When Matt Rice was informed as a freshman that he didn’t make the Arlington High School boys bowling team, he became upset. Not discouraged, though.
During dinner with his father that evening, Rice asked to be taken to the bowling alley so he could practice. For hours. From there a habit grew, as did his passion for the sport, and a fire that fueled what became an obsessive work ethic.
So when the senior was named one of the Section 1 all-stars on Tuesday, earning a berth to the bowling state tournament on March 4, it was “a reward for everything.”
Rice, who bowled a 1,289 series, will be joined on the six-member state team by John Jay’s Michael Sheridan, who qualified by a single pin during the Section 1 tournament on Tuesday.
“We’re pretty friendly and Michael is a fellow lefty, so there’s that bond,” Rice said. “I know most of the guys on the team, so this is exciting.”
Sheridan rolled a 1,378 six-game series, fourth highest in the tournament, which just nabbed him a spot on the team. Rice’s 223 average this season was the second best in the section. In selecting the all-star team, Section 1 takes the top three averages, excluding members of the team that won the section title who will be competing in the team championships. The next three spots go to the highest averages in the sectional tournament, excluding of course members of the winning team.
That group will compete in the state All-Star tournament at AMF Gates Lanes in Rochester. John Jay’s Victoria Pacacha and Alyssa Rubeo, and Arlington’s Leah Cole and Lauren Regan each also made the girls state team.
North Rockland won the boys team title, toppling 6,485 pins to finish ahead of John Jay (6,305). Arlington took seventh with a 5,679 pinfall.
Arlington’s Justin Stallon rolled a 1,328 and finished 10th individually. John Jay’s Matt Johnson bowled a 1,267 and Tyler Krell had a 1,236.
Rice, who was new to bowling as a freshman, managed a 130 average in tryouts. Admirals coach Jim Golding admired his effort, but didn’t believe Rice was good enough to assure him playing time that season.
“And I’ve regret that decision ever since,” Golding said. “He’s become a great leader and one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met.”
Rice worked extensively on his mechanics and approach with Phil Paterno, who operates the pro shop at Fishkill Bowl. He gave up basketball and baseball to focus on his new love.
He made the team in his sophomore year and his average jumped to 179. Then, as a junior, it improved to 209. He took another big jump as a senior, earning his first trip to the state tournament.
“I didn’t have that aspiration until my junior year,” Rice said of making the state team. “I just wanted to work hard, make the team and do well. It was in junior year when I saw it could be a possibility, then I made it a goal.”
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4