Riverhead High School boys bowling coach Scott Hackal calls this year’s squad “a work in progress.”
If the Blue Waves progress as well as last season’s side, he will be quite happy. Riverhead finished second in Suffolk County League IV and participated in the playoffs.
“We replaced a couple of real good bowlers,” he said. “We have some good returning bowlers. We’ll be all right.”
If senior Joseph Gambino continues to improve and bowl well, the Blue Waves certainly will be. Gambino averaged 216 a game last season, good for second in the league.
“He should be one of the top bowlers in our league,” Hackal said. “He’s important.
“I’ve had him on my team for five years. He’s improved every year. He made a huge jump. He should be in [the] 220s this year.
“To average in the 220s is difficult. He should be right around it this year.”
In fact, the sky could be the limit for Gambino.
“Joe has a chance of doing some big things with the county or the states if he shoots some good numbers,” Hackal said.
Sophomore Dylan Goetz, who averaged 186 last season, is next in line.
“He has a lot of potential,” Hackal said. “He’s bigger and stronger. He can strike and that’s important. I hope he can be around 200. He’s pretty consistent with his spares. If you do that and shoot in the 180s, you put a couple of strikes together and you’re at 200.”
Senior Donald Oliver, who averaged 170 last season, is another veteran that Hackal is counting on.
Since Riverhead doesn’t have a girls bowling team, the squad includes two females — sophomores Kaitlin Schmidt and Kyra Thorp.
“They didn’t get into matches last year,” Hackal said. “I’ll get them in a little more to help the team out.”
Hackal has 19 bowlers on his roster. “Trying to build the numbers up,” he said.
League IV consists of seven teams, including defending league champion Longwood, William Floyd, Eastport-South Manor, Comsewogue, Rocky Point and Southold.
In contrast to most other high school sports leagues in the county, the four bowling divisions are grouped geographically and not by school size.
Hackal sees Longwood as the team to beat.
If the Blue Waves bowl up to their potential, the playoffs are “not out of reach,” Hackal said. He added, “We have to develop a couple of young kids and see what happens.”