Utica boys bowling aims for regional title

Chieftains hope to make fifth consecutive state tournament

By: Thomas Franz | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 19, 2014

 Utica senior Andrew Venturini sets himself for a shot during a practice session on Feb. 13.

Utica senior Andrew Venturini sets himself for a shot during a practice session on Feb. 13.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

UTICA — The quartet of Utica seniors on this year’s bowling team has experienced a lot of success in their years on the varsity team.

Joe Mazza, Tyler Hood, Andrew Venturini and Joey McNeil have each been to the team state tournament the last two years, and they hope to make a third trip by finishing in the top three at regionals, which will be held at 5-Star Lanes in Sterling Heights on Feb. 21.

“There’s a lot of good teams, and the best three teams will make it out. At the end of the day, that’s how it works. Once in a while, there’s a surprise; we can’t guarantee that we’ll make it out. All we can do is put our best foot forward,” Utica coach John Mazza said.

Utica went 7-5 in the regular season as the four seniors and two underclassmen have all brought their averages to higher than 200.

Venturini has also bowled two perfect games in the last six months, while McNeil set a two-game school record last week with a score of 555.

“I think we had a really good season. We bowled 12 matches and we got beat once. The other four losses, we were down to the last three frames that we easily could’ve won,” Mazza said. “We easily could’ve been 11-1. When we were right, we were clearly one of the top teams in the state.”

Despite their success this season, Hood knows that he and his fellow seniors will have to bring their top game to advance to the state finals.

“It’s always a challenge every year. I think we were fifth going into the last game at regionals last year, and came back and ended up winning it. It’s going to be a challenge, but we always rise to the occasion,” Hood said.

The 15 team regional tournament will feature a number of teams from throughout Macomb County, including Sterling Heights Stevenson and Macomb Dakota, both of which finished ahead of the Chieftains in the MAC Red standings.

Mazza said that the continuity the players have developed with the coaching staff will be key at regionals.

“We have a long road in front of us, but we’ve been there before and we believe in our kids. And they’ve got some confidence in us, so when we have a discussion with them, they trust us, which is important,” Mazza said.