Monthly Archives: March 2013

Hillsborough still searching for respect

The Hillsborough boys volleyball team gathers during a recent scrimmage. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

The Hillsborough boys volleyball team gathers during a recent scrimmage. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

For the Hillsborough High School boys volleyball team, 2013 is all about maintaining the status quo.

The Raiders have won four of the last five Skyland Conference regular season titles and they’ve been among the best teams in the state over that period, but according to head coach Todd Sudol, Hillsborough isn’t getting the credit they deserve state-wide.

“We want to be taken seriously state-wide,” Sudol said. “We have eight seniors this year and we have a lot of kids that take this game seriously. I think this could be a big year for Hillsborough.”

One reason for optimism is the fact that Sudol has eight seniors on his roster, including setter Joey DeLuca, who was second in the state last season with 809 assists. Tim Erdman, one of the team’s outside hitters, had 356 digs last year and Alex Duncan leads a strong front line defense. Duncan registered a team-best 40 blocks in 2012.

“The talent of the guys we have is awesome,” Sudol said. “We’re known for our athleticism around here and the fact that most of these guys didn’t play volleyball before high school is pretty cool. I give them a lot of credit for putting the time in to get great and have these lofty goals.”

Some of those goals include staying at the top of the Skyland Conference, finishing in the top 10 in the state polls and maintaining status as an elite program.

“Hillsborough boys volleyball is a young program,” Sudol said. “This is only our ninth season of competition, but the kids have established themselves as one of the best in the state. We always want to equal or do better than we did last year.

“We’ve been able to establish some tradition in the short amount of time we’ve had a program,” Sudol said. “The guys who we have graduated come back and work with the current players and we just want to keep pushing the future of Hillsborough volleyball. We want to make sure that what they established stays here and continues to grow. I’m fortunate as a coach that the players have the drive to be great and it’s a nice atmosphere to coach in.”

The team-first attitude that Sudol praises will be put to the test in the season’s opening week. The Raiders will play on four of the first five days of the season, including the invitational they’re set to host on April 6. Their first three matches are against Watchung Hills, Cinnaminson and Ridge.

Hunterdon Central looks to build off 2012 run

The Hunterdon Central High School boys volleyball team, runner-up in the Skyland Conference Tournament in 2012, will have to replace eight seniors from a squad that went 17-6 and reached the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Central sectional tournament.

“We lost a lot to graduation,” head coach Stephen Fenton said. “We have a lot of younger kids that came up this year and we’re going to be pretty tall throughout the lineup.”

Hunterdon Central will have to fill the holes left by outgoing seniors like Christian Hawkinson (316 assists, 31 digs), Johnny Bowser (168 digs, 15 service aces), Pete Desvouges (110 kills, 67 digs) and CJ Norsigian (101 kills).

But Fenton is looking at Kevin Tripp as someone who can help bridge the gap from last year’s senior-laden team to this season’s younger squad.

“(Kevin) Tripp is going to be the go-to guy this year,” Fenton said. “We have some young kids, but they’ll fall in. I really think that Josh Peters is going to be my primary passer this season. We’re breaking some people in and we’re going to go through some growing pains, but hopefully we’ll be able to put something nice together at the end of the season.”

The Red Devils open their regular season April 2 against Skyland Conference rival Bridgewater-Raritan.

Young squad

Bridgewater-Raritan reached the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North 2 Tournament last spring as the No. 3 seed with the help of two players that like to get low and dig the ball off the floor. Co-captains Jack Fieseler and Drew Ungerleider combined to dig 244 balls last season, with Ungerleider recording 135 of those. Fieseler also registered 121 kills for Bridgewater-Raritan.

Head coach Corey Romanak expects Fieseler and Ungerleider to guide a young team that has three sophomores and two juniors in the rotation.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Romanak said. “We have a team that hasn’t been tested yet and with the scrimmages so far, it’s hard to tell how good we are right now. I think we’ll be much better by the end of the season.”

But in those scrimmages, Bridgewater-Raritan has taken on the likes of Fair Lawn and St. Joseph (Metuchen), some of the state’s best teams. The goal is to get the team ready for big games when they actually count.

“There is a reason why our scrimmages are against some of the best teams in the state,” Romanak said. “I want to be able to size us up against the best competition and when we get to a great team in the regular season, we’ll be used to it.”

