Pinning it down



The St. Maria Goretti bowling team has come close — painfully close — to winning a Catholic League title.

Last season the Lambs were just 13 pins short in a championship contest against Archbishop Prendergast.

Making it back to the big game will be a lot more challenging this year as Goretti graduated two First Team All-Catholic starters and will have to rely on some inexperienced varsity players. That’s why coach Vince Fiocca is counting on returning seniors Patricia Fiorella, a First Team All-Catholic, and Jennifer Shreckengost, a Second Team All-Catholic. Through 21 games, both players are averaging 160-165.

"We are solid with the two seniors," the coach said. "It’s up to the newcomers to step up."

Another senior, Jackie Righter, also on the varsity team, likely will start. Righter has three years of junior-varsity experience.

Two other bowlers — sophomore Alexis Ferraiolo and freshman Ashley DeRito — are following successful siblings down the lane. Ferraiolo’s sister Gina was a First Team All-Catholic last season, and played a key role in the Lambs’ recent playoff runs. DeRito is the younger sister of Angelo DeRito, who won three Catholic League titles at Neumann from 1997-99. The newcomers are averaging 135-145.

The run at the championship is getting off to a shaky start for Goretti with a 10-14 record. One bright spot was last Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Conwell-Egan. DeRito led the way by tallying 185 in each of two games.

"She is starting to get better," the coach said. "I think she is really going to be up there in average."

Fiocca and the players expected some struggles after the graduation of Laura Taddei and Dana DiGiovanni — the Review‘s 2002 Female Athlete of the Year.

Still, the bowling team is by far the school’s most successful athletic program. While the bowlers make regular playoff appearances, the soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball teams try to stay out of last place in their respective sports.

In 2002, the bowling team made Goretti history by finishing 71-9 and winning its first-ever regular-season title. The Lambs earned an automatic bye to the championship game. Their 614 team average was second-best behind Archbishop Prendergast’s 631. When Goretti plays Prendie this year, the local squad will get a sense of how it stacks up against one of the league’s best teams.

The first meeting will take place Wednesday at St. Monica’s Lanes, and the two teams will play again to close out the regular season on Feb. 21.

Wednesday also will mark the midway point of the season. The Lambs are hoping to fare a little better in the second half.

Unlike the boys’ teams, the girls only have one division for bowling, which means the top five teams will make the playoff cut next month. The team with the best regular-season record will get the automatic berth to the championship game.

"Since we have so many losses, we’ve got to really work hard to knock off the other teams," Fiocca said. "We’ve got to keep winning."

Even with the high stakes, Fiocca and assistant Terry Spino are doing their best to keep practices loose. During last season’s championship game, the players’ tension level was so high, they didn’t even crack a smile after bowling a strike or spare.

"We want to keep them happy, but when it comes time to bowl, they know it’s a serious thing," Fiocca said. "I don’t think they are under pressure. When they come up there and need a strike or spare, they know what they are doing."

If the Lambs find their stride, they could become just the third Goretti athletic team to win a Catholic League championship. The basketball squad accomplished the feat in 1976 and ’78. With teams like Prendie, Archbishop Ryan and St. Hubert all chasing a similar goal, the task won’t be easy.

"It’s so hard because the schools are tough," Fiocca said. "I think we’ve got the potential. If they starting hitting a 170 average, you are looking at a championship."

Lambs teams with chops

Despite a heartbreaking loss, last year’s championship game appearance will be remembered as one of the greatest moments in Goretti’s athletic history. Here are some of the other highlights:

2002: The bowling team makes history by finishing first during the regular season. The squad comes within 13 pins of winning its first-ever Catholic League title.

2001: The bowlers make their first-ever appearance in the Catholic League finals before losing to St. Hubert.

1997: Bowling team advances to the Catholic League semifinals for the first time.

1985: Volleyball team wins Southern Division championship.

1984: Softball team wins Southern Division championship.

1983: Softball team wins Southern Division championship.

1982: Volleyball team wins Southern Division championship.

1978: Basketball team wins Catholic League title.

1976: Basketball team wins Catholic League title.

Remaining schedule

Tomorrow Hallahan Away
Wednesday Prendergast Home
Jan. 24 Little Flower Home
Jan. 29 Carroll Home
Jan. 31 St. Hubert Away
Feb. 5 Ryan Away
Feb. 7 O’Hara Home
Feb. 12 Egan Home
Feb. 19 Hallahan Home
Feb. 21 Prendergast Away

All matches start at 3:30 p.m., with home games taking place at St. Monica’s Lanes, 16th and Shunk streets.