McKendree University shook off a slow start to close pool play on Friday with a pair of impressive performances during the first two rounds of bracket competition at the 2016 NCAA National Collegiate Women’s Bowling Championship. The tournament is being held at Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, N.J.
After dropping its final two matches Friday morning against the University of Nebraska and Stephen F. Austin State University, the Bearcats drew the No. 8 seed heading into the double-elimination bracket rounds during the afternoon session. McKendree split its two bracket matches to wrap up the day, stunning top-seeded Sam Houston State University before being edged by Stephen F. Austin once again.
With its 1-1 record in the elimination round, McKendree will begin Saturday morning’s competition against Arkansas State University. The teams will square off at 8 a.m. CDT, and all rounds of bracket play can be seen live on NCAA.com/liveschedule. The Bearcats will need to win three matches on Saturday to reach the championship match set for Saturday evening.
“We really work hard with our team to learn the game of bowling and to read situations, to where they are confident in choosing and making decisions on their own”, said McKendree women’s bowling coach Shannon O’Keefe. “We had gathered a ton of information through the qualifying rounds and we just told them that you have to do what’s comfortable out there. Over lunch, we wanted them to come up with a game plan heading into bracket play. We told them that if you believe wholeheartedly in your plan, then your execution will be better. They adjusted their line, executed their plan and it paid off. That is what helped them in the afternoon session.”
McKendree opened Friday’s action with a pair of pool play matches. First, the Bearcats took on the University of Nebraska, which is the defending NCAA champion. Bowling in a traditional game format, the Huskers rolled to victory by a score of 1,048-922. McKendree then moved on to take on Stephen F. Austin. The Ladyjacks caught fire early to post a 1,207-913 triumph to give the Bearcats a 2-5 record in pool play along with the No. 8 seed.
Following a break and resurface of the lanes, McKendree began its march in the bracket round against Sam Houston State, which earned the top seed based on its 5-2 mark in the qualifying rounds. The Bearcats and Bearkats battled through the best-of-seven Baker contest, splitting the first six games to force a winner-take-all seventh game. The match went down to the 10th frame before sophomore Jessica Mellott sealed the victory for McKendree with two strikes to give the Bearcats a 227-215 triumph.
The win propelled McKendree along into the winner’s bracket for another meeting with Stephen F. Austin. The Ladyjacks threatened to make quick work of the Bearcats, winning the first three games for a commanding 3-0 lead. The Bearcats bounced back with decisive wins in games four and five before rallying to take the sixth game and tie the match. The two teams went toe-to-toe in McKendree’s second straight game seven before Stephen F. Austin pulled away late to post a 221-210 triumph.
All five of McKendree’s bowlers finished in the top 30 of the final individual standings at the 2016 NCAA Women’s Bowling Championships. Sophomore Sarah Wille led the pack, placing 12th overall with 1,466 pins over her seven-game block for a 209.4 average. Senior Samantha Hagerman was 17th in the field at 1,439 pins and a 205.6 average, while Mellott was next in 18th position with 1,429 pins for a 204.1 average.
Freshmen Lauren Pate (26th overall with 1,359 pins and a 194.1 average) and Ashley Dunn (29th at 1,319 pins and a 188.4 average) rounded out the quintet for the Bearcats.