If the Panthers are to be successful in 2013, it’ll be because they develop team chemistry, according to Romanak.

“The most successful teams I’ve coached have chemistry,” he said. “We just don’t have experience in game action, but that will come as the season grows.”

Piscataway’s trio of stars

Ahjon Petty was one of the stars for Piscataway last season, finishing with 235 kills, which was good enough for the 17th most in the state.

Himang Patel, who collected a team-best 361 assists last year will be back for his senior season along with Myles Miller, who registered a team-best 70 blocks last spring.

Piscataway opens its season against perennial state power East Brunswick on April 2.

Hillsborough Invitational

Hillsborough will host a season-opening invitational tournament for the eighth straight season on April 6. The event, which will get underway at 9 a.m., will showcase some of the best teams in the state in a three-court format, including St. Joseph, Hunterdon Central, East Brunswick and Piscataway.

“In the beginning of the season, it’s a nice showcase and it is nice to see how we stack up,” Hillsborough coach Todd Sudol said. “We schedule a lot of tough teams and it helps us down the stretch. It makes us stronger.”

East Brunswick relying on senior leadership

Two-sport star Danny Leung is expected to lead the East Brunswick High School volleyball team again this season with his well-rounded game.

In 2012, Leung led the team with 143 kills, 59 digs, 21 service points and 14 service aces and this winter he helped East Brunswick go deep into the state basketball tournament.

According to head coach Greg Rutz, Leung’s success on the basketball floor is only going to carry over into success on the volleyball court.

“Danny only knows one way to play and that’s at 100 percent,” Rutz said. “He has this gift of a huge vertical leap and it helps him be a star in volleyball. Danny is his hardest critic but he’s one of our captains and I think the basketball season was nothing but a jolt of pure confidence for him. He played so well and (basketball head coach) Bo Henning and I gave him a nickname of the Pitbull. I hope it will carry over to our season.”

Classmates Jack Fredicks (110 kills, 14 service points, 13 service aces) and Alec Weissman (276 assists) also return to bolster a deep and talented roster a year after they went 16-6 and reach the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Central sectional.

“We bring back five starters and I think we’re 40-50 percent better than we were last season,” Rutz said. “I took over in 2001 after East Brunswick had won state titles in 1999 and 2000. I was scared as a first-year coach and we won a state title anyway in 2001.

“Our goals for this season are that we want to win the GMC and we want to win states. Those have been the same goals that we’ve had since 2001. We show up every year believing that we’re the best but that’s how we start.”

Old Bridge optimistic

Home News Tribune Player of the Year Aiden Albrecht’s 46 service aces were the fifth most in the state and he teamed with Steven Bonilla and Junior Oboh to lead Old Bridge to the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central sectional a year ago.

The Knights beat St. Joseph in the GMCT final for their second conference tournament in the last three seasons. Bonilla collected 551 assists and Oboh led the team with 205 kills last season. Old Bridge went 20-8 in 2012 before losing to Christian Brothers Academy in the postseason.

Head coach Andrew Hopman said that a repeat of last season’s success is attainable and very much the goal for the Knights in 2013.

“Since we have most of the team back from last year, I expect to win the GMC and the (NJSIAA) Central sectional,” Hopman said. “The only thing that might hurt us are injuries.”

Albrecht is unquestionably the leader of Old Bridge’s attack and Hopman dished out high praise for the senior.

“Aiden is the best player I’ve seen in 12 years of coaching volleyball,” Hopman said. “He’s the best on our team in every area. There are just no weaknesses in his game. He’s excellent in all aspects and he hates to lose. Good is never good enough for Aiden.”

The Knights open their season April 2 against J.P. Stevens.

Barrons look to regroup

Bryan Kolpuc led Woodbridge to an 11-9 record in 2012 by ranking fourth in the state with 389 digs. Kolpuc also registered 37 service aces, which ranked 13th statewide.

But the Barrons have a lot to replace from last season’s squad.

Brandon Flores recorded a team-best 273 assists last season and Nick Stefanicha was one of Woodbridge’s best defensive players, registering 319 digs and 46 blocks. Craig Conklin and Bryan Cromwell, who combined for 527 digs in 2012. All four have graduated.

