EHS girls’ bowlers Jazmyn Willis, Marian Ordoñez, Olivia Ross, Sierra Reid and Mia Siminitus with coach Dave Angebranndt after winning the state title.

Marian Ordoñez is an altar server and active in youth group at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and she was an answer to the prayers of the Ewing High School girls’ bowling team.

The junior’s decision to join the Blue Devils gave them a fifth bowler, the minimum required to score as a team. Without her, the team would have been forced to use a “blind bowler” score that can vary widely. Ordoñez improved consistently and combined with established bowlers Sierra Reid, Olivia Ross, Mia Siminitus and Jazmyn Willis to bring Ewing its second sectional title and first since 2001.

“We would never have been able to do this without five girls,” said Ewing head coach Dave Angebranndt. “We would not have been able to shoot 2,692 without five girls. Especially with Marian shooting 117-124-152, that’s fantastic. Having consistency on your team is fantastic.”

Ordoñez came a long way during the season. When she tried out, it was her third time ever bowling.

“I was pretty nervous at first,” Ordoñez said. “I think I bowled a 70-something on my tryout. Others were bowling over 200. I had a couple of friends who had done it previous years and said it was fun, so I thought maybe I should give it a shot too.”

Ordoñez came in as a complete novice. She has started at goalie for the girls’ soccer team, and Angebranndt assured her that her athleticism would help. She found herself growing more confident in her abilities as the year went along.

“I guess when I first joined I felt like I was being carried by the team so I didn’t feel as important,” Ordoñez said. “As the season ended, there were games that I felt like maybe I did help the team win that.”

Willis, who had the top series in the entire state, was a big team help at sectionals. She took top honors at Central Jersey Group 2 on Feb. 8 with a score of 726, including a third game of 269, the second-best game of the sectional.

“For her to shoot 233-224-269 in a sectional with all that pressure, that was as impressive as you can get,” Angebranndt said. “And after looking at all the scores, she qualified as the top girl in New Jersey. She shot 726. The next girl shot 705. Of the 80 girls qualified, she is the top qualifier.”

Willis continued to impress individually when she closed her season by placing fifth in the state individual championship on Feb. 14. She shot 653 in the first three games to qualify for the first cut from 80 down to 18 bowlers. She shot 609 for the next three games to qualify for the final five. Willis’ fifth-place finish, which came in her first trip to the state finals, is believed to be the top finish at states ever by a Ewing bowler.

“To go from 81 to qualify fifth, to then cut it to 18, and then she qualified as the fifth person to cut it down to the top five is an amazing accomplishment, especially with the girls she was bowling against and who she beat to qualify,” Angebranndt said. “You had a couple Division I commits who are on full-ride scholarships already that she had beaten. It was an impressive day. I think it was her work ethic. She stayed confident and didn’t let the atmosphere get to her.”

Willis will be back next year and looking for an encore. Ordoñez, too, is planning to return in her senior year.

“Definitely,” she said. “I really enjoyed the whole process of it and the team itself. I definitely understand the sport better. When I got there, it was just like throwing a ball at pins. Understanding what a mark is and where to stand for each pin, I think I improved a lot from the first day. It’s only up from here hopefully.”

Ordoñez has been playing soccer her entire life and is still coming around to her new sport.

“I’m still working on it,” she said. “I still want to get way better before I start telling people that I bowl.”

The Blue Devils were happy to have her join this year to complete their squad. They will only graduate Ross, who was a model teammate over her four years and leaves with a sectional title to her name. Ewing had representatives in each class with Siminitus being a strong freshman and Reid a standout sophomore. Together they reached their potential.

“I couldn’t put into words how proud of the girls I was,” Angebranndt said. “We talked about it back in November, and when you see something take full circle, it’s a rewarding experience as a coach to see your athletes accomplish things you know they can accomplish.

“For all five of them, they worked their butts off all season long. They finished the year 17-1-1 in the regular season. Winning the regular season outright, winning the BCSL Open, and becoming Group 2 sectional champions is a season I hope they never forget. I know I won’t.”

Ordoñez said she didn’t know exactly what to expect when she joined the team. She knew that they were looking for a bowler to make five for a complete team. She was sitting at the soccer table at Ewing’s open house that tries to entice eighth graders to commit to activities and athletics when she was asked first by the wrestling coach about joining his team and considered it if only for the conditioning it might give her for soccer. Ordoñez was more interested in competing with the bowling team.

“I think I expected a fun time, which I did get,” Ordoñez said. “I didn’t expect to be sectional champion or BCSL champion or division champion. Looking at that, it’s still unbelievable to me that I came in with no experience and we were able to accomplish that.”

Ordoñez said she enjoyed taking on something new. She had almost no bowling experience, knew none of the other bowlers before joining the team, but found a new group of friends and a great team.

“It’s the attitude thing,” Angebranndt said. “The girls were positive and welcoming. They knew she was such an amateur to the sport, they knew they had to be there for her to have success. For her to watch Jazmyn and Sierra and Olivia and Mia every day bowl well, it kind of gave her something to look forward to. The more she watches, the better she’s going to get and the more experience she’s going to gain.”

Progress may have been slower than she would have liked, but Angebranndt and her teammates were encouraging. She spent the season developing her form and learning the nuances of how to bowl.

“They took me under their wing,” Ordoñez said. “They were very supportive. I don’t think they ever got mad at me if I didn’t bowl over 100. They just kept pushing me to do better. I think that helped a lot. I wouldn’t have been able to do that on another team that wasn’t as supportive as they were.”

Ewing was quick to credit their surrounding support during the historic success of their team and of Willis. It came from a variety of sources.

“Our principal, Ed Chmiel, and Ernie Covington, the AD, showed support all season long,” Angebranndt said. “Ernie came to both the girls state final and to Jazmyn’s tournament. To have the administration’s support all season was a testament to how the Ewing public schools work – they want to support the athletes and the students.”

Ewing also had great parent support. Boys team parents came to the girls’ championship matches, and the girls’ team parents cheered the boys matches. The boys season was highlighted by a perfect 300 game bowled by Malcolm Richards on Jan. 28. The Blue Devils also benefited from support in town.

“I want to thank Slocum’s with Chip and Kathy all the stuff they’ve done for us all season,” Angebranndt said. “We’ve maintained a strong relationship and they’re out to help our bowlers as much as they can. Then the junior league, it’s Chip and also I think Mike Rapolas, a junior coach for them, came out and supported us. I can’t go without thanking them for allowing the kids to bowl there on a daily basis, offer help when they needed it, basically open their arms whenever.”

All the hard work by the Blue Devils was rewarded with a sectional title and top-five individual finish. With all but one expected to return, the Ewing girls are intent on a strong follow-up, and for Ordoñez, an even better second year of bowling with her new team.

“I think I’m definitely going to start working out and preparing for soccer now,” said Ordoñez, who will be a senior leader for the girls soccer team. “I’m going to take the weekends to come to Slocum’s and practice bowling too. After Olivia leaves, someone will have to step up and I want to be that person. I’m definitely going to continue practicing.”