The Tigers won the statewide Group 3 title, their first state championship in 32 years, as well as the Union County Conference Watchung Division title with a 17-2 record.
By Gary Miller
The 2019-20 winter was another stellar season for the Linden High School bowling team, which did something no Linden bowling team has done in 32 years.
The Tigers won the statewide Group 3 championship for the first time ever on Feb. 10. Linden’s last state championship came in 1988.
“There are no words to express the amount of admiration I have for these young men,” said Coach Cherie Pizzano. “They showed their resilience and it was a true testament to their character. I am so very proud of these young men.”
To win the title, Linden had to beat out longtime nemesis and defending champion Woodbridge, which had bested Linden in the sectional finals a week earlier.
“Woodbridge is always a powerhouse, and they are very well coached,” said Tigers coach Cherie Pizzano. “They took the North II Group III sectional title and we finished in 2nd place. That qualified us for the team state finals.”
Pizzano wasn’t so sure the state finals would be any different than the sectionals. She said Linden’s first game was “absolutely horrible.”
“I knew it would take two miracle games for us to make a run at the title,” Pizzano said. “This team showed its tenacious heart and desire to never give up. Their second the third game total was enough to overcome the deficit and win the Group III title.”
Linden also won the conference championship on the final day of the regular season. The Tigers entered the match against Westfield trailing the Blue Devils by six points in the conference standings. So to win the title they needed a 7-0 sweep to take first place – two points for each of the three games in the match, and one for total number of pins.
And that’s what they got.
“This season our conference bowling was excellent,” Pizzano said. “We managed to rise to the occasion every time we had to bowl Westfield. We defeated them three times to win the Watchung Division of the Union County Conference.”
The team finished the season with a 17-2 match record in conference play.
Individually, junior James Fitz won the Union County Tournament championship with a dominating performance in the boys individual tournament.
“Jimmy works relentlessly on his game and his mental approach has matured significantly this season,” Pizzano said. “He finally bought into my philosophy that spares win games. His poise this season was instrumental in his winning of the UCT individual title and qualification into the state individual finals.”
Fitz was also named to the Union County Conference first team, leading the Watchung Division with a 207 average. Right behind him was senior teammate Matt Soto, who also made first team with a 203 average.
Both were also named to the All-Watchung Division first team along with senior teammate Anthony Golabek. Tigers senior Justin Peters was named to All-Watchung Division second team.