EAST PROVIDENCE â€” Lynn Miller calls it â€śuncannyâ€ť how the scores of her Bowling Academy Major Division All-Stars, a quintet of high school- and college-aged kids, improve the more important the event.
When they're competing in regular house leagues, they all roll rather pedestrian numbers, â€śnothing to write home about.
â€śA lot of the time, it's almost embarrassing,â€ť Miller, the All-Stars' head coach, chuckled after a recent practice session. â€śIt's like they don't care, and the scores show that. In league play, they get cranky. I'll tell them to get it going, and all I hear is, 'Yeah, we know!'
â€śBut, when the pressure's on, they just click,â€ť she added. â€śIt's unbelievable. Oit seems when the pressure's on, they just calm down and go to work.â€ť
Case in point: When these All-Stars traveled to the National Duckpin Youth Association/Rhode Island Team Championships at Dudek's Lanes in Warren back in mid-April, the fivesome produced an unheard-of 2,269 pins to win with ease the Major Division title. In the process, it outdueled 21 other teams from throughout the state.
With that crown came another prestigious honor: The squad qualified to take on the country's best at the NDYA's National Team Championships in Glen Burnie, Md. on June 22-24.
The team consists of Colby Miller, 17 (and the coach's son); Dennis Adamo, 18; Sydney Carlson, 20; Danny DiCarlo, 21; and Tyler Chace, 17. The first four hail from East Providence, while Chace resides in Seekonk.
In normal league action, Adamo's average is a decent 108 per game, while Carlson's sits at 96, Chase at 98, DiCarlo at 114 and Miller at 115.
At the state tournament, however, Adamo mustered scores of 107, 113 and 138 for a 358 set total, and that was 34 pins over his usual average. Chace manufactured games of 103, 118 and 100 (321), or 27 pins over average; and Carlson scores of 103, 110 and 97 (310, 22 over average).
It gets better. DiCarlo rolled games of 134, 135 and 133 for a 402 set (60 pins over average), and Miller â€“ call him the unofficial captain â€“ stunned even his mother when, despite his 115 average, registered games of 170, 160 and 149 for a 479 scratch set.
All told, just given their scratch numbers, the five recorded a total of 277 pins (scratch) over their set averages.
Enter in their handicaps, and Adamo finished with a 433 set; Chace a 420; Carlson a 415; DiCarlo a 462; and Miller, incredibly, a 539.
â€śThat total (479) is a huge number, just phenomenal,â€ť said Mike Adamo, the head of the Bowling Academy's youth leagues. â€śThose are pro numbers right there, those you'd see from professional duckpin bowlers.
â€śLet's put it this way: Last year at Nationals (in Linthicum, Md.), our team (also consisting of Miller) bowled an 1,820 scratch total, which is their final score without handicap,â€ť he added. â€śLast year, with handicap included, they bowled a 2,276, so these kids are only seven pins below the total they produced at states this year.
â€śThere's no reason not to think they'll far surpass that number at Nationals in June.â€ť
Stated the elder Miller: â€śColby rolled a 443 set, without handicap, last year at Nationals, and he had a 479 without handicap at the state tournament. I was impressed. I don't know what it is with all of these kids, but â€“ the bigger the tournament â€“ they seem to know what has to be done to do well, to win.
â€śThey're just incredible under pressure,â€ť she continued. â€śYou don't have to say a word to them. They definitely pull out the stops the more important the event. They just work as a team and make it happen.â€ť
Colby indicated he has no idea how he assembled his best-ever scratch set (479), 36 pins over his previous best.
â€śI guess you're not really thinking about it; it's almost like it's subconscious,â€ť he stated. â€śInstinct takes over, and you just do well. It's kinda hard to explain. I really wanted to reach the 500 mark at states, (as) that would've been ridiculous, but I just wanted to bowl the best I could. I wanted to put our team in the best position to win.â€ť
Carlson, a 2009 East Providence High graduate, CCRI sophomore and the team's lone female, claimed snaring the Rhode Island title and qualifying for the NDYA National Team Championships is a dream come true.
