The Nebraska bowling team returns to the lanes for the 2013-14 in search of its fifth NCAA championship.
The Huskers will take aim at back-to-back NCAA crowns for the second time in school history. Nebraska, which claimed the first two NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005 before adding a third crown in 2009, are coming off another championship season in 2013.
Nebraska, which begins the pursuit of its 10th overall national title under legendary coach Bill Straub, will feature a young but experienced lineup to the lanes in 2013-14.
Straub, who will try to lead the Huskers to their 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, said the Huskers have plenty of work to do to put themselves in position for another championship run.
“I think we are in a real nice position,” Straub said. “We are fortunate to start the season as defending champions with only one graduating senior from last year. We have a lot of young people, but a lot of experience, too. With the people that are returning, it puts you in a more favorable position rather than starting from scratch. We have people who know what it takes to win and have experience doing so. Hopefully that will carry over.”
Junior Lizabeth Kuhlkin headlines the list of experienced Huskers in 2013-14. Kuhlkin, a returning first-team NTCA All-American and MVP of the NCAA Championships, will work to provide solid leadership for this year’s group of Nebraska bowlers.
“She is a solid individual and a terrific player, proven again this past summer, as she earned a spot on the Junior US National Team with her excellent performance at the Junior Gold Tournament,” Straub said.” We are most fortunate to have Liz as the anchor on the team. “
Three other returning bowlers will provide extensive NCAA championship experience for the Huskers this season. Senior Yan Ling, junior Andrea Ruiz and sophomore Bethany Hedley all played significant roles in Nebraska’s run to the 2013 national title.
Ling, a Singapore native, returns after being the relief bowler for much of the 2012-13 season. Ling excelled in the role, providing several crucial strikes in the NCAA championship match. Although Straub loved what Ling brought to the team off the bench, he believes Ling could be a starter in 2013-14.
“We wouldn’t be talking about last year’s national championship without Yan’s help,” Straub said. “She has been the best relief pitcher we have ever had, and she has just done a terrific job. This year, I don’t know if we will have the benefit of having her come out of the bullpen, because she may start. Either way I am certain she is a very valuable asset to our team.”
Junior Andrea Ruiz hopes to take her game to a higher level in 2013-14 after producing a memorable breakthrough season for the Huskers in 2013-14. A member of the Colombian National Team, Ruiz was a starter for the Huskers throughout her sophomore campaign. She will look to expand her game and improve her skills and consistency to fuel Nebraska’s NCAA title hopes.
“She was a solid starter throughout the year without a lot of expectations on her last year,” Straub said. “But now after having such a solid year, expectations for her are high. In her case, I think her confidence level is high as well. We are real glad she is a member of our team.”
Sophomore Bethany Hedley hopes to build on an outstanding freshman season. Hedley, a member of Junior Team England, was a starter for the Huskers as a freshman and a significant piece of Nebraska’s championship puzzle.
“I think her previous international experience has served her well,” Straub said. “She could be very good here for the coming years.”
Senior Amanda Burau is coming off a debilitating injury last spring to fight for playing time as she completes her recovery. Redshirt freshmen Alexandra Mosquera, April Campbell, and Emily Nykiel will join Amanda in using their time with the program to aid the returnees in their run for what hopefully will be back-to-back National Championships.
In addition to the returning Huskers with championship experience, three newcomers will battle for playing time as freshmen. Jessica Eberly, Gazmine Mason and Briana Zabierek will all look to compete immediately for the Big Red.
The Huskers open the 2013-14 schedule on the road at the Crusader Classic in Valparaiso, Ind., Nov. 8-10, before playing host to the Big Red Invitational at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nov. 21-23. Straub said he was excited to be back hosting a tournament this season, after the Huskers were unable to host an event in 2012-13.
“We are glad to give the spectators a chance to see what we are doing. They support us so well,” Straub said. “When we can give something back to them, we think it is to our advantage.”
The tournament well mark the end of fall competition for the Huskers before the season begins to take on another level of intensity in January.
After well over a month off from competition for the holidays, Nebraska will travel to the McKendree invitational in St.Louis, Mo., Jan. 11-12. The Huskers will then travel to the Mid-Winter Classic in Jonesboro, Ark., Jan. 17-19.
With a quick week off of competition, NU will then travel to the Prairie View A&M Invitational in Arlington, Texas, Jan. 31-Feb. 2. The Huskers will be looking to repeat as tournament team champions for the second year in a row.
Two weeks later, Nebraska will be back in Texas for the Track Kat Klash. The tournament, which is hosted by Sam Houston State, will be held Feb. 14-16.
The Central Missouri Invitational in Kansas City, Mo., will be the next stop on what the Huskers hope to be a journey to another NCAA title. Nebraska swept the field in the competition last year, and will hope for similar results in the 2014 edition of the tournament Feb. 28-March 1.
The Huskers will conclude the regular season at the Music City Classic in Nashville, Tenn. The tournament, which annually serves as a preview of the NCAA Championships, is hosted by 2013 NCAA runner-up Vanderbilt, March 7-9.
The Huskers hope their journey through the 2013-14 season ends with their 11th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament with a chance to contend for their fifth NCAA title at Wickliffe Lanes in Cleveland, Ohio, April 10-12.