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Milt Northrop’s Bowling: Villa Maria College team to debut with one of Buffalo’s best at the helm

The college bowling scene in Western New York always seems in a fluid state.

Erie Community College, of course, is an old standby. Canisius has a club team. At times in the past the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State have had strong varsity or club teams but not sustained participation. Niagara County Community College reinstated its men’s team in 2011 then suspended it in 2014. NCCC had been a national power on the junior college scene in the 1970’s.

Medaille has an active women’s team in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and Daemen’s women’s team made its debut on the floor.

A newcomer to the college scene will be Villa Maria, which will put its first women’s varsity team on the lanes next fall. Villa’s ambitious athletic director, Don Silveri, scored a coup with the hiring of PBA Tour pro Jack Jurek as coach.

Not only is Jurek an accomplished bowler, locally, regionally and nationally, he also is highly regarded as an instructor and clinician and certified as a coach by the United States Bowling Congress. He has personally coached many young bowlers in the area in addition to holding his own competition and running two Bowlers Choice pro shops. Also, he has college bowling experience, at West Texas A&M. On top of all that, he’s earned a reputation as one of the most popular and gentlemanly bowlers on the PBA Tour and is a past winner of the Steve Nagy PBA Sportsmanship Award.

Still, coaching, organizing and running a team of bowlers is something else. Jurek said he once applied to coach bowling at Lackawanna High, his alma mater, but the post went to a member of the school’s faculty who had priority.

“This will be my first coaching gig, “ Jurek said Thursday as he arrived at Transit Lanes for some practice time before tending to his pro shop duties. “I found out about it in kind of a round-about way. Ron Ciminelli, who is a friend of the assistant basketball coach at Villa, heard about it and told me.”

Jurek made an inquiry and was hired. Silveri was more than pleased to get such a prestigious hire for the fledgling team.

Now, Jurek is playing catch-up in the recruiting game.

“We’re a little bit late getting started,” said Jurek, who’s beginning the recruitment process. Villa does not offer athletic scholarships, but the school does offer aid and grants to help with tuition.

Jurek has begun scouting and his first observation was: “There don’t seem to be a lot of seniors. Teams around here must have graduated a lot of seniors from last year.”

Jurek has scouted some matches right in his home base, Transit Lanes, where the Williamsville schools’ teams bowl home matches, along with Monsignor Martin Association matches at Classic Lanes, where his other pro shop is located.

The Section VI and Section V championships will come up in February. Jurek canceled plans to bowl in the USBC Masters in order to stay home and check out them out. It will help, too, that the New York State Public Schools championships will be here in March. Of course, ECC graduates as transfers is another possible source of talent.

Aside from lining up talented young female bowlers, Villa is in the process of arranging a schedule and a home lanes.

“Scheduling is up to Don Silveri. We’ll have probably seven or eight matches to start,” Jurek said.

Most college bowling is in multi-team competition, although this week’s Daemen-versus-Medaille women’s team match at Classic Lanes is an exception.

Although Jurek will bowl in the occasional PBA Tour event − he plans to bowl in the PBA Players Championship in March − he is more active on the PBA50 Tour.

The senior tour’s schedule suits him fine. “It’s a April to August and we bowl four weeks in a row then take a break and bowl another four weeks,” he said.

The 2016 PBA50 tour will involve 14 events over a 20-week period from April 16 to Aug. 13.

Last season, Jurek bowled in six PBA50 tournaments, winning once and cashing in all six to the tune of $16,000. He missed some competition due to elbow problems.

The PBA50 is not easy pickings even for one of the younger bowlers in the circuit. Jurek, who will be 53 in April, finds himself competing against the likes of Buffalo native Tom Baker, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Norm Duke, Pete Weber, Parker Bohn III, Amleto Monacelli, Mike Scroggins and Brian Voss.

“It’s as strong as it’s ever been,” Jurek says of the PBA 50 Tour.

Medaille rolls on

Medaille’s women’s bowling team has been busy. The Mavericks bowled in the Kutztown (Pa.) Invitation last weekend, although the competition was shortened because of the winter storm that hit eastern Pennsylvania. Medaille went 1-5 in Baker matches on the first day of competition, defeating Penn State-Altoona. One of the losses was to Vanderbilt. Tallie Papke (Lake Shore) was the Mavs’ top bowler, averaging 17.7 per Baker frame.

The weekend before, Medaille finished third in the second AMCC tournament in Altoona, Pa., with a 5-3 record in round-robin matches bowled in both the traditional and Baker format. Mount Aloysius had a 7-1 record and clinched the overall conference championship.

The top individual in the tournament was Medaille’s Papke, who had a 716 total for four games (179.0) average and a 17.7 Baker frame average. Gabrielle Kuzara, Lindsey Foley, Courtney Leone and Jen Stewart were the other bowlers in the Medaille lineup.

This weekend Medaille is entered in the Red Flash Invitational hosted by Saint Francis (Pa.) in Altoona. Haley Carroll (Williamsville) will bowl for the host Red Flash. Carroll had a midseason average of 176.84 in 19 games in her freshman season. The AMCC championship tournament, hosted by Medaille College, will take place Feb. 6-7 at Classic Lanes.

Pin chasers

• Greg Voytovich of Cheektowaga reigns after his 225-207 victory over Mike Mallwitz of Grand Island in Week Three of WBBZ-TV’s Beat the Champ shown last weekend. Returning champion Gary Kinyon of Lockport defeated Mike Zarcone of the Town of Tonawanda, 268-222, in the first match. Mallwitz then toppled Kinyon, 212-192, before facing Voytovich. The matches were bowled and taped at Rapids Lanes in Niagara Falls in December.

Voytovich will defend on the Feb. 6 Beat the Champ show. Saturday’s show will be a special Pro-Shop Challenge featuring Jeff Walsh of the Bowlers Choice, Mallwitz of Island Lanes, Doug Heim of the National Bowling Store and Eric Johnson representing Rapids Bowling Center Pro Shop of Niagara Falls.

February matches, starting with Week Five, were bowled at Kerns Avenue Lanes in Buffalo.

• Jurek will put on another in a series of bowlers clinics sponsored by the Greater Buffalo USBC Association and the Tonawandas USBC Association from 7:30-9 p.m. Feb. 23 at Classic Lanes, 1840 Military Road, Town of Tonawanda. Jeff Walsh and PBA Tour pro John Szczerbinski will assist in the clinic.

Registration is required by Feb. 20 by calling 668-4222 or 692-8668 or by email to contact@gbusbc.com or tonusbc@roadrunner.com. Walk-ins will be accepted if space is available. Cost is $15.

• Final PBA Tour statistics showed that Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga ranked high in official earnings and average. Ciminelli’s earned $129,460 in a season when he won a tour-best three titles. That was second to Jason Belmonte’s $178.542 with two titles. Ciminelli’s average of 225.37 for 236 games was fifth-best. Rhino Page had the high average of 227.14 for 273 games.

email: mnorthrop@buffnews.com