Editor's note: The Dryden bowling team earned its first-ever victory over Watkins Glen on Wednesday, Dec. 11. Eddy Pietrasz bowled an IAC season-high of 755.
For the first time ever, Dryden has a varsity bowling team. The process began over a year ago, when athletic director Todd Kwiatkowski started floating the idea around. Inspired by 12 other IAC schools having bowling squads, Kwiatkowski found a potential coach in Dave Hicks and moved forward with the process.
Hicks has been the coach of the powerhouse Dryden golf team for the past 10 years and was a former baseball coach. He accepted Kwiatkowski’s offer with some hesitation.
“I told him I would [coach],” Hicks said. “But, I said, ‘I don’t know much about bowling. If you can find someone who knows more about bowling, go with them.’”
They did end up finding someone else, but the would-be coach ended up pulling himself from the position just days away from the season. On very short notice, Kwiatkowski offered Hicks the coaching role, and he gladly accepted.
“[Coaching] can be a serious time commitment, and most people, like I am, are working another job, and it’s something you have to figure out how to fit in your schedule,” Hicks said. “That didn’t work out for the person who was going to coach, so a couple days before the first match, Todd called me and said, ‘Dave, can you do this?’ And I shuffled some things around and said, ‘Yeah, we can do it.’”
To supplement his own coaching ability, Hicks has been bringing in more experienced bowlers to teach his team the more technical side of the sport that he isn’t as familiar with. The open-minded approach is great to see from a first-year program.
Hicks’ squad has 12 members, with 11 boys and one girl, which is a solid start. The coach is very happy with the numbers but certainly wants to see more girls joining Stella Becraft on the team.
“Todd and I are just going to keep putting the idea out there and hopefully, the girls will get the idea that, ‘Oh, there is a team and there is a spot,’” Hicks said, “Hopefully, Stella, who’s in 10th grade, sticks with it as well and it’s something that can build from there. I’ve talked to other bowling coaches already, and they said that’s how it worked for them. One or two at first, and then eventually you just grow that.”
Currently, the stand-out player of the team is sophomore Eddy Pietrasz, who Hicks described as “extremely good.” At the IAC Kickoff Tournament on Saturday, Pietrasz placed second amongst 109 bowlers from 13 schools with an impressive average score of 230.
In head-to-head matches, the team is 0-2 thus far, but a modest start was anticipated for the new program.
“There’s a little bit of nervousness,” Hicks said. “Even Eddy, our best player, had not really been in a high school match. He was always taken as an extra [with Lansing]. So, he knows a little bit about how things go and the other lanes. But the rest of the team, they haven’t been to the other lanes, so that is an adjustment.”
Hicks knows it will take some work until the team can compete with the more established ones of the IAC, but he and the team are embarking on the journey with a positive mindset.
“It’s a little bit new for myself and the whole team, but we’re having fun with it,” Hicks said. “We’re following that old adage - we want to beat yesterday.
We want to get better every time we go out there, and so far, we’re doing that. We just want to keep that up.”
Growing a program from scratch is something that Hicks has experience with as the Dryden golf coach. He was the man tasked with reviving the program after a six-year absence and has since raised it to great heights.
“With the golf team, it was the same thing,” Hicks said. “We didn’t have a golf program from 2003 to 2008. In 2009 and 2010, we were the worst team in the league. Since then, we’ve been the best team in the league, undefeated two of the last three years. That’s a long way off for bowling, but you have to start somewhere.”
Specifically, Hicks anticipates a three-to-four-year growing period for the team before Dryden will be competitive with others in the IAC.
“Our division is pretty good,” Hicks said. “We’re in the large school division, and there are four to five teams out there who are consistently really good where they’ll have five or six bowlers who are 170 to 200-plus. I want to get us there.”
Up next for the Purple Lions is a match with Watkins Glen on Wednesday, Dec. 11. The Senecas finished fourth in the 12-team IAC tournament last season.
The other two teams Dryden has faced thus far, Waverly and Newark Valley, finished fifth and third, respectively. The tough schedule is getting the young team used to the level of competition early on. Coach Hicks and his team will be taking it day by day until Dryden is at that level.
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