Plum bowler Shannon Small sets big goals

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Saturday, January 4, 2020 | 9:13 AM


Nesbit’s Lanes has pretty much become a second home for Shannon Small.

When she isn’t there practicing, like she did most days during summer break, or bowling in a match for Plum, she’s picking up shifts working at the snack bar.

“I’m there almost every day,” Small said.

Aside from her general love of the sport, the reason Small has spent so much time working on her game over the summer is she isn’t resting on her results.

Small, a senior, is the two-time defending WPIBL Western Regional girls individual champion and has qualified for states the last three years. Still, she saw room for improvement.

And all that practice has paid dividends.

Through the first four weeks, Small has carried a 220.07 average, which is second best in the WPIBL behind Greensburg Salem’s Mattie Mae White (225.87).

Small and White also would rank in the top five on the boys side.

It has been a strong start for what Small hopes will be a special final season with the Mustangs.

“I’m really excited for regionals and everything. I’m much more confident,” Small said. “Over the summer, I was down here practicing almost every day. I went to Junior Gold (in Detroit), which is a big national competition in the summer. I just worked on learning the big skills I’ve been missing.”

Small has raised her average more than 20 pins from last season. Plum coach Darryl Pilyih said the biggest key has been consistency in her mechanics.

“She’s been a good bowler all along, but in the last two or three months, it’s really been amazing how well she’s done,” Pilyih said. “She’s carrying more strikes than she has before, and she’s also making more spares. You need both to improve your average, and she’s doing both.”

Small has also been doing well on the junior tournament circuit. She won the 15th annual Travis Sparks/Turner Dairy Farms Pittsburgh Junior Shootout Tournament at Nesbit’s Lanes.

She’s planning on bowling in college and is weighing her options. Along with defending her regional championship, Small has an eye toward improving on a fifth-place finish at states last season.

Small anchors a Plum girls team that is limited on varsity experience. Sophomore Haley Gabor ranks eighth in the East Division with a 146.08 average. Leah Rim, a senior out for the team for the first time, is third on the team with a 133.75 average. Juniors Alana Stecker, Emily Kimmel and Sara Tamuschy also has seen varsity time. The Mustangs are 2-2 and in third place in the East Division.

“Other than Shannon, we only have one girl with any experience,” Pilyih said. “It’s a pretty new team. We’re getting there, and we’re learning.”

On the boys side, Plum (3-1) is in second place in the East Division despite some key losses. Last year’s team average leader, Ty Kirkpatrick, is out because of a knee injury and Ethan Grainey, who was second on the team in average a season ago, transferred to Penn Hills.

Seniors Owen Cirelli (187) and Vincent Cocca (184.92) are seventh and eighth in the East Division in average and have helped anchor a team that is in position for a playoff spot halfway through the season.

“We’re a little bit more experienced (on the boys side), but we lost a couple of our best bowlers,” Pilyih said. “We’re making do with what we’ve got.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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