Butler programs bowling over the competition

| Saturday, April 5, 2014, 1:57 p.m.

Butler's girls bowling team hoped to secure a second consecutive state championship.

However, the Golden Tornado saw those aspirations roll away March 15 at the state championship at North Versailles Bowl.

Butler finished sixth overall with 3,444 pins. Elizabethtown captured the title with 3,859.

“For having lost two girls who went on to bowl collegiately (Autumn Hepler and Brea Suchonic), I really thought this team stepped up,” Butler coach Bob Cupp said. “I think it really propels us into next year.”

The Golden Tornado defended its Section 2 championship and pushed its section winning streak to 50.

In its five years of existence, the program has not lost a regular-season match.

The team placed sixth at the WPIBL championships and sixth at the Western Regionals to return to the state championship.

“Bowling in sections is one thing, and they kept that perfect streak alive. To go through that and go through WPIBL tournament, they finished high enough to move on,” Cupp said. “They came together as a team when we went into the Western Regional and did so well and got that last spot to make team state championship event.

“Once there, we hit the second game and we stumbled a bit. I think they just kind of ran out of gas. With all of the juniors coming back, that was valuable experience. Now, they've been on both sides. They found out how hard it is to win it and how hard you have to work to get back there.

“The girls who were new to that experience saw it'll take all year long to win it.”

Megan Paul, a junior, won the Western Regional individual title and placed sixth at the state tournament. In the team championships, she bowled the second-highest series (628) and single game (233).

“She really emerged as our team leader,” Cupp said. “She should return with a lot of momentum next year.”

Kelly Bintrim and Ciara Pellegrini were the team's two seniors.

“For Ciara, this was her first year really bowling at the varsity level. She knew it was her last chance to make some noise. We'll miss her,” Cupp said. “We are going to miss Kelly, too. She wasn't a vocal leader, but she had a lot of respect. She was a solid, consistent bowler. You knew what she'd bring every match.

“Three of our five starters this year were juniors. We had a couple girls just out of the top five who could create a real strong team next year. We have a solid background of experience going into the coming year.”

Butler's boys weren't so lucky. After they secured a program-best, third-place finish at the WPIBL championship, the Golden Tornado struggled at the Western Regional and finished ninth.

The top six teams advanced to the state championship.

“The team had one bad week out of the year. Unfortunately, it was the week of the Western Regional,” Cupp said.

“For whatever reason, they couldn't get it together at the right time.”

Butler will have a new look next season.

“We graduate four of the seven we took to the Western Regional. We have a great group of sophomores not even in that mix. I am pretty excited about it,” Cupp said.

“I think we'll be deeper and stronger next year. We're pumped up about it. The experience was good for the kids this year.”

One of those graduating seniors is Jake Cookson. He finished fifth at the state championship.

“I think that's a great finish for him,” Cupp said. “He wants to bowl collegiately. He knows he can bowl among elite bowlers. He'll be a big loss for us.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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