By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
There was a 1969 movie that starred John Wayne and Rock Hudson, as well as a host of NFL football players like Merlin Olsen and Roman Gabriel, entitled “The Undefeated.”
Well, if there was to be another movie made with the same name in 2013, perhaps it could be about the Kearny High School girls’ bowling team.
The Kardinal pin queens are currently an astounding 70-0. That’s no misprint.
Kearny has won every single match during the current season, an almost unfathomable thought, when bowling tends to be an up-and-down sport at times. Not with these Kardinals. They’ve been consistent through and through.
It’s been the best season since the school initiated a strictly girls’ bowling team four years ago.
“All of the girls on the team are seniors, so they’ve been putting in four years of hard work to get to this point,” said Kearny bowling head coach Al Correnti. “You can find a team that has a good game, but the girls have taken on that challenge and remain undefeated.”
Senior Molly Howell believes that the team has embraced its lofty status.
“I think we all thought it was possible.” Howell said. “We’ve really been striving for something like this for the past two years. Our team is so solid that we all thought this was our year. Being undefeated is something we want. I think we really thought it was possible if we just stayed positive. Something clicked with us early on and it’s just carried on.”
Howell also believes that the experience they’ve gained together has been a huge asset.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” said Howell, the team’s leading bowler. “Every year, we’ve tried to improve and that’s what’s happened.”
Howell reached major milestones last week, when she eclipsed the 200 mark for the first time, rolling a 220 game. The Kardinals also eclipsed the 800-pin plateau as a team, combining to bowl an 802.
Howell carries a 160 average, so hitting 220 is proof of her improvement – as well as the team’s.
“Molly carries the high average in our division,” Correnti said. “It’s incredible what she does for a seasonal bowler. She doesn’t bowl in any other league. She’s the only girl to ever get to 200 for us.”
Senior Kristen Stankus is the team’s No. 2 bowler, coming in at a 144 average. What is also remarkable is that she’s one of a set of triplets on the team – and one would never even think they were sisters, never mind triplets.
Nicole Stankus carries the third best average on the team – and second among her sisters – with a 141 average.
Incredibly, the top five Kearny bowlers are also the top five in the larger division of the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League.
“At the end of the year, they hold an All-Star tournament and all of our top five would qualify for it,” Correnti said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Jaclyn Lazo would be among those All-Stars with her 134 average. The same can be said for the last of the Stankus triplets, Jennifer, with her 129 average.
“They’ve all improved their averages since last year,” Correnti said. “They’ve all been steady. That’s another great thing about them.”
Senior Kaitlyn Garrrison rounds out the starting rotation and she’s not far behind with a 124 average. It’s why the Kardinals are undefeated – consistent scoring with no lapses in the lineup. It’s definitely the key to success.
“They’re all good kids,” Correnti said. “They have a great respect for the game and take it very seriously.”
But the Kards know how to have a good time as well.
“We have a lot of fun, because you can’t take it too seriously all the time,” Howell said. “But we take it seriously when it’s time to bowl. We definitely want to keep this going.”
The Kardinals have two big tournaments upcoming, namely the Hudson County championships Jan. 31 (where they will be huge favorites) and the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV state sectionals at Bowler City in Hackensack Feb. 9.
“I like our chances definitely in the county tournament,” Correnti said. “Because if we don’t win there, then the undefeated season means nothing. In the state sectionals, we’ll be alright. Hopefully, we’ll win the county championship first and that might give us momentum into the states.”
Whatever takes place, it has been a dream season for the Kardinals’ bowling program. In just their fourth year, the Kards are remarkably undefeated and shooting for even loftier goals.
“That’s what we wanted,” Howell said. “We wanted to be county champs.”
Looks like the Kards are well on their way.