By Warren Rappleyea
It looked like it might be a long season for South Brunswick High School’s boys’ bowling team when it struggled out of the gate at 2-2-2. The Vikings then came roaring back to reel off 13 straight wins and would come within two pins of winning the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) title and 14 pins of reaching the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions (TOC).
Part of the issue, coach Kelly Forthun said, is that her team lacked confidence. A year ago, South Brunswick went 9-6, and they lost Alex Sorge — one of the best bowlers in the GMC — to graduation. Sorge averaged 234 pins.
“I had to get our bowlers to believe that they could win without Alex,” Forthun said. “I’m a big Green Bay Packers fan and like Aaron Rodgers, I told the team that they were going to run the table. Once they won a couple, it just kept building.”
The Vikings split a pair of regular-season meetings with East Brunswick High School. The two teams met again in the GMC finals, with the Bears taking the best two-out-of-three series, 2-1, winning the deciding game by two pins.
South Brunswick finished second to East Brunswick in the Central Jersey, Group IV tournament, allowing both teams to advance to the overall Group IV event. The Bears again got past the Vikings — this time by 14 pins — to win the title before going on to win the TOC as well.
“The guys were fantastic all year,” Forthun said. “We had a couple of bad frames against East Brunswick in Group IV, but they bowled really well and deserved to win.”
The coach credited senior Tyler Kohutanycz with being her team’s leader both on and off the lanes. A four-year starter, Kohutanycz rolled a perfect game in the season-opener against John P. Stevens High School and was superb throughout the campaign, averaging 208 pins. Along the way, he posted three 700-plus pin series, with a high of 722 in a tie with Old Bridge High School.
“Tyler’s such a personable young man,” Forthun said. “He keeps everyone on their toes, and he’s so positive. I’m very proud of him. He’s come a long way from being a freshman with 172 average.”
Another senior, Chan Woo Ang, saved his best for last, rolling six 600-plus pin series over his final seven matches, including a 699 in the Group IV competition. Ang, who is hoping to continue bowling for Stevens Institute of Technology next year, ended up with a 197-pin average. Senior Eric Plowden saw part-time duty but came up big in Group IV action, connecting for four successive marks when Forthun put him in the lineup.
Junior Noah Li averaged 192 pins in semi-regular action, including a season-high 257 against Middlesex High School. Three sophomores all played key roles for the Vikings. Anthony Fama averaged 202 — 14 pins above his freshman number; Nick Delacruz averaged 197 pins and narrowly missed a perfect game in the Group IV tournament, ending with a 286; and Matt Marich was at 183 pins — an impressive increase of 55 pins from his freshman average.
“I’m looking forward to next season,” the coach said. “We return a lot of talent. We do have some holes to fill. Fortunately, we have a few sophomores and a freshman that may be able to step up.”
South Brunswick’s girls’ team finished with a 10-4-2 mark, as Emily Alvarez led the way with a 190-pin average. The senior recorded a perfect game and posted a 750-pin series. She also took fourth place in the GMC girls’ individual tournament and 10th in Central Jersey, Group IV.
Junior Kirsten Thorne averaged 155 pins, with a 242-pin high game. Four sophomores round out the roster: Kayla Maharaj, who averaged 144 pins, Rachel Guida (136), Sanjana Senthil (124) and Merin Vattahara (106).
“Overall, I was very pleased with our progress,” girls’ bowling coach Tara Burniston said. “For a team with just six players — and a few of them newcomers — to win 10 times, while still learning, is very good.”