Huskers Look to Repeat as NCAA Champions
The NTCA No.2-rated Nebraska women’s bowling team will look to capture back-to-back NCAA National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, at Game of Wickliffe Bowling Center.
The three-day-event begins Thursday at 10:50 a.m. (Central) with the qualifying rounds while the double-elimination tournament begins on Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s title match will be televised live on ESPNU at 7 p.m.
Nebraska head coach Bill Straub will be returning to his position for the tournament after spending the last two months recuperating after having a successful emergency surgery for an aortic dissection. With his return, Straub mentioned that he will not try in get into the way of what Assistant Coach Paul Klempa has been doing.
“I am doing my best to not ruffle what Paul has got going,” Straub said. “I am not trying to step in and act like he is not here, I am trying to just add to what he is doing and I hope I succeed.”
During Straub’s absence, the Huskers won the Prairie View A&M Invitational as well as the Central Missouri Women’s Invitational in back-to-back seasons.
“I am blessed with somebody that did a great job, and I don’t want to change anything,” Straub said. “I am going to try and blend in as much as possible.”
The Huskers have not competed since their fourth-place finish at the Music City Classic, in Nashville on March 9. With a month of practice under their belts, Straub believes the team is confident heading into the championship tournament.
“I think we have a real solid team, with a lot of real solid people and if things go as practice has went, they should be fine,” Straub said. “It doesn’t mean win or lose, just play to their potential they have been showing lately. They should be fine, certainly I would not have any qualms if they are doing their best that their potential allows.”
Returning from last year’s national championship team includes returning NTCA First-Team All-American Liz Kuhlkin. The junior racked up an impressive team-high average of 214.9 at last year’s tournament, earning her NCAA Championship Most Valuable Bowler.
Senior Yan Ling was a key component to Nebraska's 2013 NCAA title as well, rolling nine strikes and leaving no empty frames in a truly clutch performance in the NCAA Championship match victory over Vanderbilt.
NU has seen three freshmen compete at a very high level so far this season, as freshmen Gazmine Mason, Briana Zabierek and redshirt freshman April Campbell have all spent time in the starting lineup this season.
According to Straub, it has been a long time since the Huskers have had a freshman start, but it is not something he is worried about.
“It is a rarity to start freshmen, and we haven’t done that in quite a while. It just happened to work here, we lost a player we didn’t figure we would be losing in Elise Bolton,” Straub said. “So we had to have somebody step in her place, so Gazmine and Briana and also April have done a nice job filling in.”
Straub also noted that he does not believe the stage will be too bright for the freshmen.
“I think they are pretty independent people. We don’t try and scare them with how big of an event this is,” Straub said. “They are pretty independent and confident in general. I think we will have to play it as it comes.”
Competition begins with qualifying rounds in which each team bowls one five-person regular team game against each of the other seven teams participating in the championship for a total of seven games. Teams will be seeded for bracket play based on their win-loss record during the qualifying rounds.
Friday’s competition will be best-of-seven-games Baker matches in a double elimination tournament. In the Baker format, each of the five team members, in order, bowls a complete frame until a complete (10-frame) game is bowled.
A Baker match tied 3½ games to 3½ games after seven games will be decided by a tiebreaker using the Modified Baker format.
The championship finals will air on ESPNU at 7 p.m. (Central) Saturday, April 12. A tape-delayed broadcast of the championship finals will air on ESPN from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, April 13.
Check back at Huskers.com for recaps of each day’s competition, as the Nebraska women’s bowling team looks to capture its 10th national championship.
1. Arkansas State
2. Central Missouri
4. Maryland-Eastern Shore
5. Fairleigh Dickinson
7. Sam Houston State