McKendree University was edged in seven games by Vanderbilt University on Saturday in the title match of the 2018 NCAA National Collegiate Bowling Championship at Tropicana Lanes in Richmond Heights, Mo.
The Bearcats had a 3-2 lead after winning a pivotal fifth game against the Commodores, but Vanderbilt rallied in the closing frames of game six to pull out a three-pin victory, then grabbed the national championship by taking the seventh game from McKendree.
McKendree, the No. 2 seed entering the 2018 NCAA Championship, was in search of its second consecutive national title after winning its first-ever NCAA crown last April in Baton Rouge, La. The Bearcats have made three straight appearances in the national tournament and have finished third or higher each time.
“This team has been so resilient all year,” McKendree head coach Shannon O’Keefe said. “They faced a lot of challenges and experienced all the ups and downs you can have throughout the course of the season. We have talked all year about this not being a defense of a national title. It’s about building on that success we had last year and putting yourself in a position to be successful this season. I believe our ladies accomplished that, and I’m so proud of what they have accomplished. To be (at the NCAA Championship) three times and to finish no lower than third each time says a lot about our team and our ladies.”
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With the match tied 2-2, McKendree broke open the pivotal fifth game by rolling seven straight strikes to pull away and take the contest 255-203. The Bearcats and Commodores battled back and forth in the sixth game when the Vanderbilt, the No. 4 seed in the eight-team event, anchor tossed a pair of strikes in the 10th frame to help Vanderbilt rally for a 208-205 triumph to set up the seventh and deciding contest. The Commodores built an early advantage to take a lead it would not relinquish.
McKendree placed two bowlers on the NCAA National Collegiate Bowling Championship All-Tournament Team. Sophomore Breanna Clemmer was joined by junior Lauren Pate on the five-member squad. This was the second straight year that Clemmer earned All-Tournament Team accolades. She was the Most Outstanding Bowler during the Bearcats’ 2017 NCAA title run.
The Bearcats will not have to wait long to bounce back into action. McKendree will head to Lincoln, Neb., next week in search of its second consecutive Intercollegiate Team Championship title.