After graduating a large chunk of their starting lineup, the Golden Bears were a young team last year. But that experience, coupled with losing just one senior, gives the Maroon and Gold plenty of things to look forward to heading into this season.
“[It was the] biggest transition year in our history,” said head coach Joseph Ambrose. “We had to replace seven seniors and pretty much the entire lineup from the 2015-16 season. All of the starters from that year were All-Conference, so it was a huge change.
“Our four freshmen and younger players got some valuable experience against some of the top teams in the country. We made a strong showing at the ECC Championships; rounds we got beat in
Ambrose is entering his 11th season at the helm, and holds a 717-512 (.583) career record. He has led KU to a top-20 ranking in the country every year dating back to 2008. His teams have finished with a winning season in eight of his 10 years as head coach.
KU was voted 11th in the National Tenpin Coaches Association’s (NTCA) 2016-17 Division II/III postseason poll that was released last April following the season.
Seven bowlers from last year’s team return to the lanes this fall, led by All-East Coast Conference (ECC) First Team bowlers Jenn Fitts(Birdsboro, Pa./Twin Valley) and Angela Kozma (Beachwood, N.J./Toms River South). It was the second straight recognition for the senior Fitts. The sophomore Kozma was also named to the ECC Women’s Bowling Championships All-Tournament Team, posting an 18.9 frame average over KU’s eight games in the final tournament.
Along with Fitts and Kozma, Ambrose will look to two upperclassmen to take on more leadership roles and improve their play from last season.
“Jenn and Melanie Aptaker (Lincroft, N.J./Middletown South) will be our senior captains this season and they will be our leaders,” Ambrose said. “All our returners will be leaders as well, and will help with the five new freshmen that we have. Angela was super last year as a freshman and Felicia Trievel (Reading, Pa./Wilson)will have a bigger role this year as well.”
With the regular season starting at the Bud Whitman Memorial tournament on Saturday, Oct. 14, Ambrose has an idea of who will be starting. But there is still some competition for the final few spots.
“Fitts, Trievel, Kozma will likely be starters,” Ambrose said. “The returners will be vying for the other two spots and will receive competition from [freshmen] Jaime Golden (Sparta, N.J./Sparta)and Keanna Delp (Mifflinburg, Pa./Mifflinburg Area), who will both be ready to go right away. Alexis Case (Ocean, N.J./Ocean Township), Megan Bauter (Spring Lake, N.J./Manasquan), Ella Luzzi (Spring Lake, N.J./Manasquan), Aptaker, Laura Hartley (Mt Pleasant Mills, Pa./Midd-West), Dana Henry (Oakhurst, N.J./Ocean Township) and Dorrie-Anne Rizzo (Ogdensburg, N.J./Wallkill Valley Regional) will all be capable of getting playing time, so we have to see how things will shake out. Losing [Renee] Riffey for a year hurts, but she will be back to KU for her final two seasons, so that’s good news for us going forward. Still, overall we’re a very young team, but there is enough experience and talent to do very well.”
Bauter started in 34 of her 58 appearances and held a 15.828 frame average. Case had a 16.154 frame average over 60 season appearances. Luzzi ended her sophomore campaign holding a 15.5 frame average in over 58 appearances.
Delp, Golden, Hartley, Henry and Rizzo are all set to begin their collegiate careers this fall.
Heading into the season, Franklin Pierce and Adelphi, both of whom finished ahead of KU at the ECC championships, will once again be strong.
With plenty of other competition expected from other schools, the Golden Bears will need to be on top of their game each event this season, with the ECC champion getting an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships for the first time.
“Adelphi is the clear favorite in our conference, followed closely by Franklin Pierce,” Ambrose said. “KU can make a case for the third spot, but so can Felician and Lincoln Memorial. Molloy, Daemen, Roberts Wesleyan and LIU Post all have taken steps to get better. Chestnut Hill, Wilmington and Saint Thomas Aquinas will be in there as well. The ECC will be super competitive come conference-championship time (March 23-25 in Long Island), so that’s what we all will be focused on this season with an NCAA bid on the line.”
The Golden Bears begin their season on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Bud Whitman Memorial held at Berks Lanes in Reading, Pa. KU will compete in 11 events this season before heading to the ECC Championships at the end of March and potentially the NCAA Championships in April.