Local bowlers set to hit the lanes as season is underway

The high school boys and girls bowling seasons got underway on Monday, Nov. 27. And while the start of the season feels sudden – teams only had two or three days of practice beforehand, it should once again be a big season for The Observer area teams as Kearny and Nutley are set to defend their respective titles.

Kearny’s boys team, which went 16-1 and won last year’s HCIAL title, returns nearly the entire core from a season ago.

Leading the group is senior Ryan Valli, who a season ago, took home the NJSIAA North 2 sectional title with a 706 set and took home All-State, Third Team honors by NJ.com. Despite high expectations, head coach Alan Correnti doesn’t see any nerves from Valli.

“Really every match is just another match to him. I’ve seen him do it in the counties, I’ve seen him do it as a state sectional champion last year,” said Correnti about Valli, who rolled a high of 299 last season. “I don’t think he has a chip on his shoulder. He wants to be as successful as he can, he’s a senior, he’s looking at possibly bowling in college. Whatever he can accomplish this year is really just icing on the cake of everything that he’s done.

“I don’t think he comes in with any pressure on himself. He just likes to bowl, he knows he’s good and he stays even-keeled.”

Seniors Miguel Matso and Daniel Whitehead also return with varsity experience, as does sophomore Wesley Furbino.

Another team with championship aspirations is North Arlington’s boys team, which went 19-4 to finish second in the NJIC Meadowlands division. The Vikings should once again be vying for a title as junior Rohan Patel and sophomore Alexander Garcia are both back after earning All-Division honors a year ago.

Lyndhurst should also be in the mix for the Meadowlands title with a veteran group led by junior Mark Rigano and senior Shane Keeler. Senior Thomas Vinacco is set to lead for Harrison this season.

In Essex County, Nutley (10-4 in the SEC American Division) returns its top bowler from a season ago in junior Jackson Cerniglia-Rapavi as well as sophomore Kaiden Cerniglia-Rapavi.

Belleville, which went 8-7, should also be in the mix as it returns junior Ayden Carrero, who had the best High Series in the division last year with a 703. Bloomfield should also be improved as it returns four of the top five bowlers from last season’s 5-9 team.

On the girls side, Nutley aims for a third consecutive Essex County title in 2024.

Senior Gabriella Lucivero, who went on a run to take second place in Essex County Individual championships, returns to lead the way for the Raiders after rolling a 231 High Game a season ago. The 231 as well as her 588 High Series were both the best in the SEC’s American Division.

“She’s taking on a leadership role,” Nutley head coach Frank Sasso said. “She would love to win the counties, she’s been in the final five two years in a row and she’s looking to maybe even make an impact on the state level.”

Junior Gabriella Botti (High Game of 202) is the other top returner from last season’s 13-0 team, which will also rely upon sophomore Brooklyn Robinson.

“When they need to perform, they seem to step up and I think those (Lucivero and Botti) will complement each other for sure,” said Sasso. “They motivate each other, they seem to get along really, really well. If we can pull together, it will be interesting to see how the season will unfold.”

Also looking to defend a championship is Kearny, which won its ninth consecutive HCIAL division title. Correnti admits that adding to that streak might be a challenge after graduating three of its top four bowlers from last year’s 12-2 team. But the Kardinals should remain competitive with seniors Guadalupe Rosas-Gregorio and Gesenea Arroyo and sophomore Madison Szymanski.

Juniors Isabella Bille and Leah Velasquez lead the way for a Bloomfield team, which went 4-8-1 last season, while Belleville (4-10) is set to return the entire lineup from a season ago.

North Arlington went 8-4 last season with an independent schedule as returns junior Mia Da Silva and sophomore Alexa Palacios, as well as seniors Yadhira Rodriguez and Eileen Zenon.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)