Elizabethtown vs Ephrata-LL Bowling

Ephrata's Andrew Barnica in action against Elizabethtown during an L-L League Section 2 bowling dual meet at Clearview Lanes in Mount Joy on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

It was an unusual season for Lancaster-Lebanon League bowlers in 2020-21.

First, the L-L, which has been accustomed to crowning state champions, both individual and team, didn’t have any.

And second, with the lingering effects of COVID-19 forcing adjustments and downsizing in the postseason, it was hard to call it a normal season. L-L bowlers did at least get to complete the postseason after the coronavirus led to the cancellation of the 2019-20 state tournament.

But things are shaping up as more of a return to normal, including L-L bowlers regaining state prominence, as several coaches have expressed. Going into this season, Hempfield sophomore Derick Keller is the only L-L bowler who can talk about his 2020-21 Pennsylvania State High School Bowling Championship experience.

Here are five things to watch in L-L bowling this season:

Knight renaissance

Keller got a seal of approval from Black Knights coach Tom Degnan at last year’s state tournament, with the coach saying his young bowler should be one of the athletes to beat for years to come. After placing 10th there as a freshman, that’s hard to argue.

Keller, who had a 194 average, qualified for states after placing fifth at the Eastern Regionals.

Degnan hopes Keller and senior Xander Green, who averaged 201, will both qualify for states this year and give Hempfield, which was 27-29 a year ago, one of its best seasons.

No easy task

Improving on that record could still be difficult for Hempfield, with some strong competition in both Sections One and Two.

Last year’s COVID-shortened schedule meant that the Knights only bowled teams twice in their own section (One). This year, the league returns to the format of bowling the opposite section teams once as well (One vs. Two and Three vs. Four).

That means facing teams such as Elizabethtown, Ephrata and Conestoga Valley, not to mention perennial One powers Penn Manor and Cedar Crest. The Bears had the best record among the top two sections at 51-5, and like the Mountaineers (35-21) and Buckskins (32-24), return most of their roster.

In their own section, Penn Manor returns as the defending L-L tournament champion, after posting a 50-6 record in the regular season.

The Comets’ pedigree under coach Chris Vital includes three state titles and nine L-L crowns. He has a wealth of talent back, including seniors Derek Warfel and Charlie Hull, juniors Josh Stock and Lacey Slaymaker, and sophomore Eva Brubaker. The all averaged between 195-198.

In the other two sections, Northern Lebanon rolled to a 28-0 record in Four, which only had three teams last year after Lebanon Catholic closed and Lancaster Mennonite couldn’t field a team — the Blazers return this season. Vikings coach Scott Shirk still has his daughter, two-time L-L girls champion Aliza Shirk, as well as fellow senior Fred Staley, but the rest of the team is young and untested.

Section Three champ Cocalico could again vie for the league’s best overall record after going 54-2, but Eagles coach Bryan Miller will be missing a pair of section all-stars.

Shining bright again

Here are the league’s returning all-stars:

Section One — Darren Zombro III, Cedar Crest, sr., L-L and section MVP, league-high 233 average; Nick Tomlinson, Manheim Township, jr., 212 avg.; Toby Zombro, Cedar Crest, so., 202 avg.

Section Two — Andrew Barnica, Ephrata, sr., section MVP, L-L second-highest average, 231; Tanner Murray, Ephrata, so., 212.83 avg.; Ryan Muckle, Conestoga Valley, so., 212.50 avg.; Alaina Telenko, Elizabethtown, sr., 209 avg.

Section Three — Chris Quadarella, Cocalico, sr., 208 average; Hunter Heisey, Elco, so., 195 avg.

Section Four — Aliza Shirk, Northern Lebanon, sr., section MVP, L-L girls high and overall third-highest average, 226; Dominic Lenhart, Columbia, jr., 192 avg.; Isabella Folts, Lancaster Catholic, sr., 186 avg.; Derick Kinser, Columbia, so., 173 avg.

Postseason success

Here are the top L-L returnees from last year’s postseason:

L-L tournament — For the boys, Elizabethtown senior Daniel Eberle (205 average) surprised Darren Zombro III 269-200 in the semifinals before losing in the final.

For the girls, Telenko lost to teammate Eryn Moore in the semifinals, with Shirk then getting by Moore 200-192. Moore graduated.

District Three tournament — Darren Zombro III and Tomlinson advanced to the semifinals, where both lost. Zombro fell to eventual champion Alex Horton of Daniel Boone.

McCaskey junior Julee Getz is the lone returnee among the girls after advancing to the semifinals.

Eastern Regional — Keller was fifth in qualifying to join Manheim Township’s Drew Jaquith, who graduated, in advancing to states. Keller’s 238 in the opening round got him to the quarterfinals, where he lost 220-195 to eventual champion David Swavely of Pottsgrove.

Darren Zombro III tied for 10th, which would have been good enough to get him to states in previous years. The field was cut from 12 to eight. And Shirk suffered the same fate with her tie for 11th.

It’s a date

Here are some dates to note for the upcoming season:

Monday: It’s the PIAA start date, though no L-L teams have any matches scheduled until Tuesday. The first league match is Dec. 13.

Friday: Elizabethtown at Shikellamy. Shikellamy is the defending state girls team champion.

Saturday: IceBreaker Classic, at Dutch Lanes.

Dec. 18: SnowRoller Showdown, at Leisure Lanes.

Feb. 15: L-L team tournament, at Cain’s Lanes

Feb. 16: L-L girls tournament, at Clearview Lanes.

Feb. 18: L-L boys tournament, at Dutch Lanes.

Feb. 26: District Three tournament, at ABC North Lanes, Harrisburg.

March 4-5: Eastern Regional championships, at Leisure and Dutch lanes.

March 18-19: State tournament, at Dutch Lanes.

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