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Amanda Scarfogliero

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Team takes Division I title in Syracus, three Middle Country girls place in Top 10 in scoring

Middle Country’s girls bowling team took home its first state title since 2013 March 11 in Syracuse. Photo from Nicole Lettich

With a difficult oil pattern on the lane, the Middle Country girls bowling team knew what it was going to take to win a state title — and it had the talent to spare.

“We knew it would be tough bowling on a more challenging pattern, but we knew spares were going to be so important,” senior Nicole Lettich said. “As most of us say, strikes win games, but spares win tournaments. We are a strong team and knew we could take on whatever was thrown at us. We just needed to focus each game and make good shots. That’s exactly what we did.”

Amanda Scarfogliero leads off for Middle Country’s girls bowling team. Photo from Amanda Scarfogliero

Lettich, noted by head coach Mandy Dominguez as the most consistent bowler on the team, averaged a 191.67 over six games.

“She did great, she’s steady,” Dominguez said of his one of four seniors.

With her team up by just 118 pins heading into a crucial Game 6, she bowled a 223 to help seal the deal and a state title March 11 in Syracuse.

“My parents tell me all the time that I bowl with a poker face and don’t let bad scores phase me,” Lettich said. “I don’t really put any added pressure on myself, I just focus on making my spares and throwing good shots. When I throw a bad shot, I shake it off and get ready for the next frame.”

Lettich, who finished Sunday ranked fourth in New York, was one of three Middle Country bowlers to rank in the Top 10 in scoring. Junior Amanda Scarfogliero (No. 7) and freshman Hannah Skalacki (No. 2) were the others.

“I’ve never had a team improve in the offseason the way that this team did,” Dominguez said. “Last year we only had one 200 bowler, and this year I had five. The girls really stepped it up, and have so much grit and determination. We had a 280-pin lead at one point in the tournament and to lose that lead is hard for any team in any sport, losing a lead late in the game. They gut it out and brought it back. It says so much about their resiliency and willingness to never give up.”

Middle Country’s girls bowling teammates were all smiles on the bus ride home after being crowned state champions. Photo from Nicole Lettich

Middle Country won a state title in 2013 and since lost three battles to East Islip and one to Sachem for a ticket upstate. This year the girls took the league title before overcoming that county hurdle with a 43-pin win, and weren’t going to let an oil pattern stop them from going all the way. Scarfogliero said the team practiced for the 41-foot Tower of Pisa Kegel pattern, asymmetric in design with a shift to the inside, in the weeks leading up to the tournament. After averaging 215 at the county tournament, Middle Country finished with a 180 average upstate, according to Dominguez, proving even with practice how difficult the sport pattern can be.

“It was a whole new atmosphere,” said Scarfogliero, who leads off for her team. “It took us by surprise, but we worked together as a team so the oil pattern wasn’t as hard. We helped each other and with the oil pattern being so hard I didn’t even think I was going to make it up there [in scoring], but that wasn’t even a priority for me. I wanted to put my team in the best position to win states.”

For Skalacki, her freshman status shouldn’t be misunderstood. The three-year varsity team member bowled a 193.83 average, just about three pins under first. As the team’s anchor, she said there’s a lot of pressure when her team needs extra points at the end of each game, but she thrives under it.

Middle Country’s girls bowling team hoists up the state championship banner. Photo from Middle Country school district

“If we need a certain amount of pins to win, I have to get them, but I love the attention and the competition,” said Skalacki, who was strongest in the first three games, bowling a tournament-high 226 for Game 1. “It’s heart-dropping, and I love knowing I play a big part in helping the team come out with a win.”

She said after finally topping East Islip, she knew Middle Country had a lot to prove, and the team wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a perfect finish.

“We had the biggest motivation to win,” she said. “Now people know Middle Country and know how good we are. We wanted to prove people wrong — to show we have what it takes — and we did it.”

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Bowling right up twins’ alley

Bowling is how the Lettich twins roll.

The duo each competed for a state title last weekend in Syracuse, and clean swept their senior season with gold medals in their respective tournaments.

“It’s honestly breathtaking to make it this far and win it all,” Nicole Lettich said, noting that she was on the 2013 state championship winning team, but didn’t yet have the skills to be invited to compete. “Going to the state tournament with my brother who I’ve been so close with was probably the most amazing thing I could have done in my senior year.”

