The Cherry Hill High School West boys’ bowling team has come a long way since senior Dean Bongiovanni first joined the team as a freshman.
“Bowling before we started was just bowling,” Bongiovanni said. “Not many people cared about it.”
Now, the boys’ bowling team is one of the winningest teams at Cherry Hill West. The Lions went 16–2 in 2014–15 and won the South Jersey Group III championship. This season, Cherry Hill West wants to move up from being one of the best teams in South Jersey to one of the best teams in the state.
Bongiovanni has been a big part of Cherry Hill West’s surge up the standings. During his junior season in 2013–14, he began scoring 200 or more in the majority of his games and was frequently the top bowler on his team.
“I practiced a lot more,” Bongiovanni said. “I fixed my technique and changed some of my form. My shots have gotten more consistent.”
Bongiovanni is a multi-sport athlete who has also played football and tennis for Cherry Hill West. However, bowling is his favorite sport. This season, Bongiovanni opted not to play football and instead focus more on the other two sports.
“I wanted to focus on bowling and tennis,” he said. “We had our most success with bowling last year.”
Bongiovanni said there was a more determined attitude with last year’s team. He felt everyone wanted to come together and finally win a championship after finishing second in sectionals in 2013–14.
“Last year when we won, we took things really seriously,” Bongiovanni said. “We were focused on winning. My sophomore year, we were good but we didn’t take advantage of it.”
All of the hard work and practice paid off at the end of 2014–15 for Bongiovanni and the Lions. Bongiovanni shot a personal-best 729 series in last year’s sectional tournament to qualify for the individual state championship and help the Lions to the team sectional title.
“It was a day that meant so much to me,” he said.
This season, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding Cherry Hill West boys’ bowling. The team got off to a fast start, starting the season with a 10–1 record. Bongiovanni has also bowled well. He shot back-to-back 600 series against Washington Township and Pennsauken Tech in early December and bowled a season-high 257 in the third game against Pennsauken Tech. Less than a week later, he rolled his highest series of the season, registering a 681 against Seneca on Dec. 14.
This year, there are high expectations for the bowling team. Bongiovanni said the attitude has changed since his freshman year, and students and staff in the school community are looking forward to the Lions’ being sectional champions again this year.
“After our success, a lot of the kids in the school acknowledge the team and our accomplishments,” Bongiovanni said. “It puts more pressure on you, but at the same time it gives you the desire to perform better.”
This season is not just about bowling well for Bongiovanni, but also helping the Lions’ younger bowlers. Cherry Hill West has a senior heavy team this year, and Bongiovanni wants to help build the foundation so the Lions’ will keep winning for years to come.
“You definitely want them to carry the program and continue the history you’ve had,” he said. “When they have tough shots or even pre-game, you give them the best advice you can.”
Bongiovanni plans to attend a college with a bowling team so he can continue with the sport. For now, his focus is on making his senior season one to remember. He believes the team has a chance to not only repeat as sectional champions, but also defeat Shawnee High School. The Renegades were the only team to defeat Cherry Hill West in 2014–15. The Lions only loss in their first 11 matches came against Shawnee. The two teams will face off again on Feb. 1.
“Last year, the one team we couldn’t defeat was Shawnee,” Bongiovanni said. “This year, other than winning sectionals again and going to states, we really want to beat that team.