Bowling always has been, is now and probably always will be considered a leisurely activity.
Little Flower junior Ashley Sipos understands that. But to those out there who think that bowling is an easy sport to master, Sipos has some advice.
“When they see how hard it is to be consistently good,” she said, “then I think they would better understand how much heart and soul it took to do what we did.”
Sipos was referring to the Catholic League bowling championship, which Little Flower captured for the third consecutive year on Feb. 27 at Boulevard Lanes in Northeast Philadelphia.
The Sentinels’ razor-thin 18-pin victory over Cardinal O’Hara came down to the ninth and 10th frames of the third game. After the Lions’ anchor rolled an impossible-to-make split in the 10th, that basically sealed the deal.
Little Flower’s players became emotional. And loud.
“We cried a lot,” said Sipos. “We kind of came together as a family and really wanted to win this.”
Little Flower’s sisterhood took some time to develop.
“We started out a little bit slow and didn’t really get along like we should, and it really wasn’t until we beat O’Hara midway through the regular season that we started becoming closer as a team,” said senior Liz Stout. “We decided that something had to change. We had to stop being mad if we weren’t doing well. We had to keep picking each other up.”
By the time the Sentinels reached the final, they had the look and feel of champions. But Cardinal O’Hara, which had defeated Little Flower early in the winter, posed as a potential threat to sever the championship run.
Despite strong bowlers such as Cecilia Bonfante, Shannon Atwell and Stout, Little Flower knew that in order to dispatch a tough O’Hara team in the title match, Sipos would have to deliver in the clutch.
The league’s most valuable player with an average of 190 and the only underclassman among the Little Flower starters, Sipos didn’t disappoint. After a subpar 176, the Holy Innocents School alum rolled a 206 and finished the season with a 226. Her 608 series complimented strong performances by Stout (594 series), Atwell (573) and Bonfante (489) and helped offset the blistering 652 series by O’Hara’s Lindsay Connor.
“It’s very special to go out with a championship in your senior year,” said Stout, a graduate of St. William School. “To win three in a row is hard to describe.”
Although appreciative of her senior teammates, Stout lauded Sipos for her consistency and diligent preparation.
“When she is having a good day, then we are having a good day,” said Stout. “And she is almost always having a good day.”
Jack Rooney, whose grandsons Steve and John Rooney helped North Catholic seize the boys’ Catholic League bowling crown this year, coaches Little Flower and is assisted by Bill Feltwell.
When told about Stout’s assessment of when Little Flower regained its focus after the regular-season win over O’Hara, Feltwell agreed.
“I think we became a team again,” said Feltwell. “It opened up the spanision lead, and we never looked back.”
Sipos, who played on junior varsity as a freshman but raised her average by an incredible 40 points before her sophomore season, is thinking about bowling in college.
“I’ve been doing it since I was about 6 years old, and it’s also sort of a family thing,” said Sipos. “I hope to just keep getting better.”
For those who figure that Little Flower will be too decimated by graduation to repeat next season, Sipos warns them not to be too sure.
“We have some good players moving up from junior varsity,” she said. “And they’ll only improve between now and next season.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.