Middle Country twins Nicole and Thomas Lettich took home state gold. Photo from Nicole Lettich

The twins’ mother bowled in high school, and found they had their own itch to compete after competing in a league in second grade.

“Bowling is such an underrated sport in high school, and to finally win it all proves to schools that bowling shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet, but actually acknowledged more because it is a very difficult sport,” she said. “A lot of people don’t see it that way.”

Middle Country finished with a grand total 5,332 pins, nearly 200 ahead of second-place finisher Orchard Park (5,157). Her brother Thomas Lettich competed on the Section XI boys All-Star team. He’d averaged 224 during the regular season, and said even though he’d won his team’s MVP awards, and was named an All-Star, All-County and All-League bowler, he was most confident competing because of the last month’s worth of practicing six day a week.

“I have grown so much over the years, improving my physical and mental game,” he said. “Since I am a lefty and had an advantage and disadvantage since I’m the only one on the left side. The lanes were brand new, so I knew it was going to be difficult, but being chosen to compete on this team with a group of boys that I was very close with and were fun to bowl with was a goal of mine.”

He said it was a unique experience competing alongside his sister.

“When I am bowling bad she supports me and helps me, and when she’s bowling bad I support her and help her,” Thomas Lettich said. “She unfortunately didn’t have the ability to watch me, but I was able to cheer her on in her match and it was exciting to have the chance to be together. We had great accomplishments and it’s a great way to go out.”

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Girls top East Islip for first time in three years, boys team places fourth

For the first time in three years, Middle Country's girls bowling team bested East Islip for the county crown. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The intensity was up and the noise level high as Middle Country and East Islip found themselves in familiar territory — duking it out for the county title for seven hours Feb. 3. Middle Country won by 42 pins after erasing an 43-pin deficit heading into game six to finally overcome East Islip after coming in second to the Redmen the last two years.

With emotional hugs and tears, Middle Country won its final game 1,147 to 1,062 after being up in games one through three. Amanda Scarfogliero finished with a 1,317 series, and saved her best for last, a 256 in Game 6, the team’s second highest score. No one on Middle Country bowled lower than a 202 in the final game. Scarfogliero was in tears as the final scores were being calculated.

Middle Country’s Julie Acosta. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“My heart dropped honestly,” Scarfogliero said. “I made a promise to this team and my parents that I’d get Middle Country up to Syracuse. That’s exactly what we did. I needed to get that last game-high, and I did it.”

Middle Country rallied back to win 6,454 to 6,412 in a thriller at Bowlero in Sayville, winning four of the six games.

Middle Country’s 69-year-old head coach Mandy Dominguez announced he will be retiring after coaching for 28 years and in Middle Country for 18.

“I’m so proud of these girls,” Dominguez said. “The girls did not give up. They all had 200s in the final game. They’re resilient, and a tough group of girls.”

East Islip came out on fire in Game 4 and Game 5, out-bowling Middle Country 1,131 to 1,020 in the latter to turn a 248-pin deficit into the 43-pin lead.

“I knew we could come back,” Dominguez said. “We were just hoping that East Islip wouldn’t get hot. The [Middle Country] girls came through and that’s the main thing.”

Freshman Hannah Skalacki came in with the highest average in the county for Middle Country at 223. She said there was a lot of pressure taking down East Islip. She rolled a 255 in Game 1 of a 1,330 series.

“I love competition,” Skalacki said. “When everything was going on, I felt the tension going everywhere.”

Middle Country’s Hannah Skalacki. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Senior Julie Acosta was the last bowler in starting rotation for Middle Country. She finished the last game with a 225 and had the team’s high game with a 279. Middle Country had mathematically already won before she bowled her final frame.

“I was so nervous,” Acosta said finishing up her game. “Knowing that we won, I just wanted it to be over with and be able to celebrate with my team.”

The last time Acosta went to states, she was in seventh grade, which was her first season with Middle Country.

In Dominguez’s final season coaching, he said going to the states is icing on the cake. The team will compete at The Oncenter March 10 at 9 a.m.

“I’m so happy, especially very happy for the girls,” Dominguez said. “East Islip has beat us every year for the past three or four years. This year, the seniors came through and they worked hard. They’re a great bunch of girls and a great bunch of talented bowlers.”


In other county bowling news:

Middle Country’s boys bowling placed fourth with 6,294 points.

East Islip claimed first by a landslide with 6,829 points to earn back-to-back county titles. In second was West Babylon with 6,353 and Sachem in third with 6,346.

