Greater Latrobe Varsity Bowling Team’s Impressive Season


While the beginning stages of the baseball season are getting underway, the only strikes happening now are the ones on the bowling lanes. Finishing the season as the third team in the Southeast section of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Bowling League, it’s been a season in which the team has achieved many goals that they envisioned when they brought the team to Greater Latrobe three years ago. With young sophomores and juniors and strong senior leadership and play throughout the team, there’s no surprise as to why the team is having as much success as they are.

The team has accumulated seven wins this year through ten weeks. Seniors Kaylee Zuzak, James Gatto and Alex Brubaker have all had strong games and have led the way for the team. While juniors Ayden Leone and Jason Markowsky, and sophomores Robbie Phillips, and Vanessa McMichael have all played critical roles for the team this season. 

Leone in particular has been a huge boost for the team this season. After starting off slow and bowling around the average of where she left off a season ago at 153, Leone has rebounded and continues to get better as the season moves into the playoffs. “I was a little disappointed,” said Leone about her beginning of the season. “But with the help of my coaches, in particular Danielle Koehler, who bowled for Saint Vincent in college, helped improve my game significantly and my average moved up 25 pins from last year,” said Leone. 

The Wildcats, are in one of the toughest sections in the WPIBL which is the Southeast section. Consisting of Greensburg Salem (9-1), Hempfield (8-2), Greater Latrobe (7-3), Penn Trafford (3-6), Greensburg Central Catholic (2-7), and Yough (0-10). “In addition to that, the Southeast section is the most competitive section in the whole WPIBL. Penn-Trafford and Greensburg Salem are some of our most challenging competitors. Compared to other sections, our team average is greater than their first-place team average. I am proud of the success of the team this year,” said Leone.

Practice is important. What an ordinary person might see as throwing a ball onto a lane and hoping that all ten pins are knocked down is far more complicated than that. “I would say that most importantly, practice. And it’s not more so how many reps or games you bowl, it’s more so analyzing everything that you are doing in order to improve the next ball you throw,” said Leone. 

“Another thing that I think is important is in competition it can be really frustrating whenever you have something practiced many times before, you mess up and crack under pressure. But it’s also important that you don’t get mad over those mistakes that you make,” said Leone.

Most bowlers have motivation each time they begin a new game or each time they practice. It’s mainly to get better and learn from mistakes. Each match, a team of five from one school faces off against another team of five from other schools. While some people look at bowling and say that it’s all in the hands of one player, being a part of the team takes a collective effort from each one of those five players. “Individually, you’re always trying to beat your average and continue to get better. And as a team sport, you want the bowlers on your team to do the best they can so you give yourself the best chance to beat the other team,” said Leone.

In the WPIBL, a bowler can qualify for regionals and the state championships individually and as a team. For this team that’s the prize where their eyes are set on right now. “For the girls, if we were to qualify this year, it would be the first time in team history for us. I’m hoping that if we do make it, we will be very successful in the tournament against the other 22 teams that we would be competing against. From there, we have the chance as a team to qualify for the Western Pennsylvania Regional Championship. I truly believe that if we all compete to our highest ability, we will qualify for this tournament. It would be the first time that the team made it this far in the WPIBL,” said Leone. 

“For the first year of the boy’s team, in the 2019-20 season, they came into the section as underdogs. Nobody knew the capability that they all had and I’m pretty sure it’s accurate to say that they blew everyone away. The best thing about it was that they were a young team, so most of the bowlers had two more years of competing. Their first year, they qualified for the WPIBL Championships and from there, they qualified for the Western Pennsylvania Regional Championships and then made it to the State Championships. Unfortunately, due to COVID they never got the chance to actually compete, but I know that they would’ve blown everyone away. Last year, despite the overall success of the team, they fell short in a defeat by Greensburg Salem, placing them third so they didn’t qualify,” said Leone. 

“This year, the boys are currently sitting at third again, but something that is a little different this year is that there are four “wild cards” that are being given to teams that deserve to go to the championships in addition to the top two teams from each section. In addition to the girls, it looks to be that the boys will be receiving one too due to their high team average”, said Leone.

One of the most recent matches that took place for the team was the first-ever Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament. Out of the seven schools in the county that participated, the boy’s team took home the first-place trophy. The boys had a score of 3094 followed by Hempfield with a score of 3042. The girls finished with a score of 2276 which placed them 3rd behind Penn-Trafford with a score of 2423, and Kiski with a score of 2416. 

James Gatto led the way in the tournament with an impressive score of 696 and taking first place. Alex Brubaker finished 3rd, Robbie Phillips placed 7th, Jason Markowsky placed 8th, and Cole Pfeifer finished 10th. 

For the girls, Ayden Leone placed 5th with a score of 537 and Vanessa McMichael placed 6th with a score of 509. “In the recent WCCA tournament, the boys placed first, defeating Hempfield, which is one of their biggest competitors along with Greensburg Salem. One of the biggest goals for the boys this year is to qualify for the state championships which I believe is within reach. With their strong work ethic and close bond, I know that they will make it far. What’s most important is that they keep a clear mind and do what they know how to do,” said Leone. 

As the playoffs get closer and closer, the team will look to add more pieces of metal to the halls of Greater Latrobe.