North Brunswick, N.J. – The Nebraska bowling team battled back from a 3-2 deficit to force a game seven in the 2016 National Collegiate Bowling Championship match, but it was not enough as Stephen F. Austin took down the Huskers, 4-3, to claim the NCAA title Saturday night at Brunswick Zone Carolier Bowl in North Brunswick, N.J.
The Huskers finished the season with a match record of 100-34, and fell just short in their attempt to claim back-to-back national championships, after defeating Stephen F. Austin in the 2015 NCAA championship match.
“The opposition didn’t give us many chances tonight," Nebraska Coach Bill Straub said. "(Stephen F. Austin) did an excellent job. There’s nothing holding me back from giving credit for what they did. They did an excellent job."
The Huskers started the match with a pair of strikes from Briana Zabierek and Bethany Hedley. After an open frame, Gazmine Mason, Julia Bond and Zabierek hit three strikes in a row to put the Huskers in front. In the 10th frame, Bond hit a pair clutch strikes in a row to give the Huskers the game, 205-176.
In the second game, Hedley and Melanie Crawford hit back to back strikes in the early going before Zabierek and Hedley matched the feat in the sixth and seventh frame to spur the Big Red. Stephen F. Austin’s anchor and NTCA Bowler of the Year Stephanie Schwartz closed out the game with three strikes in the 10th frame as the Ladyjacks took the game by a score of 238-198.
The Huskers came out firing on all cylinders in game three, as Zabierek, Hedley and Crawford led off with strikes, but Stephen F. Austin hit strikes with its first six bowlers to jump out to an early lead. NU closed the match with six consecutive strikes, including three from Bond, but could not overcome SFA’s hot start, falling 265-242 in a high-scoring contest.
Down two games to one, the Huskers took advantage of three consecutive open frames by Stephen F. Austin in game four. NU closed the game on six consecutive strikes from Hedley, Crawford, Mason and Bond to win 227-164, setting up a best-of-three race to the finish.
The Huskers left just one frame open in game five, but SFA used a complete performance to win the game 196-187 and take a 3-2 lead.
With their backs against the wall, the Huskers responded with six consecutive strikes to open game six. After an open frame, Crawford hit a clutch spare after just hitting seven pins on her first throw. Mason hit a strike to close out the match and force a game seven, with the Huskers taking game six, 237-160.
In the decisive game seven, Stephen F. Austin hit six strikes in a row to take the game, 247-192, and the match, 4-3. The Huskers left just one frame open, but hit only three strikes in the final game.
Bond and Mason earned spots on the all-tournament team for their performance at the tournament.
The Huskers have now posted runner-up finishes in two of the last three seasons.
“We tell the kids, ‘You want to walk away from every event you play where you can stare in the mirror and be satisfied with who’s staring back at you,’ said Straub. "That’s the objective every event we play, and I think we can walk away from this one like that. Throughout the season we were ranked No. 1 or very close to it, and we just got hit by a buzz saw today."