Comsewogue’s. Hannah Manetta. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Middle Country junior Noah Axinn bowled a 300 in his second game. He’s never bowled a sanctioned 300 before.

Senior Thomas Lettich finished sixth in the county in with a 223 average for Middle County. He has the fourth highest series in the county at 783. He will go to Syracuse to play in the All-Star game.

Comsewogue girls bowling team placed fifth in the county championship with 5,612 points. The Warriors won three of their six games.

“It’s kinda where I thought we would be,” Comsewogue head coach Bo Frimmer said. “I was hoping that we would somehow come in third, because it’s always tough to beat East Islip and Middle Country.”

Junior Hannah Manetta has the seventh highest average in the county at 216. She bowled an average of 221 in the tournament. Last year, Warriors finished in sixth.

“This year we bowled against a lot of the harder teams, which is when you bowl against harder competitors, it leads you to bowl better,” Manetta said. “It was pretty tough this year.”

This post was updated Feb. 5 to correct the deficit Middle Country overcame for the win.

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Allison Burfeindt. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Mad Dogs were down after dropping their second game all season, the first of three, 996-863, at home at AMF Centereach Lanes against Sachem Jan. 9.

Nicole Lettich. Photo by Jim Ferchland

But Middle Country’s girls bowling team was not going to let the loss snap their winning ways, and the team got hot scoring 924 in the second and 1,017 in the third for a 2-1 victory to remain undefeated (6-0).

The team was thinking it might have lost its mojo after it was forced to change lanes. When playing games at home, the Mad Dogs play on lanes 29 and 30, but according to the AMF staff the lanes were down, leaving Middle Country and Sachem to compete on 25 and 26. Middle Country head coach Mandy Dominguez said this ruined the girls’ at-home advantage.

“Our top bowlers struggled on lanes 25 and 26 today,” he said. “They didn’t bowl as high as they usually do but it’s just one of those things you can’t control.”

Dominguez, who has been at the helm for nine years, has led the team to eight straight league titles. He has high expectations and was unhappy with how his team performed in the first game.

“It was our worst game of the year,” Dominguez said. “I was a little disappointed
and depressed, but I knew that the girls had the ability to come back and win.”

Amanda Scarfogliero. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Sachem came to play in the first, and even Sachem coach Diane Groneman was really impressed with her girls’ performances. Sophomore All-County bowler Amanda Naujokas scored 246, which really gave Sachem the advantage.

“This is one of the better games we’ve had this season,” Groneman said. “You’re always pumped to go against the first-place team.”

Middle Country senior Nicole Lettich, who is sixth on the team with a 205 average, led Middle Country with a 181 in game one, and then caught fire in the next two. She bowled a 213 and 258, slamming home seven strikes in a row in the third. For Lettich, it was quite a surprise.

“I haven’t bowled over a 200 in my third game in so long,” Lettich said, as she usually bowls around a 170 late in the game. “[It] felt really good … I really haven’t bowled that well lately. It was exciting.”

Senior Allison Burfeindt has been bowling for Middle Country since seventh grade, so she knows the bar is set high every year. She said she and the three other soon-to-be graduates average over 200, along with most of the rest of the Mad Dogs because they know what needs to be put in to get results.

Julie Acosta. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“All of the girls on the team put in so much work,” Burfeindt said. “We practice every single day.”

Middle Country may have won by over 100 pins in game two, but Dominguez said his team still wasn’t at its best with all the spares.

“We are used to getting a lot more strikes than spares,” Dominguez said. “It wasn’t our best day, but we did enough to win.”

Freshman Hannah Skalacki, who bowls the highest average on the team with a 224, did not play because of personal reasons. Senior Julie Acosta fell shy of meeting her 207 average, finishing with a 165, 160 and 191.

“Even though we struggled in the first game, we just came back hard and fought for the win,” she said. “We didn’t give up and came together as a team. We just fought to the end.”

Dominguez said that despite the win, his Mad Dogs can’t play like they did again if they want to beat Longwood Jan. 11. Longwood gave Middle Country their first dropped game back on Dec. 19. The game is set for 3:30 p.m. at Coram Country Bowl.

“If we bowl like we did today, we’ll lose to Longwood on Thursday,” Dominguez said. “They are very good. We have to bowl better.”

Middle Country’s girls bowling team celebrates its win. Photo by Jim Ferchland

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