Lincoln, Neb.- The No. 1 rated Nebraska bowling team started its weekend of competition off at the Big Red Invitational held in Lincoln at Sun Valley Lanes Thursday evening. The Huskers competed in five matches, compiling a 3987 total pinfall, placing the Huskers second behind Central Missouri University (4144) in the eight team field.
Leading the way for the Huskers was returning NTCA All-American Liz Kuhlkin. Kuhlkin, a junior, helped the Huskers to a 199.35 team average. Kuhlkin was happy with the team’s performance, noting that it was nice to see all the fans come out and support the team.
"It was really exciting, I was really pleased with how many people came out and supported us." Kuhlkin said, "I thought our team performed really well, we just couldn't quite close out Central Missouri at the end. I think we did a good enough job that it can carry us thorughout the weekend."
The Huskers came roaring out the gate in their first match against sixth ranked Sam Houston State, as NU used six opening strikes to take an early lead on the Bearkats. Sam Houston State did not go down lightly, as they strung together two strikes in-a-row to help gain some ground back on the Huskers. Kuhlkin made sure the Huskers took game one though, recording a strike and nine pins in the 10th and final frame, giving the Huskers a total pinfall of 235 in game one of their opening match.
After switching lanes, the Bearkats regained their groove—catching fire in the second game of the match. Sam Houston State opened up with three spares and a strike through five frames of the second game, as NU left two open frames through five frames. The Huskers were not out for the count though, as redshirt freshman April Campbell, sophomore Beth Hedley and juniors Andrea Ruiz and Kuhlkin each recorded strikes in the final five frames to give the Huskers a 449-313 total pinfall lead after two games.
In game three, Nebraska cooled down a little bit, recording five open frames compared to only three open frames by SHS. Even with the cool stretch, the Huskers took a 607-480 pinfall lead into the final game. NU used a great team performance in the fourth and final game versus SHS, recording four straight spares and two strikes to give the Huskers a total pinfall of 786 after their first match. After their first match of the night, NU was fourth overall going into their second match versus Valparaiso University.
Once again the Huskers used a strong opening game versus the Crusaders, recording six strikes and three spares, giving NU a total pinfall of 225 in the first game of the second match. Nebraska took a tournament leading pinfall of 1011 going into game two versus Valparaiso. In the second game versus the Crusaders, Kuhlkin reminded the Husker faithful why she earned MVP honors in the 2013 NCAA Bowling National Championship, recording four strikes in the second game, giving the Huskers a total pinfall of 1183.
NU once again got hot in the third game versus Valparaiso, leaving no open frames left on the lanes. The Huskers were led by Kuhlkin who recorded a strike and two spares in the game, giving the Huskers the top total pinball of 1387 going into their last game versus the Crusaders. In Nebraska’s final game versus Valpo, the Huskers used nine strikes to compile a dominating total pinfall of 1610.
In their third match, NU faced off against the McKendree Bearcats of Lebanon, Ill., in the St. Louis metro. The Huskers once again used a valiant team effort, recording five strikes and four spares and only one open frame to add to their already impressive total pinball count. Nebraska went into their second game versus the Bearcats with a 1812 total pinfall count. In the second game, NU left no open frames, recording five strikes and six spares giving the Huskers a comfortable lead with 2017 total pinfall.
Nebraska again had a solid start in their third game vs. the Bearcats, rolling four strikes and a spare to open the game. NU closed out the third game recording four spares and a strike to record a tournament leading 2217 total pinball. In the fourth and final game against the Bearcats, NU tallied four spares and four strikes to give the Huskers a four point lead with 2398 total pinfall.
With only a four point lead going into their fourth match of the night, the Huskers needed four clutch games against national power Arkansas State to maintain their lead. In game one, NU was led by Hedley and Kuhlkin, who each recorded two strikes each in the first game versus the Red Wolves. The Huskers ended the first game with 2611 total pinfall. In the second game, true freshman Gazmine “GG” Mason recorded two strikes for the Huskers, as NU ended up with 2813 total pinfall, placing them second overall in the tournament.
The third game versus Arkansas State brought another great team performance, as the Huskers opened up with four straight spares and a strike. NU continued its momentum, racking up five more strikes with two spares, giving the Huskers a total pinfall of 3027. Nebraska again used a strong team performance in the fourth game versus the Red Wolves, adding to their pinfall for a total of 3221.
The final match of the day came between the two top teams in the tournament, as the Huskers faced off with Central Missouri University. The Jennies had the total pinfall lead going into the final match with 3326 compared to Nebraska’s 3221. Kuhlkin yet again led the Huskers in the first game against the Jennies, recording two strikes and a spare to help the Huskers to a total pinfall mark of 3406. In game two, Central Missouri came out firing on all cylinders, recording four straight strikes, with five total in the game. After Kuhlkin added three more strikes in the 10th frame, NU had a total pinfall of 3596 heading into the third game of the match.
A cold stretch once again hit the Huskers during the third game, as NU recorded three open frames in the game. Nebraska regained its mojo on the lanes, as the Huskers finished off the game with five straight strikes including three from Kuhlkin to give NU a total pinfall of 3795. In their final game of the night, the Huskers opened strong with three straight strikes in the hopes to catch the tournament leading UCM Jennies. NU put up a strong fight, only to finish of day one of competition second. The Huskers lost to the Jennies 4144-3987 after a strong first day performance.
The Nebraska bowling team will be back in action at the Big Red Invitational Friday morning at 9 a.m. (Central), at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln. NU will again compete in five matches Friday before the final day of competition on Saturday morning. Check back here at Huskers.com for updates following each day of competition.