LINDEN, N.J. -- The Union Catholic bowling team surprised a lot of teams when the Vikings capped off a thrilling and improbable run at the Union County Championships with a victory over Johnson to finish third for the second straight year on Thursday at Jersey Lanes.
With its top five bowlers from last year having graduated in the spring, the Vikings weren't expected to match its finish in the county tournament, but thanks to the clutch bowling of the all underclassmen lineup of Danielle Galarza, Isabella Fuentes, CJ Tomalavage, Liam Quinn, and Alex Gorodensky, the Vikings shocked the county.
It all started on Thursday when Union Catholic took on Scotch Plains-Fanwood, a team that had beaten the Vikings in their only two prior meetings this season.
After the teams split the first four games in the Baker Style format, UC was down in the final frame in the deciding game when Tomalavage came up with the biggest moment of his career.
With UC trailing, 187-178 in the 10th frame, Tomalavage had one more ball to roll.
Needing to knock down a least nine pins, Tomalavage came through with a dramatic walk-off strike to give UC the thrilling victory over Scotch Plains,188-187.
With the victory, UC advanced to take on eventual champion Linden in the semifinal round. UC managed to win a game before falling to Linden, 4-1.
Then in the third-place match, the Vikings defeated Johnson,191-160, to clinch third place.
Tomalavage said he knew the pressure was on him in the final frame vs. Scotch Plains.
"I had to strike for us to win,'' said Tomalavage, who is the anchor for UC. "It was pretty nerve-wracking. I was so hyped up and just had to settle down. When I first started to go, my muscles got a little queasy, so I stopped, put the all down and reset. Then I was good. And to get the strike we needed was so thrilling.''
The day was filled with great moments for UC, including a clutch strike from Quinn in the ninth frame that set the stage for Tomalavage's walk-off vs. Scotch Plains.
""We all bowled really well,'' said Tomalavage. ''A lot of us came up big all day.''
Tomalavage said taking one game from Linden was a huge confidence booster.
"We gave them (Linden) a run for their money, and winning that one game against them really gave us a lot of confidence when we went against Johnson.''
Tomalavage said that placing third was very satisfying and that UC is headed for even bigger things in the future.
"It's very satisfying to get third again because of how much talent we lost from last year,'' said Tomalavage. "It feels good to be able to keep up with all the other teams in the county, and with so many of our top bowlers coming back next year, I think winning counties next year is a definite possibility.''