With the starting lineup returning, the team is confident on a South Jersey Group IV championship and a run at a state championship.
Lenape High School boys bowling’s goal for the 2018 season is simple.
“Anything less than a sectionals win, state appearance and going far is nothing,” senior Devan Patel said. “We want to go all the way this year.”
With the entire starting lineup returning after a fourth-place finish at the South Jersey Group IV tournament last year, the sky is the limit for the Indians this season. Lenape’s 2018 lineup of Devan Patel, Jayen Patel, Amar Patel, Brendan Kelly and Ryan Delozier is the exact regular lineup the team featured last season. The last time Lenape returned its entire starting lineup from the year before was in 2015, when the Indians won the first sectional championship in program history.
“They’re going to settle for nothing less than first place this year,” head coach Mike Lombardo said. “They’ve worked hard all throughout the offseason, joining summer leagues, doing tournaments.”
Devan was a freshman on Lenape’s practice team when the Indians won the sectional title in 2015. He saw firsthand what it took for Lenape to climb to the top of the mountain then and believes this year’s squad has what it takes to be the best bowling team in school history.
“We do practices almost every day we don’t have a match and we try to keep that competitive nature between us,” Devan said. “It’s almost like, we don’t have an off day.”
Cousins Devan and Jayen have been a force for Lenape the past two seasons, consistently scoring more than 200 pins a game. While much of Lenape’s high scores can be contributed to solid repetition, practice and skill-building, Jayen said the team’s tight chemistry is also beneficial.
“It’s hard to get five people so motivated and have so much passion for the game that want to get good together,” Jayen said. “We know each other so well, we can handle each other. Some people may be cool, some might be hot heads. But we all understand each other.”
The biggest thing Lenape is working on early this year is consistency, something the team has struggled with in past seasons.
“The biggest thing for us is staying consistent and everybody shooting their average,” Lombardo said. “The last few games we did have, consistency was an issue. We can’t have a 200-something bowler bowl a 158. You’re not going to win that way.”
“It’s all about staying in focus and staying mentally in the game,” Jayen added. “It’s very hard to see other bowlers do better than you and come back from that.”
One advantage Lenape has is its experience in tournament play. Most of the team has bowled in multiple sectional and in-season tournaments, giving them a feel for the atmosphere surrounding those events.
“They love to compete in (tournaments), everyone is there to see them,” Lombardo said. “Tournaments we’ve always done well in.”
“Four out of our five guys has been bowling at sectionals since sophomore year,” Devan said. “It’s a big advantage considering other teams may not have that.”
This year’s Lenape team shares a connection to the 2015 sectional championship team. The two teams stay in touch with each other fairly regularly and actually played each other a few times in 2017. Jayen said the 2018 team beat the 2015 team the last time they bowled together, giving this year’s team confidence.
“That just pushes us harder,” Jayen said. “They want it for us, which is really amazing. It would be redemption for them and a win for us.”
The Indians entered January with a 3–2 record. Lenape won three consecutive matches over Shawnee High School, Eastern Regional High School and Cherry Hill High School East in mid-December.