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S-GI girls and boys varsity bowling teams look back on winning season, say farewell to graduating seniors

GO TWINKLE TOES — Springville-Griffith Institute varsity bowler Mariah Gamel fell just short of the state championships, but led the division in average, with a 180. A freshman, Gamel will return to the squad next season. Photo by Dave DeLuca.

SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-Griffith Institute boys and girls bowling teams wrapped up their winter seasons with the Section VI championships on Feb. 13. The boys finished the season with a 5-5 record and fourth place in Erie County Interscholastic Conference Small School South. Springville coach Kevin Farner noted that the boys had an “average” season. Springville was plagued during the regular season, as senior Brandon Sullivan battled an illness and missed four matches. Springville lost three of those four matches.

“We might have challenged Pioneer for the division, if not for that big loss.” Farner noted.

However, S-GI came alive in the postseason, finishing 11th overall, out of 50 teams and fourth in Class B, out of 14 teams. The boys’ performance at sectionals was the best in school history.

Freshman Zack Slippy finished the year with the teams’ best average, at 180. Sullivan, at 179; Andy Loop, at 178; Daimen Skinner, at 175, and Wyatt Sibiga, at 174, rounded out the team’s top five averages. Springville will graduate four seniors, three of whom have been staples in Springville’s bowling program.

“Losing [Nate] Sopko, Sullivan and Loop is, of course, a big blow to our team,” Farner said. “We might be able to replace their scores, but it will be much tougher to replace their leadership. It’s also sad for me, on a personal level, since I have coached all three of the guys since they began bowling in junior leagues, all at around the ages of 7 or 8.”

Juniors Sibiga and Kyle McCarthy will take the torch next season and look to take over for the departed seniors.

“Sibiga and McCarthy are and will continue to be great role models for the younger guys,” Farner said. “Both of them are serious baseball players and therefore don’t have much time to work on their bowling games, in the off season. As any coach will tell you, you can’t excel at a sport by only playing it three months out of the year. I have challenged the team to try to bowl once or twice a week, in the off season this year, to see how good they could really be, if they worked at it.”

Skinner was named the Most Improved Player by Farner at season’s end. He upped his league average from nearly a 150 last season to a 175 this season. Farner also mentioned that Alex Wendley, Nick Abdo, Louis Davies and Austin Coon made great strides during the season and will look to take on expanded roles, next year.

On the girls side, the team came into the year having to replace their top three bowlers in Miranda Clark, Tara Felser and Hunter McCarthy and graduated half of their team that won the school’s first division title in program history. With a new-look team and a freshman sensation, the Lady Griffs finished the season 9-1 and shared the division title with Pioneer. Mariah Gamel, a freshman, led the division in average with a 180.

“Mariah and I worked together on a few things in the off season, and we both felt she had a chance to lead the division in average,” Farner said, of the star freshman bowler. “What I did not expect was for her to dominate the division the way she did.”

Gamel finished 16th at sectionals, out of nearly 300 participants from all over Section VI. She was 22 pins away from qualifying for the state championships.

“She and I were both disappointed that she fell a little short of states, this year,” Farner said. “But she is only a freshman and we are already talking about areas of her game that we can work on, so she can become one of the best in all of Western New York.”

Other top averages on the girls side were Brittany Sullivan, at 150; Katherine Zygaj, at 144; Emily Zebrowski, at 141, and Emily Leverentz, at134.

“The entire girl’s squad was a very cohesive and hard-working group this year, and will be the team to beat in our division, next year.” Farner said.

Sullivan, a sophomore, improved her average by 12 pins from last year to this year. Zebrowski also caught the attention of Farner, this season.

“Emily has only been bowling for 1 1/2 years and constantly amazes me with her intelligence and athletic ability,” the coach said.

Skylar Tharnish was named Most Improved, by raising her average from a 90 in the youth league last season to a 119, this season .

“What impressed me even more about Skylar though, was her ability to help the other girls stay relaxed, through her terrific attitude and team spirit,” Farner said.

Other girls who contributed to the team, who own a share of the divisional crown, for the second year in a row, include: sophomore Elizabeth Chase, freshman Hailey Lines and eighth-graders Emily Leverentz, Lizzy Shearer and McKenzie Brown.The Lady Griffs will lose one senior, in Katherine Zygaj, who has been bowling in the program since 10th grade.

“She’s improved by leaps and bounds, over the course of her high school career,” Farner said. “Katherine was a great leader for the girls and a lot of fun to have on the team.”


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