Can you imagine it, the East Islip girls bowling team struggling so mightily? Picture them throwing games nearly 100 pins below their usual numbers?
Suffolk County got to host a state tournament for the first time since 2001 and Long Island's perennial powerhouse couldn't get untracked on lanes it was familiar with.
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But we're talking about practice.
When it counted, and with the soundtrack of a roaring home crowd Saturday, East Islip surged late to capture the state title at Babylon Lanes.
"This is everything we wanted," said Amanda Schilling, whose 1,167 series paced the Redmen. "That's why we wanted states here, so we could do this in front of our supporters."
By the fifth game, with East Islip the last L.I. team within reach of first place, the chants of "Let's go, E-I" boomed throughout the alley.
Jordan Kruger shot a 1,150 series and Olivia Lopera a 1,122 as East Islip toppled 5,632 pins -- 130 better than South Colonie -- to win its first state championship since 2008. Sewanhaka District took fourth (5,313).
Long Island teams, for the first time, have captured the girls title in consecutive years. Middle Country won last year. East Islip finished second to South Colonie in 2012.
Schilling rolled a 220 in Game 5 as East Islip, in second place all along, pulled ahead. "We told each other that if we really wanted it, we had to go for it now," said Kruger, a senior. "In the second half, we were more locked in."
Megan Kuehne had a 220 in Game 6 as East Islip totaled 986 to secure the victory.
South Colonie's Amanda Chrzanowski had a tournament-high 1,318 and Rebecca Gotterbarn (Sewanhaka District) was second with a 1,273.
The Redmen dominated the regular season and their 1,075 average was second best in Long Island -- behind only the East Islip boys. The state tournament, however, used an oil pattern (Kegel's Beaten Path) most of the bowlers were unaccustomed to and several said they were uncomfortable with.
The East Islip girls were rolling 120 games in practice on that shot, Kruger said. But their adjustment came two weeks ago. Some girls altered their mechanics a bit, "and I shifted my mark further left," said Nichole Baione, who had a 1,097.
"We have a group that doesn't panic," Redmen coach Harold Cooley said. "We knew we were right there and all we had to do was bring it home."
And this time, they didn't have to go far.