Brandon Soedarmasto was off his game and "struggling" during portions of the tournament Saturday. Here was Nassau's top bowler throwing a six-game series that was almost 100 pins worse than his performance last week.

Sensing his frustration, his girlfriend offered words of encouragement. "I told him, 'Just keep your head up and don't give up,' " Emily McLaughlin said. "He was right there and still had a chance to win."

Hey, she would know. The Island Trees junior was in the midst of winning the girls championship herself. And following the pep talk, Soedarmasto would match her feat. The Division sophomore rolled a 236 in the final game to edge Oceanside's Mike Ryan, 1,389-1,386, and capture the Nassau boys title at Garden City Lanes.

McLaughlin, with her 1,215, was nine pins better than MacArthur's Kerri DeLisi.

"That's pretty cool and it probably doesn't happen too often," Soedarmasto said of he and his girlfriend being king and queen-pin. "Emily started off well and she and my friends really tried to keep me thinking positive."

The top six finishers in this tournament comprise the all-star team that will compete for a sectional championship March 2 at Babylon Lanes.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Joining Soedarmasto and Ryan are Nick Genova (Sewanhaka District), Chris Reilly (Division), Ross Castaldo (Hicksville) and Chris Lewis (Bellmore-Merrick).

The girls squad will include Carly Licht and Liz Ferraro of Bethpage, Danielle Probst (Massapequa) and Yalitza Rodriguez (Freeport).

"I've been telling my coach (Eileen Shultis) for four years that I don't care if I'm sixth, I just want to make that state team," said Rodriguez, a senior celebrating her 18th birthday. "I got sixth and I couldn't be happier."

Mineola freshman Tony Macchietto, who just missed the cut, had his first 300 in Game 1 of a 1,284 series.

McLaughlin and Soedarmasto met -- where else? -- in a bowling alley and have been dating for a year. McLaughlin Saturday earned her second trip to the state tournament. Soedarmasto, who paced the county with a 236.3 average, had led Division to a team title last year.

"For us to win it at the same time is amazing," McLaughlin said. "It's going to be fun and comforting in states having Brandon by my side."

Love at first strike.