Athletic teams sometimes come together at just the right time to win championships. Sometimes they do even better than they had a right to expect.
The Orchard Park girls bowling team fit under the latter category on Thursday.
“Very above and beyond,” Quakers coach Ruth Brock said.
Orchard Park swept through the Section VI championships, which were held at Airport Lanes in Cheektowaga. The Quakers not only won the overall championship by an impressive 461 pins, but two of their individual bowlers finished 1-2 in the singles competition. The whole team will take part in the state finals.
“We had a tough season,” Brock said. “We had two losses in the regular season, and we lost the division. But the girls worked really, really hard, and this was our dream.”
Danielle Milo and Sarah Radt of Orchard Park finished with six-game totals of 1,148 and 1,144 respectively. With all 42 teams bowling at the same time, there was no way of knowing what the individual and team standings looked like until each game ended. Milo couldn’t stand to look at the scores even when she had the chance.
“I did not want to know at all,” she said. “I was so paranoid.”
Therefore, the sophomore was thrilled when the final results were announced, and she was ahead of the entire field.
“It was definitely a surprise – oh my God!” she said between giggles of pure joy.
Orchard Park had plenty of depth on the day. Nicole Rzepka finished fourth, Madelyn Jensen was 11th, and Nicole Newton was 28th. The team saved its best game for last, led by a 245 from Radt.
Orchard Park also won the Class A title in team competition. Depew was the winner of the Class B crown, Tonawanda was victorious in Class C, and Silver Creek took Class D.
The first three non-Quaker bowlers in the standings earned a ticket to the states. Kayli Christ of Maryvale led that classification.
“I’ve been on the team for six years, and I’ve worked my entire life to get to where I am right now,” she said. “It’s been a long road, but I’m very happy where I am right now.”
Cameron Spring of Allegany-Limestone and Rachel Wagner of Depew filled out the other two slots in that category. Three other bowlers also will be competing for a state title because they topped the list of otherwise non-qualifying members in a pool in Thursday’s competition. The system is designed to give those who had fine regular seasons an improved chance to reach the states. Therefore, Angela Gabriele of Niagara Falls, Sara Godfrey of Depew, and Brittany McAndrews of Orchard Park fill out the team.
It was a long day for all of the bowlers, and it was made a little longer by some challenging lane conditions.
“They were tough for the girls,” said Brock, who is in her first year as the team’s coach. “This was a tough shot. Most ladies aren’t used to oil. The scores were low. Most of these girls can shoot 650, 700.”
“They were pretty tight,” Milo said. “There was not a lot of room for error.”
Everyone has plenty of time to practice for the state championships, which will be back at Airport Lanes on March 5-6. It’s the first time in more than 10 years that Western New York has served as the host. It’s not much of a road trip for the local entrants, so the Quakers may simulate the experience.
“We may get hotel rooms,” Brock said. “That’s what the girls asked about at the beginning of the year. They said, ‘If we win, what are we going to do?’ I said. ‘Let’s get there first. Then we’ll decide what we’re going to do.’ ”