Gloucester Tech isn’t allowing high expectations to cloud its belief about what bowling is supposed to be: fun.
The Cheetahs arrived at Laurel Lanes last Wednesday for the Olympic Conference Holiday Bowl tournament wearing matching holiday sweaters and enjoyed the festive Christmas music played during warm-ups. The atmosphere loosened up the team for a tournament it was hoping to win.
“We try to make this a fun tournament,” Head Coach John Holland said. “They all wore (holiday) shirts. Bowling can be fun. It can be stressful, but it can also be fun.”
One year after finishing second to Eastern, GCIT rode a pair of strong performances from sophomore standouts Gianna McGahan and Megan Prettyman to take first place in the girls’ tournament, with a score of 2,315, at last Wednesday’s Holiday Bowl. The first-place finish was the first big accomplishment for a GCIT team off to a fast start in the 2019-20 season.
“It was crazy,” McGahan said of the Holiday Bowl win. “I didn’t expect it.”
McGahan may not have expected it, but the Cheetahs were certainly thrilled with the outcome after entering the season with high hopes. GCIT returns all but one player from last year’s 10-win squad. The emergence of Prettyman as GCIT’s anchor was a big part of the team’s success in 2018-19. As a freshman last season, Prettyman finished seventh at the South Jersey sectionals to punch her ticket to the state tournament.
While Prettyman has continued to bowl very well this season, the improvement of her teammates has been a big part of GCIT’s early success. Junior Kasey DeLorenzo shot a 465 or higher in each of her first four matches after only topping 465 once during match play last year. After tallying a 400 or better series only once last season, senior Izzy Roman has scored 400 or better in three of her first four series this year.
The biggest improvement may be from McGahan, who was the star of the Holiday Bowl’s girls tournament. In her second game, McGahan shot a 244, the best of any girl in the tournament. Her 585 series was also the highest of the day.
Girls Bowling 🎳 team takes 1st place @ Olympic Conference Holiday Bowl Meet! Gianna McGahan wins High Game & High Series. Megan Prettyman wins 2nd high game award. Other team members:Rebecca Long, Isabella Roman and Kasey DeLorenzo. Congrats ladies! #CheetahPride pic.twitter.com/D9xiRby60J
— GCIT Athletics (@GCITAthletics) December 12, 2019
“I feel like my ball was just doing what I wanted it to do and that was when the team really started picking each other up,” she said. “The first game, we didn’t do that, but the second game, we really made it a focus.”
One of GCIT’s biggest strengths is its experience. Four of GCIT’s bowlers this season were also regulars in the lineup last year. The lone newcomer to this year’s lineup, junior Rebecca Long, got some varsity time in a few matches last year. The Cheetahs’ experience is striking considering Roman is the only senior out of the five starters.
“I think last year helped,” Holland said. “(A lot of them) were young, freshmen and sophomores, and they really kind of bonded last year. They really have a tight bond.”
“I think that we have the energy as a team, when one of us has a bad day, other people have good days,” Prettyman added. “We’re not the kind of team where, if one of us tanks, we all tank.”
With most of the lineup back and vastly improved, the Cheetahs have lofty goals in 2019-20. In addition to winning the Holiday Bowl, GCIT hopes to win the New Jersey Technical Athletic Conference Tournament, finish the season undefeated and advance to the NJSIAA team championships.
“I think that it helped because knowing who was going to be in our lineup, we could set our goals,” Prettyman said of the team’s goals. “We could expect more because we knew (who we had).”
The team’s goals may be big, but so far GCIT has lived up to expectations. The Cheetahs easily won their first three matches heading into the Holiday Bowl by a score of 4-0, and after defeating nearly two dozen South Jersey teams last year, GCIT is no longer flying under the radar.
“The way we started the regular season, the expectations were we’d be in the top-three (at Holiday Bowl) again,” Holland said. “You just have to hope for how they bowl.
“They’ve been bowling fairly well.”