 at Bowlero.

In showing how strong the league is, 16 of the 20 individuals who qualified for the state finals from Central Jersey are from the Shore Conference. Which makes Bohn’s 10th-place finish (with a 607 series) in the SCT individual event fairly impressive. Even more impressive was her effort in the SCT team tournament, where she had the seventh best series with a 202-204-234-640.  

Aside from the big numbers she puts up, Bohn has also served as a mentor for her teammates.

“It’s not just about her; she’s very unselfish,” Kusch said. “She’s more concerned about getting the rest of the girls where they need to be. That’s a credit to her. She does a lot to try to help the other girls and she’s really a team player. I think it makes them want to do better. She also got some of the kids from both the girls’ and boys’ teams to bowl up at Howell during the off-season.”

Bohn’s influence on her teammates was key, as an undefeated season is not accomplished by just one bowler.

Junior Cate O’Grady was second on the team with a 140 average.

“She’s one of our captains, and she’s a really hard worker,” Kusch said. “She’s a soccer player too, she’s very athletic. She sort of fed off what Sydney’s doing and that has pushed her to want to do better and improve herself.”

The team’s lone senior is Maggie Irizarry, who not only contributes to the stat sheet, but provides some intangibles. Irizarry averaged just over 100.

“She’s colorful, she’s got a pretty interesting personality,” Kusch said. “Certainly, being the oldest girl on the team, we made her a captain with Cate. Being that she’s been on the team before she’s certainly been a positive influence as a senior.”

Sophomore Grace Hager had a stellar second season, finishing third on the team with a 121 average.

“Grace was somebody who improved this season and definitely was a big part of our record this year,” the coach said.

Alternating at the fifth spot in the lineup were freshman Danni Struble and junior Sarah Wiessel

“Danni was new to bowling but the more she’s been bowling, she’s been getting her feet wet and getting more comfortable to be in there,” Kusch said. “Sarah also improved this year as well. They all improved, and that really helped with our division matches.”

Entering the season, the coach realized there was potential for a good year but wasn’t sure if the Lancers had the necessary depth to accomplish what they did.

“I knew we’d have a good one and two, but would the other girls pick it up?” Kusch said. “I knew Sam and Danni were bowling in leagues and I heard they were getting better. When I heard about the time they were putting in with Sydney, I knew the potential was there. But to go undefeated, I wasn’t sure.”

Along with his players, Kusch also praised the work done by assistant coach Stephanie Brogna.

As far as looking at all facets of the season, the coach felt what made it so enjoyable was not just the victories, but the girls themselves as well.

“That’s what is really good about them,” he said. “They support each other, they’re all good students in school, very smart grade-wise. It’s not just bowling; it’s their character, their personalities. They’re all very respectful, good kids. It makes my job a lot easier.”