Seaford’s Marissa Mele remembers exactly how she felt last year while on a bus heading to Syracuse for the state bowling championships.
It was March 12, 2020, when she learned that the event had been cancelled due to COVID-19.
"It wasn’t fun sitting there," she recalled. "There was just an aura of shock and disappointment. It was frustrating for sure."
The Vikings have been frustrating their Nassau opponents the past few years. Seaford, which has won three straight Division II (small schools) titles, also had the highest team scores overall in Nassau the last two seasons.
Not bad for a program in its fifth season of existence.
"It’s crazy," Mele said. "We never expected this. When you sit down and reminisce, you realize it’s gone so fast."
Sofia Sanchez (158 average last season) and Nicole Karaman (143 average) look to step up as the Vikings shoot for a fourth straight crown.
The defending Division I champs — Division — is led by Brillian Soedarmasto, who was fourth in Nassau with a 178.91 average.
Freshman Michaela Palumbo, who was second at the Nassau individual championship (1,083 series) and sixth in average, leads Mineola (second in team event). Bellmore-Merrick, which was third, will count on Marissa Anselmo and Kylie Persampire.
Smithtown/Kings Park coach Glenn Roper had a simple, but powerful message recently for his team — the defending Suffolk girls team titlist.
"I told the girls to embrace it," he said. "Everybody will be gunning for the county champions. Every team will give us their best match."
It all starts with Kings Park’s Kendal Eggert, who was 15th in Suffolk last season with a 195.13 average. Smithtown East’s Kim Brandt (183 average), Smithtown West’s Nicole Trippodi (179.03) and Smithtown East’s Kasey Whelan (166.26) will also be key to the team’s repeat hopes.
"I think it’s cool to have a target on our back," Roper said. "We’ve never had that before."
Harold C. Cooley, Jr. started the East Islip program in 1985, and guided it to three state titles and an incredible record of 410-29-1. Sadly, he died on Dec. 18.
"Losing him is just devastating to girls bowling," said Roper, who coached with Cooley on two state sectionals teams. "Everything he did was for the girls, and he always went above and beyond. We have big shoes to fill."
East Islip might have not only one of the best trifectas in Suffolk, but perhaps Long Island. Freshman Kailyn Bloch was fourth in Suffolk in average (217.55). Natalie Mavrich (sixth, 212.61) and Kristy Murphy (13th, 196.02) should help EI improve on a third-place finish at the 2020 Suffolk championship. Sachem, which was second, is led by Emily Kulkarni (ninth, 204.73).
Suffolk is loaded this season, as 11 of the top 15 bowlers by average return including the top two. Pat-Med’s Canan Bademci was Newsday’s 2020 Bowler of the Year with an LI-best 222.06 average. Longwood’s Rachel Hines (221.17) rolled the best series (1,458) at the championship.
When it comes to CHSAA championships, Kellenberg has been the dominant program with a record of 46-2 since 2016. The Firebirds — who have won four straight league titles — are led by Kellie Sandas, the CHSAA’s top returning bowler with a 189 average.
However, coach Allyson Frisina graduated three key members from 2020, which means the CHSAA is wide open.
St. John the Baptist lost to Kellenberg in the team title match, but features a solid one-two punch with Rhiannon Dugre and Destiny Alvarado.
A pair of juniors lead their respective teams’ championship hopes — St. Anthony’s Natalie Stalhut and Corina Flores of St. Dominic.