Neither Colleen Kotch or Danny Lorentz began bowling competitively until they arrived in high school, but suddenly the Bordentown High seniors are their team’s symbols of experience.
With coach Ron Jones bringing in close to 20 boys and girls who have never bowled before, he has placed the captain’s mantle on Lorentz and Kotch for their respective squads. Lorentz’s first team experience was with the Scotties as a freshman, while Kotch did not start competitively until her sophomore year at BTHS.
“I want them to basically set the lineups, stay on the kids, keep them focused,” Jones said. “The kids have a tendency to look at it as ‘OK, this is a fun thing,’ not like soccer where you have to bust your tail or anything like that. But they need to understand; yes it’s fun, but it’s also athletics, it’s competition. I need (the captains) help with that. “
Both were enjoying their role in the season’s first month, and the young Scotties were holding their own as the boys were 3-1-1 and the girls 3-2 in mid-December.
“I like it,” Lorentz said. “I give them tips not to stress out, where to stand, and how to throw the ball.”
Kotch, who is the more talkative of two, doesn’t think of it in terms of titles.
“We’re really young this year, but I don’t think it’s something I can’t handle,” she said. “I don’t necessarily look at myself as a captain, I just look at myself as another member of the team. I just try to motivate and push the girls to understand you’re not always gonna hit your mark. We have 11 juniors and it’s the first year bowling for a majority of them. So you’re trying to teach them the rules at the same time – being considerate and stepping back when someone steps up, what it means to move three boards to the left or right.”
Kotch understands what it is to need help, as she was in that situation three short years ago. Her introduction to bowling came once a week at summer camp when she was a little kid.
“We didn’t really care about it much then,” she said. “I started enjoying it when I went to middle school.”
Kotch was friends with Morgan Papp, an outstanding bowler when she wasn’t playing on the Scotties girls basketball team. The two would bowl at Papp’s Bowling Center on Route 130, which was formerly owned by Morgan’s grandfather.
“We would go there and do moonlight bowling and stuff like that, and just have fun,” Kotch said.
When she entered high school, Kotch decided to try winter track but quickly realized “it wasn’t my thing.” During one long run, several of her teammates convinced her to try bowling and she gave it a shot.
“That was a really weird transition, from going out with my friends to actually having to learn all the rules and everything,” she said. “That was a bit interesting. My sophomore year I was basically learning the fundamentals and last year it was more in-depth learning. Morgan’s grandpa came out to our matches, he was a major help for us. He taught me how to release the ball and gave me encouragement, which gave me confidence. And Morgan gave me some pointers when I was learning.”
Kotch, who also played soccer, earned a varsity letter but was mostly on JV as a sophomore. She estimates her average was around 95, saying “If I broke 100, it was a good day.”
Last year she finished at 114 but was bowling in the 120s toward the end of the season. She was hindered by a torn ACL and sprained ACL suffered during soccer; and began the season a month late.
Some issues flared up again this year and she came in three weeks late, but was averaging over 130 through the first five matches.
“I found a ball I liked so I use that ball,” Kotch said. “It’s someone else’s ball, they’ve been letting me use it and I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve also gotten better at finding my marks quicker at different lanes, so it’s easier to get in the swing of things. My mark is different at Slocum’s than it is at Hamilton; but I usually find my mark during (pre-match) practice.”
Jones feels that Kotch is making steady progress, saying “She had trouble getting started because of the knee problem, but now she’s beginning to put her game together.”
She has also been doing the job as a team leader. During one match this year, Kotch struggled during the first two games and was replaced by freshman Rayna Smith. Both Jones and Kotch agree that Smith has potential to be the next Scotties star.
Rather than sulk at being removed, Kotch sat at the same table with Smith during her game to provide advice and encouragement.
“She’s a little quiet but she’s a really strong bowler, she’s going to hold this team together in the coming years,” Kotch said. “Her dad is into bowling, she has the most knowledge about bowling. I wanted to sit with her because I remember when I was in my first year, it was kind of intimidating that everyone had friends on the team and I didn’t really know anybody.
“When Mr. Jones took me out I said ‘Absolutely, I’m not helping out, let’s see if she can help out.’ I tried to help her understand it’s OK to be the underdog; I know what it’s like. When she’s not hitting her mark, I try to explain to her everybody has an off game.”
Kotch said she talks with Lorentz, who she has known since pre-school, about being the team leaders and they bounce ideas off each other.
‘I don’t think too hard and just throw the ball. I told myself to relax and stay calm. That’s my goal for this year.’
Like his long-time friend, Lorentz never bowled in leagues but would go out with his dad, who served as his instructor.
“Once I got to high school I took it more seriously with the school team,” Lorentz said. “My dad bowls and has friends who bowl, so I figured I would give it a try.”
Asked what his freshman year was like, Lorentz said, “Stressful. Being the new kid and trying to make sure that I was doing good was a lot of stress.”
He debuted with a 120 average on varsity, upping it to 130 as a sophomore and 145 last year. He was at 160 this December.
“Danny is doing much better than I expected,” Jones said. “He has been showing potential for three years and it looks like it’s finally coming out. He’s going to give our freshman (Gabe Ostrowski), who’s my number one bowler, a challenge as far as being tops in average. He’s kind of answered the challenge of somebody below him being number one.
“He still lacks a little bit of consistency. He’s still in a learning mode. He’s left-handed so a lot of times he can get through a match without having to deal with much of a change in the alleys. He can pull out some good scores without having to make too many adjustments. Other times, the lanes are not forgiving and he needs to learn to adjust.”
Lorentz said his biggest improvement has come within his mind. In the past, he willed himself into throwing a bad ball.
“I’m staying calm, staying stress free, relaxing,” he said. “I don’t think too hard and just throw the ball. I told myself to relax and stay calm. That’s my goal for this year. I used to put so much stress on myself and I get stuck in my head. It’s pretty much mental, so if I stay calm I’ll do all right.”
Aside from himself, Lorentz is looking for big things from the team thanks to the emergence of Ostrowski. Jones feels the boys have the potential to win the Burlington County Freedom Division title.
“We only have two guys back, me and Lucas Frader, but we have four good bowlers with decent averages,” Lorentz said. “We’re off to a great start, we just need to find that consistent fifth bowler.”
One thing neither team needs is a captain, as this year’s leaders are doing just fine.