Experienced Pilots hope to keep it rolling

WARREN, Mich. - A year ago De La Salle Collegiate's varsity bowling at times had trouble closing out tournaments. 

The Pilots were fourth at the John Glenn Holiday Classic, fourth at the L'Anse Creuse North Bakers Dozen Tournament, fourth at the Catholic League Championships and fifth at the Macomb County Tournament.

All great finishes, but all were just shy of the finish line.

"We were there, we just couldn't get it done in the end," DLS head coach Jay Lang said. "We'd get to the round of four, have a bad game and lose. Or get to the round of four and run into a team that bowled great. We just couldn't get over the edge."

But fortunately for Lang and his boys, the Pilots did come through when the postseason came along. De La Salle was able to snag a second straight regional championship in 2019, qualifying for a second-consecutive state finals appearance.

"I guess we peaked at the right time," said Lang, whose team fell short of qualifying out to tournament play at the finals, which were held at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park.

But with the experience gained, and four varsity bowlers back from that squad, Lang is excited about his team's prospects for 2019-20.

"We play in a lot of tournaments with some really good teams, like Stevenson, Dakota, Utica's been really good recently, Chippewa Valley," Lang said. "To compete with them and be on that same level is where we want to be every year. That gets us ready for regionals, and winning regionals is our goal once again."

Back for a fourth year on varsity is senior Salvatore Aiello. He finished 11th at the regional a year ago, narrowly missing the top 10 and a spot at the individual state finals. 

"He was my first and only freshman to make the varsity team," said Lang, who's entering his ninth season as the Pilots' head coach. "He was very talented from Year 1, and he's only gotten better. I'm expecting a lot out of him this year."

Also back are senior Alexander Thorn and juniors Jack Gohlke and Rafe Dewar. Thorn has seen time on varsity each of the past two years and, according to his coach, brings a positive influence to the team.

"Alex bowled real well for us last year. He's always up. He never hangs his head. He's always looking for what he can do better on the next shot. That's the kind of kid I love to coach," Lang said. 

Gohlke upped his game at regionals last year, finishing just behind Aiello and narrowly missing qualifying for states by just seven pins. Lang said Gohlke throws a lot of strikes and leads by example, which is important in the sport of bowling.

It will be Dewar's second year on the varsity team. Lang said the experience he gained last year will go a long way in helping him be a key contributor this season. 

New to the varsity team this winter are seniors Luke Childs and Andrew Rusu, along with junior Lorance Morrison. Childs and Rusu were key members of the Junior Varsity-A team last year, while Morrison makes the leap up from JV-B.

Both Aiello and Thorn are excited to see the season kick off Monday at the Catholic League Singles Tournament in Farmington Hills. 

"We're hoping (on Monday) to get off to a good start, setting our averages, and hopefully build off of that for the rest of the season," Aiello said. "If all of us start off good, that might raise our expectations and give us a chance to win pretty much every match and perform well at the Catholic League Tournament and regionals."

Thorn thinks the strength of this year's team will be its depth. He said he's ready to do his part and believes his teammates will be ready as well.

"I know coach is expecting a lot from me this year, to put down a solid average," Thorn said. "It's really the same for the rest of the team, too. We should all be able to put up some high averages to compete in the league. I think we have a good shot to do well at regionals and also do well at states this year."

The team will compete at the Cougar Classic at Imperial Lanes on Saturday before opening up Catholic League East play on Dec. 16. The Macomb County Tournament will be on Jan. 18 and the team will wrap up its regular season at the CHSL Championships on Feb. 15.

"It's absolutely our goal to win the league, first and foremost. That's our main objective," said Lang, whose team finished 7-0-1 in Catholic League East play last year. "And as we get deeper and deeper into the season, we try to win every weekend tournament we play in. We want to be competitive."

Lang has 18 bowlers in the program this year. Making up the Junior Varsity-A team are senior Jacob Cosart, juniors Andrew Bartkiewicz, Brent Charrette and Joshua Hoenscheid along with sophomore Matthew Lachajewski. Comprising the Junior Varsity-B team are junior Edmond Olejniczak, sophomores Connor Dobrzycki and Mark Meyerhoff Jr. and freshmen Bobby Algar, Drew Gohlke and James Walter.

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