Minutemen on a Mission

An experience and talented Washington Township boys bowling is hoping to turn its fast start into a memorable finish.

Washington Township’s boys bowling team of Marcus Spann, Steven Spino, David Libby, Troy Clifford, Josh Dicks and Jason Aquino dominated the competition in the opening weeks of the 2019-20 season. The Minutemen won each of their first six matches and were first place finishers at the 2019 Olympic Conference Holiday Bowl.

Washington Township boys bowling could claim to be No. 1 in South Jersey in a few areas this season.

The Minutemen are tops in the Olympic Conference after entering the holiday break with a perfect 6-0 record. Washington Township won all but one of its matches by a 4-0 score.

Washington Township also earned a first place finish on Dec. 11 in the Olympic Conference Holiday Bowl, besting second-place Eastern by 139 pins.

Washington Township may also be in contention for the unofficial title of the best Twitter account in South Jersey. At the conclusion of every win, both the Washington Township boys and girls teams pose for a picture to post on social media. Every picture is different, with some pictures looking very serious and business-like and others featuring some of the goofiest poses the team can come up with.

“It’s a tradition,” sophomore Steven Spino said. “We do it after every match every year.”

The Minutemen have had a lot of celebratory winning pictures the last two years. Washington Township was one of the Olympic Conference’s top teams in 2018-19 after it finished with a 13-3 record. However, the Minutemen weren’t able to break through at the South Jersey sectionals, finishing in fourth place. This year, the Minutemen’s senior-heavy lineup is on a mission to take the next step forward.

“We knew going in, we all have fairly high averages, especially compared to the rest of our conference,” senior Troy Clifford said. “So we knew going in we had a really good chance at going undefeated this year.”

Sweeping through the conference schedule with a perfect 16-0 record is one of Washington Township’s goals. So far, the team’s on track after winning all five of its December matches. The Minutemen also achieved another goal in winning the Holiday Bowl, a tournament they failed to place in last season.

Washington Twp. boys bowling celebrates after winning the Olympic Conference Holiday Bowl.

“It made a statement, saying we’re here,” junior Marcus Spann said of the team’s Holiday Bowl triumph.

“It definitely set a strong precedent that our presence in this conference is strong,” senior captain Jason Aquino added.

Washington Township has one other big goal in mind: advance to the NJSIAA team state championships, something this current group of players hasn’t done. Head coach Nick Guerrieri believes his top-six of Aquino, Clifford, Spann, Spino, senior Josh Dicks and sophomore David Libby have always had the talent and chemistry to become a contender in South Jersey Group 4, but this year, he feels the team’s consistency is coming together.

“They’re deeper than they were last year,” Guerrieri said. “A lot of kids joined leagues. They took it upon themselves to get to the lanes almost every day. They’re extremely dedicated. They care about this team. They’re there for each other.”

Washington Township features one of the deeper lineups in South Jersey. Spann is a bowler who consistently shoots series of 650 or higher and topped out this year with a 762 series in an early-season win over Seneca. Dicks emerged as a bowler to be reckoned with at the Holiday Bowl when he shot one of the tournament’s best series with a 679 and then narrowly missed a perfect game the next day against Cherokee, bowling a 299 game. Clifford, Aquino and Spino are also capable of bowling games of 200-plus, having done so multiple times in the early part of the season.

Beyond the high scores and the talent, the Minutemen believe the tight team chemistry has been a big part of their success so far. The starters bowl with each other frequently outside of practice and have spent most of the offseason improving their games with an eye toward success.

“We bowl outside (of practice) together,” Spann said. “Every time we go bowling, one of us comes. No one is left behind.”

“On the rare occasion you do bowl without another varsity member, chances are one of them is already there (when you arrive),” Clifford added.

Spino and Libby, Washington Township’s youngest bowlers, are in their first year on varsity and picked up their older teammates’ work ethic prior to the season.

“Every day we were in the bowling alley,” Spino said. “So we came in confident that we could show how much we’ve grown both as a team and individually.”

“They’re extremely motivated and they have the desire,” Guerrieri said. “They come through in the clutch. They’re good under pressure and that’s half the battle.”

It will take every bit of desire, talent and focus for Washington Township to achieve its goal of making it to states. Only two teams from each section qualify for the state tournament and in recent years, teams in South Group 4 have needed to shoot 3,000 at sectionals to advance. The Minutemen shot 3,000 in a win over Shawnee last month and have shot at least 2,850 in three other matches and tournaments so far this year. The potential to have a very special season is there for Washington Township.

“That was one of the disappointments last year was that they didn’t place in the Holiday Bowl,” Guerrieri said. “We didn’t get to states. There was a bitterness and there was a thought that, ‘We’re better than this. We should have performed better than we did.’ I think they came out this year, they really wanted it and they worked hard for it.

“I think they’re a team to be reckoned with.”