“We lost four of our six starters from last year and those guys had a huge impact on our program,’’ head coach Joseph Kirk said. “So we only have three kids with varsity experience. But we’re excited for this season. We’re working hard in practice. The GMC is going to be tough but if we get better every day, anything can happen.”

The Barrons get their season started April 1 against Essex County Vocational School.

St. Joseph primed for bounce-back season

Sean Finan of St. Joseph's boys volleyball team. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Sean Finan of St. Joseph’s boys volleyball team. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Last season, the St. Joseph High School boys volleyball team was among the state’s best for a good majority of the spring. The Falcons ran up a 32-6 record, were the top-seeded team in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament and secured the top seed in the NJSIAA Central sectionals.

But for all of the success they had in the regular season, St. Joseph ended its campaign without a title.

Old Bridge knocked the Falcons off in the GMCT final and eventual champion Cinnaminson disposed of the Falcons in the semifinals of the state tournament.

But, with the new season set to start next week, St. Joseph has its sights set on reclaiming the hardware.

“Last year was disappointing at the end,” head coach Miguel Cabrita said. “But the guys are ready to go this year and we’re looking to bring the GMC title back to Metuchen.”

The Falcons have been in the GMCT final every season since there has been a tournament, but Old Bridge has won two of the last three crowns.

St. Joseph is loaded for another deep run, led by senior Kurt MacDonald. MacDonald collected the seventh-most digs in the state last season with 367 but, according to Cabrita, he’s not the only player to pay attention to this year.

“Kurt is our lead defensive player and he set a school record for digs last year,” Cabrita said, “but Sean Dacey is our starting setter and he’s in mid-season form, along with Sean Finan, who is coming off basketball season. He hasn’t missed a step.”

Finan led the team with 257 kills last season and Dacey collected a team-best 150 assists.

The Falcons need to establish chemistry in order to be successful, at least in the eyes of Cabrita, who said last season the team’s chemistry went away at the wrong time.

“It fizzed for us late last year at all the wrong times,” Cabrita said. “A couple bad things would happen and we’d fall apart. But I think this season will be different for us. These guys compliment each other really well.”

Some of the depth players for St. Joseph should help the Falcons meet their goals this season, with Thomas Durrell, Greg Jajtay and Ray Kowalski all expected to play pivotal roles.

“(Thomas) Durrell is an offensive weapon for us,” Cabrita said. “(Ray) Kowalski is our other starter and he was a surprise last year. He’s been great this offseason building strength and polishing his game for us.”

St. Joseph will head to Rhode Island for the fourth straight season to compete in an out-of-state tournament that they’ve won every time. Once they return home and conference play starts, Cabrita knows GMC foes will be waiting for them.

“We haven’t seen Old Bridge since last year, but we want to get past them. They’re in our way and head-to-head we should do well,” Cabrita said. “East Brunswick is really good also and they’re a big rival of ours. It should be a great conference year.”

St. Joseph gets its season underway on April 2 when they host a quad-meet against Bergen Catholic, Bloomfield and Elizabeth. They’ll also battle West Windsor Plainsboro-South in the afternoon to cap a busy opening day.

Sports, school go hand-in-hand

Donald Jones (left) speaks to students at Edison High School Tuesday morning. Jones, a Plainfield High School graduate, recently signed with the New England Patriots. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Donald Jones (left) speaks to students at Edison High School Tuesday morning. Jones, a Plainfield High School graduate, recently signed with the New England Patriots. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

EDISON — Professional athletes aren’t always obli­gated to give their time speaking to high school stu­dents, but for Donald Jones, it’s something he enjoys.

Jones, a former Plainfield High School star football player, and Greg Harris, a retired professional bas­ketball player, spoke to students at Edison HighSchool Tuesday morning, trying to ensure that the students realized that it takes hard work both on and off the field to reach the level of stardom they aspire to reach.

“The whole point of being here today is to express how important excellence on and off the field really is,” Jones said. “Sports ties into life and you learn a lot from the experiences you have playing and we were trying to tie everything in for these kids.”

Jones, who graduated from Plainfield in 2006, re­cently signed a three-year free agent contract with the New England Patriots, after spending the first three years of his career with the Buffalo Bills.

But being back in New Jersey, where he still makes his off-season home, and speaking with high school students was something that Jones was eager to do when approached by Edison track and field coach Veronica Harris.

