Tornado's 1st-year team bowling over competition
Eagle Sports Editor
BUTLER TWP — With eight career perfect games and sporting a 198 average at age 69, Bill Fay knows a thing or two about bowling.
Apparently, his Butler High team does as well.
The Golden Tornado are a first-year entrant in the 45-team Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Bowling League and have wasted little time making an impact.
"I've known a lot of these kids from coaching on Saturday mornings for the past 10 years," Fay said. "I enjoy working with the kids, so I told the school I'd be interested in coaching their bowling team here."
It's been a good fit so far.
Jim Hepler and Karen Marcellus are Fay's assistant coaches, and the Butler boys and girls varsity teams entered Wednesday's match at Shaler with just one loss between them.
Seniors Derick Hahn and John Ewing have the second- and third-highest boys averages in their section at 199 and 193, respectively. Boys team captain and senior Dalton Monaco also is in the top 10 with a 185.
The girls squad, which is ranked fourth in the WPIBL, is even more impressive. After North Allegheny's Ryanne Tyler's section-leading 192 average, Butler's Hope Griffith (191), Nicole Balk (173), Autumn Hepler (167), Ashley Hevesy (164), Alisha Fisher (163) and Brea Suchonic (163) are next in line in the section's individual average standings.
The Tornado, who call Family Bowlaway home, bowl in a section with Shaler, North Allegheny, North Hills, Mars and Karns City.
"A lot of those girls work at the bowling alley and have been involved in bowling for a long time," Coach Hepler said. "Nicole Balk bowls six times a week."
Fay and Hepler bowl together in an adult league, worked together with the Butler County Bowling Association in helping with the state tournament here in 1994 and 2004 and attended a bowling coaching class together in Baltimore recently.
Fay has been a bowler since 1964 and said he learned "a lot of the little things" about coaching the sport during those classes.
"Moving side to side, the delivery of the ball, the fit of the ball — there are plenty of ways to coach a bowler to be better," Fay said. "Some of our kids didn't even have their own ball when they tried out for the team."
Butler kept all 12 girls who tried out and 15 of the 25 boys. The coaches conducted a nine-game tryout session and kept the top 15 averages from those games.
The girls averages in tryouts ranged from Griffith's 190 to first-year bowler Brittney Buzard's 121. The lowest boys average to make the team was 154.
Also a track-and-field participant, Buzard went bowling with friends one New Year's Eve and decided to give the sport a try when she learned Butler was putting a high school team together.
"My friends talked me into it," Buzard said. "But I like it. Going around to different places and seeing other teams, meeting other kids — it's nice."
Griffith, a senior, has been bowling since age 5. Doug Mason has been her longtime coach on Saturday mornings and she recently received a letter from Ursuline (Ohio) College about a possible bowling scholarship.
"I definitely want to bowl in college. I'd love to turn pro some day," Griffith said. "I've been around the game since I was little. I wish our school had put a team together earlier, but I'm glad it's here now."
Griffith is captain of the girls team. Boys captain Monaco has been bowling only since age 13.
"They had intramural bowling after school in junior high and that's where I started," he said. "I never had a coach or anything. I've been able to figure out what works best for me in my approach. It's sort of been a natural thing."
Butler practices every Monday and has matches on Wednesdays. Monaco also bowls in a club two days a week and in a junior league on Saturdays.
"I probably bowl 15 to 20 games a week," he said. "I love it."
Fay averaged as high as 212 in his bowling career and turned in an 843 series at Sherwood Lanes last year.
Working with first-year bowlers, collegiate or pro prospects make no difference to him.
"The bottom line is they're all great kids and I'm happy to help them out," Fay said.