Saint Viator’s bowling team held their last day of practice last week ahead of this weekend’s boys’ regional tournament. The end of the season is bittersweet for these student-athletes. Simply put, they don’t want the season to end.
The team has experienced astonishing growth since it formed three years ago. What began with seven bowlers grew to 11 last year and this year has 25, including seven freshmen girls, two of whom will advance to the girls’ regional tournament in early February.
Andrew Weber '12 coaches the team, along with assistant coaches Jack Halpin and Elizabeth Schuetz '08. Coach Weber teaches social studies by day, but he also is a competitive bowler, who brings a teaching approach to his coaching – and positive attitude.
The team’s home court is Beverly Lanes in Arlington Heights, located one mile south of Saint Viator, where they meet three afternoons a week to practice.
“We start by working on the footwork,” Coach Weber says. “Throwing the ball consistently becomes a lot easier once they are sliding with the foot opposite their throwing arm, using a four or five-step approach.”
Next, they work on targeting and the ability to consistently hit a given target in the lane.
“Once a bowler has this down, I start encouraging them to invest in their own equipment,” he adds. “Having a reactive bowling ball that fits them is key to learning how to control and eventually curve (hook) the bowling ball. This, along with a weight of at least 14 pounds, lends itself to more strikes and spares.”
While the vast majority of the team had never bowled competitively before, they are learning from their coaches and making great strides.
Coach Halpin describes some of the team’s rising stars: Leah Collins ‘25 was new to the sport and in her first game at practice, she bowled a 13. Some six weeks later she bowled a 171. Another newcomer, Caroline Schermerhorn ’25 had a 181 in practice, while Brendan Oleksak ‘22 put together a 251 at one of the team’s matches.
Some of the team’s most experienced bowlers include Andrew O'Brien ’22, who bowled a 267 last year starting with seven strikes in a row, while Francheska Davis ’24 holds a high team average of 187.
All three coaches credit the team’s seniors – Raymond Finnerty, Brendan Oleksak, AJ Drozd, Sean McLaughlin, Mikey DiMucci, Andrew O'Brien, and Trevor Lyon – with setting a tone of teamwork and inclusion.
“They were real examples of what including younger kids is all about,” Coach Halpin says. “I loved seeing how welcoming they were to international student Josh Godwin, another senior but in his first year.”
The team competes in the northern division of the Chicago Catholic League, where they were the only co-ed team to bowl in the boys’ division. However, starting next year, with the growing number of girls participating they are hoping to field a team in the girls’ division.
Coach Weber says many of his rising stars have participated in the team’s summer camp, which gives each participant their own brand new reactive bowling ball that is custom drilled for them at no additional cost.
Coach Halpin, a hall of fame golf coach at Saint Viator, has enjoyed watching the growth and improvement of the team.
“With the pandemic, the kids just want to be part of something that gets them out and have the opportunity to make new friendships,” he says. “The other really big thing is the fact that the bowling team is a no-cut sport and allows the players to learn something new and have fun.”