“These kids didn’t really know I was from the area until today, a lot of them were shocked to find out,” Jones said.

“Some of them looked me up beforehand and I heard from a few kids on Twitter this morning that they were excited to see me and meet me out here, but I live in Piscataway so I come home every off-season and it’s nice to come home and talk to students from this area. Giving back is not always something that you have to do by giving money; when you can come back and give your time it’s just as valuable.”

After graduating from Plainfield, Jones went to Lackawanna Junior College and then to Youngstown State prior to joining the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2 010 .

Jones is well aware that he’s joining a team capable of competing for a championship this season and what would make it even sweeter would be to play in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium next February in front of his home fans and family members.

“It’s an honor to be in New England, but I know I have a lot of work to do and from what I hear Tom (Brady) is big on hard work and he just wants to win and that’s what I want as well,” Jones said. “I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from him soon to start working out with him and learning the system and earning his trust.”

Harris, Veronica’s brother, played basketball at DeMatha High School in Maryland and then went on to Mount St. Mary’s University, where he helped the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

After graduating in 2000, Greg Harris spent eight seasons in Europe, playing mostly in Belgium and Holland, before retiring in 2008. He currently teaches at Friendship Collegiate Academy just outside of Washington and said he tried to express how important school is to the student athletes from Edison.

“I was trying to say that if you apply yourself academically, you should be able to excel athletically,” Greg Harris said.

“I said to the kids that if they put the same kind of drive that they have on the athletic field into the classroom, they’ll do well on both sides of things.”

Trenton a better stage for the T of C

TRENTON — The Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, more widely known for hosting graduations for local high schools, was on center stage Tuesday evening as the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions Final was held in an arena outside of the Meadowlands for the first time in recent memory.

The 8,600-seat arena in Mercer County was about half-full during the Boys final between second-seeded St. Joseph and top-seeded Roselle Catholic. The Lions won their first ever Tournament of Champions title 65-49. Both schools had large contingents of students in the stands, standing in unison throughout the contest and at times battling each other through chants and taunts. But in the end, the game was won on the court, not in the stands, at least in the eyes of one of the pivotal players in the contest.

“The court was a little different and the feel for the whole arena was a bit different than we were used to, but at the end of the day you need to black those kinds of things out and just go play,” St. Joseph star Karl Towns said. “I don’t think their student section had any effect on us whatsoever. I can honestly say that the East Brunswick fans were rowdier and louder towards us. We just couldn’t beat Roselle Catholic on the floor. It had nothing to do with what was going on in the stands.”

Instead of having the game at the vacant Izod Center in East Rutherford, an arena with 20,000 seats that would have drowned out the crowd noise, the NJSIAA moved its signature contest to Trenton for the first time in the 25-year history of the event.

One of the louder moments of the contest came with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter, when Towns went over 1,000 career points with a made layup. The crowd gave Towns a standing ovation.

Fans and students from both schools had a longer than usual commute to the game, some traveling in excess of one hour to make it to Trenton for the opening tipoff, but the St. Joseph mascot was in the stands early pumping up his classmates.

“Parking was crazy, there were so many cars and not enough spots, so we had to park a little bit further away than we wanted to,” St. Joseph sophomore Tyler Vitale, who dresses up in the Falcons suit for each game, said. “But it’s nice for the guys to play in a smaller arena like this, with everybody packed in close, because if it’s full for a game, it’ll be much louder than it would be up at the Meadowlands or an arena like that.”

One of Vitale’s classmates, senior Christian Goldy, said that driving a little bit further than usual wouldn’t keep the Falcons fans away.

“We’ve had good crowds everywhere we’ve gone this season, so it’s not going to make much of a difference for us,” Goldy said. “I think a smaller building brings out the best in high school basketball. I think it’s cool that they decided to have the game here.”

CN All-Area Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Zach Ghizzone of Union Catholic

Zach Ghizzone, the Courier News' Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

Zach Ghizzone, the Courier News’ Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

Two years ago, Union Catholic High School’s Zach Ghizzone was a baseball player who joined indoor track to stay in shape for baseball season. But, with the will to win and the desire to be great, Ghizzone emerged as one of the stars for Union Catholic’s track team, and this winter made a name for himself as one of New Jersey’s best athletes.

Ghizzone took home the gold medal in the 55-meter hurdles at the Meet of Champions with a time of 7.51 and helped Union Catholic win the Union County and Non-Public B team titles.

