BREWER, Maine — Day one of the 24th annual World Team Championship candlepin bowling tournament ended with several familiar names at or near the top of the divisional standings.
Local favorite U.S.A. East and Maria’s Sub of Massachusetts head up the Pepsi-Cola and Holiday Inn divisions, respectively, with 2007 champ Halifax Fairlanes and fellow Nova Scotia entry MacLaughlin Truck and Trailer well within striking distance of the leaders.
USA East won 20 of 24 possible points in its three team matches, as did Maria’s Sub.
“We played a couple of tough teams today and played well, so we’re in good shape,” said Nate Nealey of Westbrook, who led USA East with a high string of 162 and three-string average of 136. “We had eight guys bowl today and I think we bowled pretty well as a whole.”
Tim Matero of Rockland was at the other end of the USA East spectrum.
“I struggled. I only bowled a couple strings. I just didn’t have it,” said Matero. “I just wasn’t comfortable on the lane. My back was tight and my ball just wasn’t going where I wanted it to.”
Despite Matero’s struggles, his team finished the day two points ahead of Halifax Fairlanes (18-6).
“We genuinely cheer for each other and if you’re bowling bad, we’ll pick you up,” Matero said. “We have great chemistry and that’s what you need on a team to win this tournament.”
Well, talent helps too. Chris Sargent of Haverhill, Mass., averaged 127 with a high of 145.
“This is the strongest team I’ve ever bowled on,” Nealey said. “Mike Morgan’s the best leadoff bowler there is, in my opinion. You want a guy who’s consistently high to lead off because the other guys see that and it gets contagious, plus it takes some pressure off.
“But we have such a solid lineup, we could all move around in the order and still be fine.”
U.S.A. East, which has advanced to the semifinal round each of the last five years, finished with a 493 team average and a total pinfall of 5,548 — both highs on the day. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement, however.
“We didn’t bowl as well as we can, but we definitely didn’t bowl our worst. It was a quality day,” Matero said.
Matero was part of the last American team to win the World Team title.
“When we won in 2001, we didn’t have the best team, but we had the best chemistry,” he said. “We qualified fifth in the last playoff spot and went from there.”
The day’s high string was rolled by singles (knockout) runner-up Matt Cormier of Moncton, New Brunswick, who had three straight strikes and six total en route to a 201.
“Well, you get in a groove and there’s a lot of luck involved. It’s just one of those things,” said Cormier. “My high was a 204. I think I was 15 at the time. Last year, I also had a 201. My last string, though, I had a 108.”
Tuesday was the first of three days of preliminary team play. The teams atop each division after Thursday’s play get byes into Saturday’s semifinals. The rest of the playoff field will be determined in a Friday qualifier.
Crazy Train of New Hampshire is second in the Holiday Inn division behind Maria’s at 18-6.
Local teams among the contenders are Colonial Lanes at 14-10 in Pepsi-Cola. Maine Heat of Brewer is also 14-10 in the Holiday Inn division.