On a Saturday afternoon, Sayville Lanes, which hosted the state championships for bowling, were alive with the sounds of bowling balls striking pins, jubilation or the exhalation of a deep breath taken to relieve some of the tension that comes with such a high level of competition.
On this early March day, six girls from Mineola threw ball after ball with some of the best lady bowlers in the entire state of New York. However, the number of pins the Lady Mustangs knocked down that day hardly mattered. By the time the state championship tournament rolled around, the Mineola girls bowling team had already proved that this season, it was one of the best in the state and the best in Nassau County.
As the day wore on, it became evident that victory in the state championships would be way out of the reach of the Lady Mustangs. Even as Christina Schulze delivered strike after strike, a bystander could never have been able to tell that the junior was in the process of setting three state records (high score in a game, cumulative total, three-game cumulative total).
Although Schulze was having the type of day bowlers dream about, she didn't celebrate her good fortunes, but rather wore the look of disappointment that the rest of the girls did that day. It is that unselfish attitude that perhaps propelled the Mineola girls to compete for the state title.
But the girls had nothing to hang their heads about. Although they finished seventh in the tournament, they earned the distinction of being Nassau County Champions, the ultimate destination of a long journey.
At last week's meeting of the Mineola Board of Education, the girls were rewarded with Nassau County Championship jackets, presented by the board and the district's administration.
Director of health and physical education for the district, Anthony Gulli announced with pride the members of the team as each of the girls went up to receive her jacket.
"They were outstanding," said Mr. Gulli, who added that the team's season was summed up eloquently by captain Joanna Errico, who said, "We're here and nobody else is."
Errico was, of course, referring to the state championships, held on March 3 at Sayville Lanes. With the best the state has to offer in the sport of bowling, the Mineola girls earned their right to throw strikes into the month of March.
Despite disappointments in past years, this season proved to be Mineola's. A victory over Carle Place gave the Mustangs the conference title. However, the Mustangs still had some unfinished business. At the county championship tournament, held at Garden City Lanes, the Mustangs took their place as the best in Nassau and with that came memories that, for a group of girls, will never be forgotten.
Last week, as the girls stood with their coach Bill Smith outside in a hallway at Mineola Middle School, where the board meeting took place, checking out their new threads and posing for pictures, it was apparent that they now wore matching jackets. It was because of teamwork that the girls could call themselves county champions.
Members of the Lady Mustangs bowling team will go their separate ways in the near future since half of the team is comprised of seniors. However, this season will be remembered as one in which six girls made an entire school community proud.
Your Nassau County Champion Lady Mustangs:
Coach: Bill Smith
Senior Joanna Errico (All County)
Senior Alison Conti
Senior Melissa Purdy
Junior Christina Schulze (Three-time All County)
Junior Lauren Anderson
Sophomore Jennifer Pirrone (All County)
The Lady Mustang bowling team wasn't the only Nassau County champion from Mineola. Junior wrestler Craig Gunder became the Nassau County champion in the 152 lbs. Class.
When it comes to Mineola athletics, Gunder has shown his commitment to success. Both this year and last, he earned All County honors.
"He's a big, strong kid and he just lives, eats and sleeps wrestling. He's a wonder to be around," Mr. Gulli said of Gunder.
Although Gunder has accomplished quite a bit in his high school career so far, he isn't finished. He is determined to reach the state championships next year as a senior.
"Craig promises he's going back next year. We're expecting big things from Craig and I know there are a lot of schools looking at Craig as well. Craig is doing well academically as well," Mr. Gulli said.