New Brunswick, N.J. – In one of the closest games in NCAA history, the Nebraska bowling team fell 4-3 to Fairleigh Dickinson University at the 2010 NCAA Championship tournament on Saturday night. The Huskers, who finished second at the 2010 NCAA Championships, fell only pins short of capturing back-to-back NCAA titles.
NU and FDU were evenly matched throughout the finals and were forced to head into the seventh game for just the second time in NCAA finals history. The Huskers, who had never lost a match in the finals prior to the 2010 NCAA Championships, held an 11-2 record over the tournament.
Fairleigh Dickinson was a powerhouse throughout the entire tournament, earning a spot in the finals after going undefeated in Friday’s bracket play. Nebraska’s journey to the finals was anything but easy. The Huskers defeated Vanderbilt in the first round of bracket play, but were sent to the elimination bracket by Fairleigh Dickinson early on Friday. NU worked its way back through the elimination bracket to notch a spot in the finals.
Following the Baker-style fomat, Nebraska started sophomore Valerie Calberry in the first and sixth frames, junior Jasmine Laugerman in the second and seventh frames, junior Danielle van der Meer in the third and eighth frames, junior Katie Ann Sopp in the fourth and ninth frames and senior Cassandra Leuthold in the anchor position.
The Huskers got off to a tough start in the opening game, falling to Fairleigh Dickinson, 166-209. Calberry started NU off in the first game, picking up a spare in the first frame, while Laugerman and van der Meer picked up two more spares in the second and third frames. However, Fairleigh Dickinson threw two strikes and a spare in the first three frames to go up 12 pins on Nebraska. Sopp stepped up for the Huskers in the fourth frame, rolling a strike for the Huskers. Leuthold capped the first five frames of the game with another spare, but the Huskers trailed FDU by 10 pins half-way through the game. Up until the seventh frame, neither the Huskers nor the Knights rolled an open frame; however, Laugerman had tough luck with hooking the headpin in the sixth and had to force a split. The Brooklyn Center, Minn., native was forced to leave two pins, before van der Meer left another two pins in the eighth frame. Leuthold rolled a spare and knocked down another eight in the tenth frame, but her efforts were not enough to overcome strong bowling by FDU and the Huskers went down 0-1 early in the final match.
Despite an early 0-1 deficit, the Huskers made a huge
comeback in game two, rallying together to tie the series at 1-1. Fairleigh
Dickinson took a commanding lead early in the second game, up by more than 20
pins at different times in the game. However, strikes by Sopp and Leuthold
closed the gap in frames four and five, putting the Huskers down by only three
pins. Fairleigh Dickinson was up again in the eighth frame by 20 pins, but
strikes by van der Meer and Sopp put the Huskers down by 10 heading into the 10th
frame. Leuthold proved her NTCA Player of the year status, notching two strikes
in the 10th for the Husker win.
With the game tied at 1-1, the Huskers were up just three pins midway through the third game. Nebraska Coach Bill Straub subbed redshirt freshman and Nebraska native Kristina Mickelson for Laugerman in the third game. Mickelson was a huge payoff for the Huskers, as she did not roll one open frame during the finals. Calberry came out again with a huge strike to put the Huskers ahead by 13 pins in the third game. Up by 12 pins heading into the 10th frame, Leuthold demonstrated stellar leadership as she pushed the Huskers forward to a 213-203 victory in the third game. Te Huskers led the series 2-1 as they moved into the fourth game.
Even with the momentum change in the third game, the Huskers were unable to keep the 2-1 lead and fell to the Knights in the fourth game. However, the Huskers came out swinging in the fifth game and took a 3-2 lead over the Knights.
The Huskers and the Knights were evenly matched throughout the sixth game, but the Huskers fell short and FDU tied the series at 3-3 heading into the seventh and final game.
As the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Huskers got the lane choice in the seventh frame. However, NU struggled in game seven and FDU was up 169-145 in the eighth frame. With little hope to win, the Huskers subbed out Leuthold at anchor in the 10th frame and put in senior captain and Nebraska native Kaleena Henning to bowl. Although Henning rolled a spare, FDU was too much for the Huskers in the 10th and captured the 2010 NCAA title.
The end of the 2010 season marks the end of an era for two Husker bowlers, as seniors Leuthold and Henning will exhaust their time at Nebraska. Leuthold, who captured the 2010 NCAA Player of the Year award, and Henning, a two-time captain for the Husker squad, have provided valuable leadership and skill to the Nebraska bowling program for several seasons.
Since bowling became an NCAA-sanctioned sport in 2004, the Huskers have captured three NCAA titles, one runner-up finish and two third-place finishes.