He is the Courier News Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

“This is truly an unbelievable feeling,” Ghizzone said. “I started off the season talking to the coaches and my teammates and I knew that we would be a team to be reckoned with. I just never thought I’d be this good.”

Along with the 55-meter hurdles, Ghizzone runs on the Vikings’ 4×400 relay team, but he was injured and didn’t compete at the Meet of Champions. He said that he had to persuade his coaches to let him run in the 55-meter hurdles and it’s a good thing they obliged.

“He matured as a person and he saw what the hard work was doing for him,” head coach Mike McCabe said. “He ran cross country for us and it helped him get stronger for the winter track season. He had a great season of training, and the additional effort he put in, together with his skills, put him over the top.”

The extra work that he put in included running on the cross country team for the first time, something Ghizzone did only because they needed some extra runners.

“Cross country is not my favorite sport, but I did it for the better of the team,” Ghizzone said. “I ran well in my first couple of meets and when I got the distance down in me, it helped me in the winter.”

Ghzzone said that he learned a lot from running cross country that he took into the winter track season, including how to pace himself better and finish 400-meter races with better speed and energy.

At the Non-Public B State Tournament, Ghizzone was part of the winning 4×400 team that clocked 3:28.30, 12 seconds faster than second-place Roselle Catholic.

But Ghizzone’s crowning moment of the season came when he won the Meet of Champions title in the 55-meter hurdles.

“I took some big steps in hurdles this year; to go from 7.8 last year to 7.51 this year is a good feeling,” Ghizzone said. “When I heard my name at the end of the day, I jumped up in the air and gave a big fist pump and my grandparents were there so it was exciting for my whole family. It felt so great to win.”

One member of Ghizzone’s family that was there was his teammate and brother Andrew, a junior on the Vikings squad who excels in the 1600. Having Andrew on the team helps push Zach to new heights, especially when they’re competing in different events.

“It’s pretty cool to have him on the team,” Ghizzone said. “My brother quit baseball to run track and I did the same. We’re overly competitive and it’s better than we don’t do the same events. My dad hates it when we do the same event, because we trash talk to each other a lot. When he succeeds, it’s just as good as when I do well.”

HNT Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Jonathan Pitt of South Brunswick

Jonathan Pitt, The Home News Tribune's Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Jonathan Pitt, The Home News Tribune’s Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

For South Brunswick High School’s Jonathan Pitt, this winter track and field season was all about tapping into the limitless potential he possesses in his 6-foot 5-inch frame.

Pitt served as the anchor of the shuttle hurdles, 4×200 and 4×400 meter relay teams for the Vikings and helped lead South Brunswick to the Group IV Relays championship. On the side, he broke the state record in the triple jump.

He is the Home News Tribune’s Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

“I guess this shows that all my work paid off,” Pitt said. “All of that work that I put in was for a good reason, and it’s good that the hard work gets recognized.”

Pitt took on the challenge of anchoring the Vikings’ relay teams this winter, something that his coach Adam Nalven said was a good thing for him.

“He anchored three relays for us in one season,” Nalven said. “It was something that was great for him. His size makes him stand out sometimes to a casual observer, but when he goes last, it’s not just his size that makes him stand out. He’s beating everyone right now and to me, he’s on another planet.”

At the state relays, South Brunswick won the shuttle hurdles with a time of 31.07 and finished second in the 4×400 with a time of 3:27.65. The Vikings placed eighth in the 4×200 in 1:34.94.

Pitt ran the fourth and final leg of each race and relished the opportunity to be the one counted on to finish out the races.

“I love the pressure,” Pitt said. “The anchor is perfect for me; I do my best when I’m under pressure.”

But an event that’s not contested in the wintertime is where Pitt makes his mark. He set the New Jersey state record in the triple jump with a distance of 49-7.5 at an invitational in February. Pitt has his sights set on an even bigger number once he gets outside in the spring.

“I want people to be afraid of me,” he said. “I want to be in the 51-52 foot range, but I want to focus on victories instead of numbers. I want to be the best in the triple jump all season long.”

And with the triple jump being scored in events this spring, Pitt said he thinks South Brunswick has a chance to be great, and he envisions himself leading the way.

