The McKendree University women's bowling team will try to defend its national championship from last season when it competes against nine other squads in the National Collegiate Bowling Championship.
Tropicana Lanes in St. Louis will serve as the host facility for the event, scheduled for April 12-14. The tournament qualifiers were announced Wednesday afternoon during a live broadcast of the NCAA Selection Show.
The Bearcats are defending champions, having won the 2017 title last April in Baton Rouge, La. McKendree swept the University of Nebraska 4-0 in the best-of-seven Baker finals to become the first Division II program to capture the women’s bowling championship.
Nebraska earned the top seed in the field this year, just ahead of second-seeded McKendree.
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Other teams in the field are Arkansas State, Vanderbilt, Sam Houston State, North Carolina A&T, Texas Southern, Lincoln Memorial, Bowie State and Saint Francis (Pa.). Lincoln Memorial will host Texas Southern while Saint Francis will entertain Bowie State in opening round play-in matches that will be held April 6.
The winners of the opening-round contests will advance to St. Louis to compete in an eight-team, double-elimination bracket beginning April 12. The championship match will be April 14 and will be aired live on ESPNU.
This is the third consecutive year that McKendree has qualified for the National Collegiate Bowling Championship. The Bearcats reached the semifinals in 2016 before its national title breakthrough last spring.
"It's exciting to be part of the national tournament field again," McKendree coach Shannon O'Keefe said. "Our focus from the start of this season has been to keep looking forward, to see what we can accomplish this season. Our ladies have done a great job of staying focused, and that has led to some great things on the lanes this season.
"We can't wait to head to St. Louis to compete against the best teams in the nation."
McKendree has followed up its national championship effort by winning five tournaments in 2017-18, including three consecutive events to begin the 2018 calendar year.
The Bearcats earned three straight wins at the Mid-Winter Invitational hosted by Arkansas State University, Kutztown University's KU Invitational a week later in Pennsylvania and the Prairie View A&M Invitational two weeks later in Texas.
McKendree then added a win at the Music City 300 Classic hosted by Vanderbilt University before capturing its first Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association Women's Bowling Championship on Saturday.
McKendree has a 91-25 match-play record this season, which includes a streak of 19 consecutive victories in March.
McKendree visited the White House in November as it was honored for its 2017 national title.