Jett Walden and Morgan Naydich are not difficult to find. When they're not home or in school, they are typically at Palm Coast Lanes. If they're not bowling for Matanzas High School, they are practicing. If they're not practicing, they're working at the front desk. Walden also works in the snack bar.
There's a benefit to working at the bowling lanes. You get to bowl for free. You also get to pick the brains of former pro bowlers at the pro shop, Naydich said.
Walden and Naydich, along with a deep roster, have powered the Pirates' boys bowling team to a 7-0 start this season. On Sept. 7, the Matanzas boys defeated Flagler Palm Coast 7-0 at Palm Coast Lanes, while FPC's girls beat Matanzas 5-2.
The Matanzas boys won their seventh straight on Sept. 12, 6-1 against University High.
In the girls' match on Sept. 7, the Pirates won the two Baker Games (in which five bowlers bowl two frames apiece), while the Bulldogs won the two individual games (which count as two points a piece) as well as the point for total pins (1,995 to 1,556).
FPC's Emma Pezzullo bowled a 462 series (230, 232) to raise her average to 212.17. The junior has the second highest average among all bowlers in the 12-team district behind Seabreeze's Kara Beissel, who is averaging 214.0 in helping lead the defending state champs to a 5-0 record.
Jasmine Sites added a 373 series (184, 189) for the Bulldogs. Both the FPC and Matanzas girls teams are 5-1. FPC's only was to Seabreeze on Aug. 31.
Walden, a junior, has been bowling for only about a year. He bowled for FPC last season, before transferring to Matanzas, and averaged about 130 to 140, he said. This season, he's leading the district with a 215.13 average. Naydich, a senior, is fifth in the district with a 201.5 average.
Walden bowled a 463 series against the Bulldogs (233, 230), while Naydich bowled 218, 192 for a 410 series. Patrick Cullings led the Bulldogs (4-2) with a 383 series (192, 191).
"It's a very close rivalry. They're more our friends than our rivals. I learned a lot from them last year."
— JETT WALDEN
"It's a very close rivalry," Walden said. "They're more our friends than our rivals. I learned a lot from them last year."
In addition to Walden and Naydich, six other Matanzas bowlers are averaging 179 or better. Through their first seven matches, the Pirates have won 42 out of a possible 49 points.
"This is our year," Walden said.
"We're going to keep the ship sailing straight," Naydich added.
Walden said his vast improvement started when he switched to two-handed bowling a few months after he started.
"After I switched, it just clicked," he said. "It gave me more control. I've had a lot of great coaching — Jens Oliva (Matanzas' boys coach), (Steve) Stripling (FPC's coach) and everybody who's helped along the way."
Naydich has also steadily improved since he joined the Pirates two years ago.
"It's mostly about staying consistent and committing to my thought process," he said. "Working here and being here has helped with my technical knowledge, learning why bowling balls do what they do."