“I think the indoor season was tough,” Pitt said. “Outdoors, I’ll be able to run faster and jump farther. I think being indoors was a warm-up for spring track. It’s going to be crazy with all the talent we have all the way down our roster.”

Nalven said that Pitt’s goal, which the two have talked about at great length, is to set the New Jersey record for the triple jump outside now that he’s done it inside.

“The sky is the limit for Jonathan,” Nalven said. “The outdoor record is something he’s going to be gunning for all spring long and it’s definitely within his reach.”

HNT All-Area Boys Indoor Track Coaches of the Year: Jack Campbell and Steve Gajewski of Old Bridge

The Old Bridge High School track and field program, long one of the most successful in the Middlesex County, suffered through a bit of down season a year ago.

But in 2013, the Knights recaptured their throne at the top of the Greater Middlesex Conference, winning the boys and girls titles at the GMC Championships thanks in large part to a pair of men who have been coaching for more seasons than their athletes have been alive.

Old Bridge’s Jack Campbell and Steve Gajewski, who guide the boys and girls teams respectively, are The Home News Tribune’s Indoor Track Co-Coaches of the Year.

“I’ve been coaching for 17 years now and it’s a total team effort,” Gajewski said. “It’s about the kids that work hard every day. Ultimately, the kids are the ones that lead to my success.”

The success of Old Bridge’s winning teams can be linked closely to 30-year veteran Campbell, one of New Jersey’s most respected mentors and someone Gajewski had learned a lot from.

“He has been doing this for a long time and he knows his stuff and it’s awesome to work with Jack on a daily basis,” Gajewski said.

DiPaola worked hard to improve this season

Chris DiPaola, the Courier News' Boys Bowler of the Year. Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

Chris DiPaola, the Courier News’ Boys Bowler of the Year. Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

Like many great athletes, Immaculata High School junior bowler Chris DiPaola puts in a great deal of work on his craft to improve from season to season. But DiPaola made a meteoric rise between his sophomore and junior years, bringing up his average from 206 to a Skyland Conference-best 219 this winter.

DiPaola is the Courier News Boys Bowler of the Year.

When asked what the biggest difference was for him this season, DiPaola wasn’t quite sure how to reply.

“It’s hard to say why I was so much better this year,” DiPaola said. “I work hard all the time and I’m always at the bowling alley. I don’t have an answer as to why I was able to pick up my average 13 pins. Maybe I wasn’t thinking as much at the lanes this season, but I just did what I’ve done every other season and the scores kept getting higher.”

Along with the 219 scoring average, DiPaola posted five 700 series and 11 600’s. According to head coach Frank Mazzariello, DiPaola rolled a score of 200 or higher in 37 of his 51 games this winter.

“I have picked up spares so much better over the last year. Coach Mazzariello always says to us ‘make your spares, make your spares.’ I got tired of hearing it and so I decided I was going to make more of them,” DiPaola said with a laugh. “I knew how to throw strike balls, but I needed to pick up the spares better to be great.”

One of the more impressive moments from DiPaola’s season was the 300 game he bowled in mid-January. The perfect game was one of just two bowled in all of the Skyland Conference this season, with teammate Zack Vitelli firing the other on Dec. 19. DiPaola credits his friendship and friendly competition with Vitelli for pushing him to get his own perfect game.

“The 300 was awesome,” DiPaola said. “Zack shot one three weeks before me and he and I like to challenge each other. I just bowled one strike after another and I looked up in the 10th frame and saw I still had it going so I did all I could to seal the deal.”

The Immaculata boys squad didn’t have enough able bodies to compete in statewide tournaments, which hindered DiPaola and his teammates from bowling as many games as some of their friends in other conferences. But, even though they were put in a difficult position, DiPaola helped keep his team upbeat and positive, according to Mazzariello.

“The kids didn’t know about not being able to compete in states until halfway through the season,” Mazzariello said. “With only four bowlers on our squad, Chris kept everyone engaged in the game. He was a calm person and a steady influence to our guys.”

Throughout the season, DiPaola steadily improved his game, climaxing at the Skyland Conference Tournament in late January. DiPaola rolled the highest game of any Skyland bowler with a 266, something he said will help him stay motivated for next season.

“I work very hard to do what I do,” DiPaola said. “To be recognized like this means the hard work paid off, but it also means I need to work even harder down the road to keep getting better.”