Tournament gives Saint Vincent, others chance to scout bowlers

Thursday, February 7, 2019 | 7:30 PM

The hardest and most-time consuming approach to building a successful college sports program is to head out on the recruiting trail and try and bring in some talent. The easy way is to bring that talent to you.

The Saint Vincent women’s bowling team has chosen the latter and will host its inaugural Penn-Ohio High School Challenge at Greensburg’s Hillview Lanes on Saturday.

“It’s an opportunity to bring in talent right to our back door,” said Saint Vincent girls bowling coach Jeff Zidek, who also serves as the school’s sports information director. “I enjoy going to tournaments, and over the past two years I’ve gotten to know a lot of high-school coaches and a number of them I’ve gotten to be friends with.”

The event will welcome three high school teams from the Youngstown, Ohio area, but squads from the WPIBL will make up the bulk of the tourney.

“There’s just such a strong interest,” Zidek said. “It’s a chance for bowlers around the region to not only challenge themselves but also meet their peers from other schools. The big key is adding in these Ohio teams with three teams coming across the border.”

There are 31 teams committed so far. Hillview Lanes has a total of 40 lanes, and Zidek has 34 of them filled. The tourney will be broken down into two divisions: boys/mixed and girls. Girls who compete in the boys/mixed division still can qualify for the girls all-tourney team. The cost to enter a team is $55.

The competition also is open to bowlers who don’t have a high school team or whose team is unable to make the trip. There are 15 individuals entered, and the entry fee for individuals is $9. Zidek said as long as there is room, he will accept team and individual entries at the door. Information about the event can be found on the “Saint Vincent College Bowling” Facebook page.

“I want to thank Coach Jeff from St. Vincent for organizing this event,” Norwin coach Ed Lundy said. “With it being the first one, we all are going in somewhat not knowing what to expect. We will compete, and we will show sportsmanship.”

The field contains some of the top local teams including two-time defending WPIBL boys team champion Franklin Regional. Hempfield, Plum, Greensburg Salem and Kiski Area, among many others, are also on the list. The bracket is set up so none of the local teams compete against one another.

“Rivals like Franklin Regional and Hempfield are not going to see each other all day,” Zidek said. “I think it’s great to meet everybody else.”

Where there’s competition, there’s always opportunity. There also will be a handful of college coaches looking for talent. Coaches from Penn State Altoona, Mt. Aloysius and La Roche, among others, will look to tap into the rich field. La Roche will field the school’s first women’s bowling team next fall.

The Penn-Ohio High School Challenge will begin at 12:15 p.m., when Zidek and members of the Bearcats women’s bowling team will give a lesson on how to navigate the NCAA “sport-shot” oil patterns. Warm-ups will start at 12:45 p.m. with competition kicking off at 1 p.m.

“I have been telling them to be ready for something like they have never seen before,” Lundy said.

The key word to the event’s name is “Challenge.” That’s because bowlers will be rolling on an oil pattern they never have seen: a collegiate one. There are three types of patterns in the bowling world, beginning with house oil, which is self explanatory. Second is challenge oil, which is what the boys teams will bowl on in next Wednesday’s WPIBL boys team championships.

The last one is the sport-shot pattern the NCAA uses, which has five variations. The difference between the challenge oil and sport-shot patterns yields at least a 20-25-pin drop in score. It’s safe to say some bowlers will leave with bruised egos. The good thing is Saturday’s scores will not affect the bowlers high school averages.

“A bowler coming into this tourney who averages a 200 in high school, they’d be well to average a 170,” Zidek said. “I’m making this an opportunity for what they’re going to see in the future. The kids don’t get the opportunity to bowl on what we call ‘sport oil.’ ”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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