After the Ewing High girls bowling team graduated high-scoring Sierra Reid from its 2022 state championship team, it didn’t look like the Blue Devils would have enough power to make another run at a state crown this year.
But when the northern winds blew in, they brought with them Nottingham High transfer Kennedy Jenkins and suddenly, a key piece had been re-inserted to the puzzle.
With Jenkins qualifying for the individual state finals and senior Mia Siminitus having her usual outstanding year, the Blue Devils once again carried the Colonial Valley Conference banner high as the CVC’s lone program.
Ewing finished 18-1 with its only loss coming to Group I state champion New Egypt. It won the Burlington County Athletic League championship, and finished third in both the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II, and Group II state matches.
“I’m extremely proud of how they bowled all year,” veteran coach Dave Angebranndt said. “ I kind of had the expectations at the beginning of the year that we would find ourselves in state championship contention with the team we had coming back. It was a matter of if they were gonna believe in themselves to do it.
“As we got closer toward the end of the season, I think that loss to New Egypt was kind of the humble factor of ‘Yeah, this might be a confident group but we’re gonna come up against teams that are gonna beat us.’ It was kind of ‘Hey let’s take a step back, re-evaluate and get ourselves back to where we need to be.’”
The New Egypt loss occurred on Jan. 6 and Ewing rebounded with eight straight wins to end the regular season. In the sectionals the Devils knocked down 2,345 pins to earn a wild card after finishing behind Brick Memorial (ranked No. 1 in the state) and Brick Township. In the state finals, Memorial won its fourth straight state title (winning Group III the previous years) and Brick Township and Ewing were second and third.
“When it’s all said and done, finishing in third place in the state final behind two Shore Conference teams with a tremendous feeder system is not bad,” Angebranndt said. “Our girls all came back this year with a lot of confidence, but having Kennedy come in and provide that consistency was a huge help. After the loss of Sierra, how were we gonna replace a 180-plus average? Kennedy came in and kind of solidified herself as one of the leaders in the program.”
At the urging of her grandparents, Jenkins began bowling in Slocum’s junior league as a youngster.
“We just bowled for fun, I really enjoyed doing it, so I thought ‘Why not? Let’s try it,” she recalled. “I guess you can say it runs in my family because everyone bowls.”
Unfortunately for Jenkins, Nottingham did not have a bowling team and no one ever informed her she could bowl in the states as an individual. Once she transferred to Ewing last summer, the junior immediately signed on with the bowling team.
“It was very overwhelming at first,” she said. “Going to a new school; having to meet new people and acclimate to a new team. But the team was very welcoming. I really enjoyed myself this season and I’m definitely looking forward to next year.”
Jenkins averaged 187, and rolled a high series of 663 against Pennington. She had her high game of 258 when she had a set of 231-258-169-657 in the Central Jersey sectionals.
“I surprised myself with that,” she said. “But toward the middle of my first game I had a feeling that was how I was gonna bowl the rest of the day and I guess my feeling was right.”
She struggled in the state finals, however, shooting 182-218-158-558, but embraced the experience.
“It was nerve wracking at first,” Jenkins said. “But hearing my family and friends cheer for me helped.”
As for the regular season, it was the first time Jenkins bowled in a team format, and she fit in beautifully.
“Whether you throw a good ball or a bad ball the team is always on your side, picking you up, encouraging you to try your best,” she said. “I really enjoyed it. It was confidence boosting too, to see that I could be successful, and we could be successful as a team.”
Angebranndt was impressed at how quickly Jenkins became someone the other girls looked up to.
“Kennedy came in as that unsung silent leader, that lead-by-example role model,” the coach said. “She’s positive, she’s cheerful, always willing to pick teammates up. She brought a different vibe to the group, and broke the seriousness of certain matches that got a little tense.
“She was always doing what she was asked, always willing to make an adjustment if she needed to. She brought that leadership role; and along with having Mia, it gave you the ability to have two leaders.”
Siminitus led in more ways than one, as she was also the team’s top scorer with a 201 average. Mia had a high game of 289 against Pennsauken, when she recorded her high series of 691. At the star-studded South Jersey Super Bowl, she had the tournament’s high game (232) and high series (645).
Unfortunately for the senior, she struggled in sectionals and was unable to reach the state finals.
“She may have put a little too much pressure on herself to be in a certain spot instead of allowing her bowling ability and confidence to take over,” Angebranndt said. “She didn’t bowl well in the first game and she knew she had to bowl really well the second and third game. Her inability to make adjustments on the lanes kind of got to her a little bit; but for us to be able to advance as a team that day as a wildcard made her happy.”
Despite her tough finish, Siminutus will long be remembered as one of the greats in EHS girls bowling annals.
“She made a long lasting impact on the program,” Angebranndt said. “I can’t tell you the last time I had a girl or guy average over 200. She had a lot of accolades. I told her ‘You don’t have to hang your head just because you didn’t advance as an individual. There are a lot of things you did this year and in your career that were a success.’
“She’s going to Alvernia on an academic scholarship but their coach came to watch her bowl a few times and she will bowl there. She’ll succeed and live up to her expectations. Having her out the last four years has been an honor and a pleasure to watch her grow as a bowler.”
While Angerbranndt is sad to see Siminitus go, he’s thrilled to have a strong core back. Along with Jenkins, sophomores Amanda Curtiss (173 average, 576 high series, 223 high game) and Ellie Otto (141 average) will return, along with juniors Megan Rosiejka (145) and Janelis Cedeno.
“They exceeded all my expectations,” Angebranndt said. “They put a lot of work in over the summer. Amanda would go to Slocums a lot on Saturday and bowl with the guys. Megan and Ellie would also join. Mia took Megan under her wing and bowled in Morrisville over the summer.
“Amanda and Ellie really stepped up and became more consistent. As freshmen they were new to the whole match style and getting into that high school mode where it’s a little more serious. They made some adjustments from last year, understood what their roles were on the team and were consistent making their spares.
“Megan made drastic improvements as well. She opened up a little this year. She wanted to get better, she spent time practicing with Mia in the off-season. Her willingness to make adjustments in practice was shown this year. She started to get the hang of it and throw the ball better, and got more confidence on the lanes.”
And as his bowlers’ confidence improves, so does Angebranndt’s confidence that his team will continue to be among Central Jersey’s finest.
“Hopefully we get a quality program out every year,” he said. “We want to make some noise and represent Mercer County as its lone bowling program.”