You can't blame Maria Lucente for being overly excited this season.
After the Valley Stream school district eliminated the boys and girls bowling teams because of budget cuts a year ago, Lucente was forced to compete at the recreational level.
That left her with a different perspective on the sport.
"The tables had turned for once on me where I knew how my parents felt sitting on the sidelines," said Lucente, a second-team All-Long Islander as a sophomore. "It was disappointing because obviously you want to compete, but I enjoyed supporting my friends."
Representing Valley Stream North in her sophomore year, Lucente's 196.3 average was third best in Nassau. Now a Valley Stream District senior, Lucente is looking forward to making up for lost time.
"Competing at this level gives you such a thrill," Lucente said. "I feel like we have a shot at winning counties. We want to show everyone that it was a mistake what they did."
It won't be easy for Lucente and Valley Stream District. Bethpage is considered one of the favorites with senior Elizabeth Ferraro, a three-time All-Star state team participant.
Ferraro and juniors Sammi Ng (218) and Carly Licht (197) are the ones to watch out for.
"We're in a really difficult conference with a lot of tough teams," Golden Eagles coach Donna Weikman said of Conference III. "I think that definitely helps prepare us for the counties. The level of competition will keep us on our toes all season."
Don't forget about Sewanhaka, the three-time defending county champ. If the Indians are to four-peat, it will be because senior Morgan Roth is at the top of her game.
Roth had a career-best 200.7 average a year ago and has support behind her with talented freshman Jahnia Philips and eighth-grader Brianna Maenza.
Valerie Chin gives Wantagh a shot at a championship run, as do Amanda DeLisi and Rose-Marie Snyder for MacArthur. Bellmore-Merrick has Nicole Brown, who made all-star team as a freshman. Plainedge is an up-and-coming team, with junior Brianna Perillo.
Island Trees will rely on Emily McLaughlin, who made states two years ago.
East Islip, the defending state champ, isn't as experienced as in years past. Coach Harold Cooley said this is the youngest team he's ever had entering his 30th season. Redmen sophomore Olivia Lopera currently leads Suffolk with a 231.67 average.
"She's going to carry us," Cooley said of Lopera, an All-Long Islander last season. "We're taking it one day at a time. Anything can happen in that one-day county tournament."
Brittany Arne (206.28) has been a starter on all of the Patchogue-Medford teams since she was a seventh-grader and gives the Raiders a legit chance at the county crown.
Middle Country, the state champ in 2013, has high hopes with Brooke Kelsey, as does Sachem North with Courtney Scholl (208.12).
In CHSAA, St. Dominic is the defending champ. Bailey Lubrano was second in the league in average (182) last season for the Bayhawks. St. Anthony's and Holy Trinity also are contenders.