FAIRVIEW, Oh - For the Alley Cats, it has been a progression to get where they are at in the 2021-22 season. A program that was down to eight guys just a few years ago now has over 20 bowlers and seven powerful bowlers on the varsity squad. This past weekend it was business as usual for the Wildcats as they defeated Cuyahoga Heights at Fairview Lanes on Saturday and placed second in the Bruin Classic Bowling Tournament. They find themselves with a 5-1 OHSAA record with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Initially, the Wildcats would match up against the St. Edward Eagles, but a late flex in the schedule saw Saint Ignatius go up against Cuyahoga Heights in league play. The Alley Cats defeated Cuyahoga Heights in week two of the season on November 27 and were hungry to improve before the Bruin Classic the following day. On Saturday morning, the Cats were phenomenal as they would outscore Cuyahoga Heights 1917 to 1442.
“For the first time this year, they are beginning to peak and stay focused,” says Assistant Head Bowling Coach Chris Nagy. “Focus is the key of the game, they all feed off each other and it’s a mind game.”
Senior captain Sean Ward is the fifth bowler in the lineup and one of the most consistent players on the Alley Cats. He would roll a 145 in the first game and a 194 in the second game on Saturday. “We’re a well-experienced team; we have to stay down on our shots,” explains Ward. “The first game got away from us, but overall we did solid.”
The second game was night and day for the Alley Cats as they were locked in. Alex Vacca is another senior leader on this Alley Cats squad who caught fire in the second game. At one point, Vacca would roll a four-bagger in which he had a strike from the second to the fifth frame. Vacca would total six strikes in the second game.
“For me, I made a ball switch in game two; that is what helped me,” Vacca says. “I think we got in the right mindset as a team, 90% of this game is in your head and 10% is the approach. It’s a mind game.”
Coach Nagy noted the importance of the mental game with the sport and is pleased how his players have come together to not get inside their heads when they bowl and gives a message to his guys through each frame. “I tell them to stay focused; you have to repeat a great shot. If you stay focused and make a spare, it’ll go a long way,” Nagy explains. “Everyone wants to throw a strike, the second ball is the most important ball and that is what wins you matches is the spare shooting.”
The Alley Cats find themselves with a 5-1 record in the OHSAA and league play as they look to do their final tune-ups before Sectional play begins on February 5. Ward brings experience from his freshman year to the team and understands what it takes to win. “We are staying down on our shots and trusting our coaches,” says Ward. “We just need to execute what we do in practice.”
“I know the lanes have a short pattern at Fairview,” says Vacca. “I hit the pocket a few times; my approach was to have confidence in my game and not get in my head.”
Freshman Grady Wilson came in as a sub for Ward to wrap up game two to end the morning. Wilson would roll three consecutive strikes in the tenth frame coming off the bench to wrap up a phenomenal outing from the Wildcats. “It is a confidence booster when I can look at the sixth guy and he can come in and produce,” explains Nagy. “It shows the trust in the guys.”
The Alley Cats will be looking to grow their game before heading into Sectional play as they’ll be competing this weekend in a private tournament in Columbus. The Alley Cats have a talented group of guys from top to bottom and will be looking to make some noise when the state tournaments come into play in February.