At a spring signing day held last month at St. Viator High School for seniors to formally commit to pursuing their sport in college, Angelique Dalesandro of Rolling Meadows stood out.
Not only was she the only scholarship bowler among the group -- and in the history of the school -- but she was the only one to single out her father in her remarks. While all of the student athletes thanked their parents and coaches, Dalesandro made sure to thank her father, who had started her in the sport.
Dalesandro committed that day to bowling at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, a highly selective school, whose women's bowling team just won the National Collegiate Women's Bowling Championships last month in St. Louis.
"I'm excited with how good they are," said Dalesandro. "I've never been on a team before, so between that, and having teammates, it's all new to me."
Both Dalesandro and her father, Dan, concede neither of them saw any of this coming when they started bowling together in a Daddy/Daughter league at the former Rolling Meadows Lanes. They started when Dalesandro was 5.
"I thought it would be something we could do together, for fun," Dan Dalesandro says. "I had no idea things would turn out like this, but it's pretty exciting."
After a few years of bowling with her father, Dalesandro started competing in youth leagues and as she excelled, her father hired a private coach to work with her and her talent continued to blossom.
When Rolling Meadows Lanes closed in 2012, Dalesandro moved to River Rand Bowl in Des Plaines, though she also pursued volleyball and softball.
"The funny thing is, she was excellent in everything she did," says her mother, Catherine Mary Dalesandro, who added that Vanderbilt is a dream come true.
For the last three years, Dalesandro has concentrated on bowling, and heads to the bowling alley every day after school. There, she and other teens pursuing college bowling work with coach William Clark of Des Plaines.
It was Clark who accompanied Dalesandro to the Junior Gold Championships in Cleveland last summer, where Vanderbilt coaches noticed her.
He points out that it is the biggest youth tournament in the country, with 3,800 bowlers, and nearly 1,000 alone in the girls' division, ages 16-20. Among her peers, Clark says Dalesandro finished among the top 1 percent, which naturally attracted the Vanderbilt coaches.
"College coaches are always looking at how well you can execute your shot," Clark says, "as well as how you throw the ball, adjust to lane conditions and handle adversity."
During a recent practice at River Rand, Dalesandro bowled with other college bowlers, including Elise London of Hoffman Estates who bowls at the University of Alabama Birmingham and Julie Bond of Aurora, who bowls at the University of Nebraska.
They push one another and also teach Dalesandro what it is like to bowl at the Division I level.
"I still have so much to learn," Dalesandro says, "and how to figure everything out."
Just stepping up to the lane and sizing up the conditions, continues to be what she works on, every day.
"I have to be focused," she says, "reading the lane and sizing up whether the ball is overturning or underturning -- and which one of my balls will make it better."