Rebels still throwing strikes with seventh title

Girls win B Central

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

They changed the division and its makeup, but it didn’t change the outcome.

Howell High School’s girls bowling team is still the class of the alleys.

Dave Clampffer’s Rebels won their seventh consecutive Shore Conference division title, Class B Central, going away this year. Back in December, after a 2-1 loss to Jackson Memorial, Howell found itself in a very unusual position, looking up at someone in the standings. But it was only a matter of time before the relentless Rebels seized control (3-0 in each of the two rematches with Jackson) and put another flag in the school gymnasium. With one match remaining (Monday against Freehold Township), Howell was at 39-3 and already assured of the title.

Clampffer pointed out that the Rebels have had the rare opportunity to experience something that few teams have: total dominance. The girls’ program is just seven years old and has known nothing but first-place finishes. In 2002, Howell won it all: the state championship.

“It’s the dedication of the girls,” Clampffer said of the reason for Howell’s streak.

Clampffer credited the start of Howell’s winning tradition to Lisa Friscione, a member of the school’s very first team.

“She set the tone,” noted Clampffer. “The team saw how she approached the game, the way she worked, and we’ve followed that ever since.”

Friscione went on to star at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She was the MVP of the NCAA Championships when FDU won the national title two years ago.

Her success is an added incentive for the Rebels. They know that there are college scholarships out there if they work at it. They have one of their own as a prime example.

When Friscione graduated, it was Nikki Hratko who carried the leadership torch, and the championships kept piling up.

A pair of juniors, Brittney Budra and Meghan Kelly, teammates of Hratko, have carried on that leadership role for these Rebels.

Budra remembers her first year with the Rebels and what Hratko did for her.

“I was scared when I was a freshman,” she recalled. “Nikki taught us about teamwork.”

Kelly and Budra have led by their example and solid play. Kelly has had the high game at the last two Freehold Regional District Championships. Saturday, Budra qualified for the state championships with a 605 series at the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III Tournament.

Amanda Stefan, Megan Miller and Melissa Miller, all veterans, have made up the starting unit.

But the Rebels are so deep that Clampffer has used everyone during the course of the season. Casey Alberti, Katie Raffele, Arianna Mattera and Rachel Imperiale are among the bowlers who have contributed when put into the lineup.

Kelly noted that every bowler on the team has improved since the season started in early December.

“We’ve really come together as a team, and we’ve all gotten better,” she said.

It’s an “all for one and one for all” attitude that has helped them improve.

“We pick each other up and we stay positive,” said Kelly. “It can’t always be your day. If one of us is down, there’s always someone else to pick them up.”

Budra pointed out that the team’s greatest asset is its team approach.

“Everyone has confidence in each other,” she said. “We always encourage each other.”

The Rebels have never tried to rest on their laurels during this streak, nor do they take any team or match for granted. Kelly said that when the team got together before the season started, they knew the key was to remain focused.

“We sat down before the season and knew that we had a lot of talent,” she said. “We told each other that if we concentrate and focus, we can do things this year.”

Like a seventh straight championship.

Budra said that this title has a special place in her memory.

“We were really, really excited when we won it,” she remarked. “We knew we had more competition this year with Jackson, Freehold Township and Manalapan.

“We stepped up after that first match of the season,” she added.

There is still much for the Rebels to play for. Tuesday, the Shore Conference Championships will be held at Ocean Lanes, and the following day will be the Monmouth County tourney at Howell Lanes.

Clampffer believes his team will be a factor at these tournaments because they haven’t reached their peak.

“I don’t think we’ve seen their best,” he said.

At Saturday’s state sectional, Howell finished third (2.54) behind state powers Woodbridge (2,920) and Colonia (2,670). Only the first two teams from each of the four State Groups advanced to the state championships on Feb. 16 at Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick, which hosted Saturday’s Central Jersey Championship.

In Group III, Freehold Township was fifth (2,326) and Manalapan (2,269) was sixth. South Brunswick was the sectional winner (2,682).

The top 15 bowlers with the best three-game series qualified individually for the state finals. Manalapan’s Laura Krumholtz led the way with a 633 in fifth place. Budra was 11th (604), and Freehold Township’s Pinar Huseyin was 13th (598).

“I’d rather my whole team be going,” said Budra.