POUGHKEEPSIE - How does a group of eighth-grade girls handle a trek to Poughkeepsie and the pressure of competing in today's sectional All-Star bowling tournament? By blasting hip-hop in the hotel and clowning around with each other; worry a world away.
And don't call it youthful obliviousness. The Sewanhaka girls (Danielle Roca, Rebecca Gotterbarn and Kristina Genova), who comprise half of Nassau's all-stars, are at ease because they've been here before. The trio made states as seventh-graders.
"We're not nervous at all," said Gotterbarn, who took second in last month's individual tournament. "We just relax and don't think about it much."
The All-Star team is made up of the six best pinfalls in the individual tournament, not including the county champs. The Indians finished behind Division in Nassau.
"It's pretty impressive when you've got [all these] schools, only six kids make it, and we've got three of them," said Sewanhaka coach Jay Hegi, who also coaches the county titlist boys team. "They practice so much and come from great bowling families, so there's nothing much you can tell them. They just have fun and do what they do."
Roca was fifth and Genova clinched the last spot, toppling 1,076 pins - one better than teammate Amanda Esteves. "It's good to know we're at this young of an age and we've had this much success," said Genova, who still has bittersweet feelings about edging Esteves, a sophomore.
Though at ease, the group is determined to improve on last year's showing. "I didn't do so well because I felt pressure," Roca said. "This year I'm much more relaxed. I was averaging a 160 back then and I'm up to 181."
Added Gotterbarn: "I improved a lot over the summer. I worked on my hand motion and backswing . . . We all expect to do much better."
East Islip's John Knieriemen, who led Suffolk with a 229.9 average, is joined by teammates Bobby Martin and Ed Tuskan. They'll team with Elliot Jones (Riverhead), Anthony Neste (Comsewogue) and Tom Nelson (West Babylon).
"The camaraderie is great since they all know each other," said Comsewogue coach Eric Sorenson, who'll manage the boys alongside East Islip's Rick Papandrea. "These guys are working diligently to come back to Long Island with a championship."
The East Islip quartet of Lena Sorrentino, Tara Ernst, Nikki Wilson and Nancy Baione will join Alex DeVries (Islip) and Kathryn Rivera (Sachem North) for the girls.
"I have a feeling our teams are going be special," Papandrea said. "The kids have that taste in their mouths."