Plum senior Cocca raring to go for regional bowling championships

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020 | 6:47 PM


Vincent Cocca knows all about bowling at the state championships.

The Plum senior qualified for the singles tournament as a sophomore in 2018 after placing fifth at the Western Regional championships. He also moved on with the Plum boys team in 2017 and last season as the Mustangs were regional runners-up.

Cocca finds himself on the cusp of another trip to states. At this weekend’s regional championships at North Versailles Bowl, he hopes to keep up the momentum gained from a runner-up finish at the WPIBL tournament Feb. 19 at Sims Lanes in Beaver Falls.

His performances in the WPIBL and beyond have represented some of the positive steps in Cocca’s efforts to meet the challenges of attention deficit disorder. The condition forces him to overcome potential lapses in concentration and focus in and out of the bowling arena.

“I’m most definitely ready for regionals,” Cocca said. “It’s only a couple of days away. I just want to do my best and hopefully make it to states.”

The regional singles tournament is Friday, with the teams taking center stage Saturday. Cocca joins Alle-Kiski Valley teams or individuals from Plum, Freeport, Kiski Area, St. Joseph, Burrell and Apollo-Ridge with hopes of reaching the state finals March 13-14 at North Versailles Bowl.

Cocca placed third in the boys qualifier at WPIBL singles and won twice in the stepladder playoffs before running into a buzzsaw known as CJ Turek in the finals. Turek, a Norwin senior who plans to continue bowling in college, took the title by a score of 279-179.

“I just bowled each game the best I could and moved on to the next one,” Cocca said. “I just wanted to stay in the moment when the moment was good. I tried to carry momentum into each game and get one step closer (to the finals). It meant more each step of the way.”

Plum coach Darryl Pilyih said the key to helping Cocca succeed is staying with him after every ball he rolls.

“If he throws a great ball, I will tell him to keep it up and keep (the ball) in the same place,” Pilyih said.

“If he throws a bad one, I’ll try to make sure he knows what he did wrong. I keep talking to him and keep reinforcing where he needs to be. I make sure I am looking right at him all the time so I know he is staying with me.”

Pilyih met Cocca a decade ago at Nesbit’s Lanes in Plum, and he’s seen Cocca’s progress on the lanes. Pilyih said Cocca averaged about 140 as a freshman. This year, he averaged 195.40 in the regular season.

“He practices all the time,” Pilyih said. “He’s very dedicated.”

Pilyih said he also has seen Cocca grow and thrive through social interaction with friends and teammates.

Cocca said he gained strength each round of the WPIBL finals from his teammates and coaches. His father, Anthony, was there throughout the tournament and at the end to embrace his son and offer words of encouragement after a job well done.

“He was pretty emotional after the match (with Turek), but I made sure to let him know that he bowled so well,” the elder Cocca said. “I was really happy for him. People he didn’t know, other players and coaches, came up to him and congratulated him.”

At the WPIBL team championships one week earlier, Cocca paced the Plum boys with a 623 series. The Mustangs, the East section runner-up to Penn Hills, placed fifth overall.

Plum enters the regional tournament along with the Freeport boys and the Burrell and Freeport girls squads.

The top six boys and girls teams from regionals advance to states, as do the top 12 boys and girls from the singles competition.

Plum senior Shannon Small hopes to bring home a third consecutive Western Regional singles championship.

“I just have to stay focused and concentrate on what I am doing,” said Small, a Duquesne commit who captured the WPIBL singles title Feb. 20 at Wildlife Lanes in Lower Burrell.

“I know it will be a challenge to defend my title again, but I just want to bowl my best and see what happens.”

Small finished fourth at states last year.

Also hoping to get back to states is Burrell sophomore Lydia Flanagan. She placed 11th in her regional debut last March before taking 16th at states.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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