Her parents, Paul and Daryl, introduced her to duckpin when she was three, and her grandparents, Linda and Don Carlson, used to bring her along to Dudek's Lanes as a little girl.
â€śWhen I went to the state tournament, it felt like going home again,â€ť she grinned. â€śI have a lot of memories in that place. I can't remember when I first started, but I know I liked it because it was fun. They used to set up bumpers (on the gutters, to keep each toss on the lane), and that was a blast.
â€śActually, duckpin is much harder than ten-pin; you need to know where you're standing, and you need more balance for better control of your hand,â€ť she added. â€śThat (310 scratch score) is a really good day for me. I knew it was the state championships, and I knew I had to be pumped up. I was so nervous I was shaking, but the guys calmed me down, cheered me on, and I think that's a reason I bowled so well.â€ť
DiCarlo, a University of Rhode Island senior studying general history, stated he was a bit disappointed with his 462 scratch set.
â€śI thought I left some opportunities out there, but it feels really good to win,â€ť he offered. â€śThis is my third time now going to Nationals, and I can't wait. I've always been able to pump myself up in pressure situations, and the music I listen to gets me going. I've played sports for most of my life, so I think when I have to do well, my concentration level, my focus, goes up.â€ť
Noted Adamo: â€śAfter the first game (a 107), I was disappointed because I was a pin below my average, but I knew I could do better. I became more determined, and everyone helped me out. I've never won a Major Division state team title, and it feels really, really good.
â€śIt was my first time at states, but I wasn't really stressed; my biggest worry was that I'd bowl badly, let the team down.â€ť
All indicated the most stressful part of the tourney, a two-weekend affair held on April 14-15 and 21-22, was waiting to find out who captured the crown. The All-Stars had been in the first wave of bowlers competing on that initial Saturday.
â€śI don't think anybody realized how many pins they had bowled over their average,â€ť Lynn Miler explained. â€śNaturally, they knew they did well, but they didn't know if they had won. I knew they set the bar really high with that 2,269.
â€śWhen the tournament ended, I got a call from Mike (Arena), and he told me he had just heard from Kathy Lischio, who was in charge of the state scores,â€ť she continued. â€śIt was about 6:30 p.m., and Mike told me Kathy said, 'Congratulations, you have a Major Division team going to Maryland!' My response was, 'I'm not surprised,' and I wasn't because I knew the numbers.â€ť
Mentioned Arena: â€śI had discussed with Lynn and the team how high their total was, and we all knew it was going to be very difficult to beat.â€ť
Carlson, for one, â€śwas dying to find out.â€ť She sent constant e-mails on Facebook to Coach Miller, and even Louise Mansi, Dudek's owner.
â€śShe drove me crazy,â€ť Lynn Miller laughed.
She also discovered that the Bowling Academy's four divisional representatives landed in the top four spots; the quintet of Colby Miller, DiCarlo, Steve Borges, Alex Dias and Brandon Puga took runner-up laurels with a 2,192 total.
When asked how they'll prepare for the Maryland trip, Colby just smiled, â€śPractice, practice and more practice!
â€śI'm totally psyched for Nationals,â€ť he said. â€śI can't explain it, but we were the national Major Division champions last year, and we want to do it again.â€ť
Offered Adamo: â€śWe're just going to carry the momentum we built at states down to Maryland. It won't be easy, but we're all very good bowlers. That's what the state title tells us.â€ť
Lynn Miller immediately shrugged, â€śIt will be as difficult as they make it. I didn't talk to them at states, absolutely not. I didn't say a word. I just sat and watched. They get in their own zone, and I just let them do what they do best.
â€śI've learned it's best when I leave them alone,â€ť she added. â€śI'll high-five them on occasion, but that's it. If they throw a bad shot, I don't say anything. They know what they need to do to fix it, and â€“ usually â€“ they do.â€ť