If there was any pressure of sorts it was on the Linden Tiger bowlers as they were the top seed and defending champion, seeking a second consecutive Union County Tournament championship last week.
Lifted by a total team effort that included all six bowlers playing a key role, Linden was successful in obtaining its goal of winning once more.
In last Thursday’s Baker (emphasis on team scoring rather than individual) format at Jersey Lanes in Linden, Linden first defeated eighth-seeded Elizabeth three games to none and then downed fourth-seeded Union Catholic three games to one.
In the final competition to determine the team champion, Linden took care of seventh-seeded Union three games to none.
“All of our bowlers really stepped up their game,” Linden coach Cherie Pizzano said. “We practiced Baker all year long. We entered tournaments on Saturdays that had Baker formats and that helped us a lot.”
It was the sixth time overall that Linden won the UCT.
The Tigers scored another UCT crown behind the efforts of senior Darius Lewis; juniors Justin Peters, Anthony Golabek and Matthew Soto and sophomore James Fitz. All were also involved last year when Linden won.
“Winning the county tournament again came down to just doing a lot of work and working hard all off-season,” Pizzano said. “On Saturday morning our kids bowled in a Jersey Lanes youth program. There was a lot of practice time.”
In the stepladder individual boys’ competition, Golabek placed third, Fitz finished fifth and Peters came in seventh.
Golabek bowled an impressive 280 in last Wednesday’s qualifying round. His first frame was open – he scored a nine and just missed getting the spare. Golabek then rolled 11 consecutive strikes.
“That was his high game for Linden,” Pizzano said.
Union defeated second-seeded Westfield in the quarterfinals and then beat third-seeded Johnson in the semifinals to reach the final vs. Linden.
As of Monday, Linden sported a record of 13-1. The Tigers were to face Johnson Tuesday, Westfield yesterday and are scheduled to wrap their regular season next Tuesday vs. Union.
Linden produced its first perfect season last year, finishing 17-0. A winning streak that reached 43 was ended by Cranford earlier this year.
Linden is also the defending North 2, Group 3 champion. The Tigers will give it a go without Fitz, who Pizzano reported broke his hand.
ELIZABETH’S NOEL AND WESTFIELD’S SHEPHERD
ARE THE 2019 GIRLS’ AND BOYS’ CHAMPIONS
Elizabeth’s Ashley Noel and Westfield’s Will Shepherd won Union County Tournament individual bowling titles last week at Jersey Lanes in Linden.
The top-seeded Noel, a junior who lost to Kiara Powell of Union in last year’s UCT final, defeated Danielle Galarza of Union Catholic in the girls’ championship match 180-135.
As the top-seeded female kegler, Noel earned a bye into the title match. Galarza, the second seed, defeated her Union Catholic teammate, Isabella Fuentes, 242-148 in the semifinals.
Shepherd, a senior, defeated Luis Torres of Roselle in the boys’ championship match 210-204.
Shepherd started the day in 10th place – out of 16 qualifiers from last Monday’s opening round – but rolled a 706 series for a six-game total of 1,309, good for the third seed in the five-man stepladder bracket.
Shepherd defeated Tom Le of Johnson and Anthony Golabek of Linden to advance to face Torres, who received a bye into the championship match.
Torres bowled in the UCT championship match for the third straight year. He won the UCT as a freshman in 2017.
Le, who bowled a UCT-best 718 series last Monday, defeated Fitz in the opening match of the stepladder 191-185.
Fitz started the day in 15th place, but rolled a 693 series to vault into fifth place and the final spot in the playoff. Fitz edged Allen Potts of Cranford by one pin, 1,289 to 1,288, for the fifth seed.
JAN. 30 UCT GIRLS’ Stepladder Finals – at Jersey Lanes
(Championship match to opening match)
1-Ashley Noel, Elizabeth, def. 2-Danielle Galarza, Union Cath., 180-135.
2-Galarza, Union Catholic, def. 3-Isabella Fuentes, Union Cath., 242-148.
JAN. 30 UCT BOYS’ Stepladder Finals – at Jersey Lanes
(Championship match to opening match)
3-Will Shepherd, Westfield, def. 1-Luis Torres, Roselle, 210-204
Shepherd, Westfield, def. Anthony Golabek, Linden, 209-189.
Shepherd, Westfield, defeated 4-Tom Le, Johnson, 236-139.
4-Le, Johnson, def. 5-James Fitz, Linden, 191-185.
JAN. 28 – UCT TEAM SCORES
4-Union Catholic (2,665)
5-Scotch Plains (2,654)
6-Cranford (2, 639)
10-Oratory Prep (2,405)
11-Roselle Park (2,359)
14-Roselle Catholic (2,046)
15- St. Mary’s, Elizabeth (1,854)
JAN. 30 RESULTS
Individual boys’ qualifiers
Tom Le, Johnson, 718
Andrew Beach, Johnson, 682
Dante Morales, Westfield, 651
Luis Torres, Roselle, 639
James Bagdanos, Scotch Plains, 626
Kevin Oliveira, Union, 622
Allen Potts, Cranford, 618
Anthony Golabek, Linden, 617
Austin Peterson, Westfield, 603
Will Shepherd, Westfield, 603
Darius Lewis, Linden, 600
Evan Galli, Johnson, 600
Dylan Kurstadt, Westfield, 600
Jahiem Collins, Plainfield, 597
James Fitz, Linden, 596
Justin Peters, Linden, 591
JAN. 30 RESULTS
Individual girls’ qualifiers
Ashley Noel, Elizabeth, 556
Isabella Fuentes, UC, 540
Danielle Galarza, UC, 515
Gabby Martinez, Union, 506
Taylor McFadden, Hillside, 481