Julia Bond led the Huskers with an average of 212 in 2016-17, earning first-team All-America honors for the second year in a row.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

2016-17 Season Review: Huskers Post Runner-Up Finish in 2017

By NU Athletic Communications

The Nebraska bowling team reached the NCAA Championship match for the fifth-consecutive year in 2017, but fell just shy of its sixth NCAA title after McKendree took down the Cornhuskers in the final. NU won four tournaments in 2017, while finishing second in four more, ending the season with a head-to-head record of 93-26 to wrap up another outstanding year in the program's 20th season.

Head coach Bill Straub was voted National Tenpin Coaches Association Coach of the Year for a third time in 2017, to go along with honors he received in 2005 and 2013.

Four Huskers earned All-America honors this season, led by Julia Bond, who earned first-team All-America recognition for the second-consecutive season. Gazmine Mason earned third-team All-America honors for the third-straight season, while Kelly Belzeski and Meghan Straub earned All-America recognition for the first time, as the pair earned honorable mention honors.

Bond led the Huskers in 2017 with an average of 212, the seventh-highest single-season average in program history. Belzeski was second on the team with an average of 203.8, while freshman Raquel Orozco averaged a score of a 202.3 and Mason added an average of 201.2 on the year.

Bond and Belzeski each won individual tournament titles for the Huskers this season, as Bond finished first overall at the Crusader Classic in February with an average of 220, while Belzeski finished first at the Central Missouri Mid-America Invitational with an average of 226.6. Belzeski also posted the highest individual average at the NCAA Championship with a score of 217.6. In addition, Husker bowlers notched a total of 15 top-10 individual finishes this season.

Nebraska continued its strong work in the classroom, as 10 Huskers were named to the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll in the fall semester. The Huskers were also honored for their work in the community in 2017, as all 11 Husker bowlers were named to the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team.

Huskers Finish Second At NCAA Championship
Nebraska faced elimination in three matches and won each time on Saturday, April 15, to reach the NCAA Championship match for a fifth-consecutive season, but McKendree was too much as the Bearcats took down NU 4-0 in the final. The Huskers began the bracket rounds as the fourth seed and dropped their second-round match to McKendree, but NU took down Maryland Eastern Shore in a roll-off and then defeated Vanderbilt twice to reach the final. Nebraska went 4-3 in the qualifying rounds and was led by Kelly Belzeski, who finished first individually with an average of 217.6.

Straub Named NTCA Coach of the Year
Nebraska head coach Bill Straub was named National Tenpin Coaches Association Coach of the Year for the 2016-17 season, the third time he has received the honor in his 20-year career. Straub, who also earned the honor in 2005 and 2013, led Nebraska to a head-to-head record of 93-26 on the season, with four tournament titles and four more second-place finishes, including a national runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship.

Four Huskers Earn All-America Honors
Julia Bond was named first-team All-America, while Gazmine Mason earned third-team All-America honors and Kelly Belzeski and Meghan Straub garnered honorable mention All-America accolades for the 2016-17 season. Bond, who led the team with an average of 212 on the season, earned first-team accolades for the second-consecutive season after garnering third-team honors as a freshman in 2015. Mason earned third-team honors for the third season in a row after she posted a 201.2 average on the season. Belzeski and Straub both earn All-America honors for the first time, as Belzeski posted an average of 203.8, while Straub averaged a score of 198.7 on the year. Straub joins her mother, Kim (Berke) Straub, who was a four-time All-American at Nebraska from 1989-1992.

Morris Honored at “A Night at The Lied”
Nebraska redshirt freshman Allison Morris was honored with a Sam Foltz Hero 27 Leadership Award at Nebraska's student-athlete awards ceremony, “A Night at the Lied,” on Sunday. The award is named in honor of late former Husker punter Sam Foltz and presented to 27 student-athletes across all Nebraska's sports that exhibit strong leadership qualities, commitment to service and ability to encourage/empower peers. All 11 members of the Nebraska bowling team were selected to the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team for their work in the community.

Huskers Finish Second At Big Red Invitational
Nebraska finished second at its only home tournament of the season, falling to Arkansas State in seven games in the championship match at the Big Red Invitational the weekend of March 2-4. Gazmine Mason led the Huskers with an average of 229.6, as she finished fifth overall. Meghan Straub (7th-224), Julia Bond (9th-218.6) and Kelly Belzeski (10th-213.6) joined Mason in the top 10. NU's only loss on the weekend came in the championship match, and the Big Red posted the fifth-highest traditional average in program history with an average of 1,079.4.

Belzeski Leads Huskers to Mid-America Invite Title
Nebraska won its fourth tournament title of the season the weekend of Feb. 24-25 at the Central Missouri Mid-America Invitational. The Huskers went 9-1 on the weekend, with the only loss by one pin to No. 11 Central Missouri. NU posted a total pinfall of 10,450 on the weekend, led by Kelly Belzeski who won her first tournament title with an average of 226.6. Julia Bond finished second overall with an average of 226.4, while Meghan Straub rounded out an NU sweep of top three with an average of 200.

Huskers, Bond Take First Place at Crusader Classic
Nebraska won its third tournament in four tries at the Crusader Classic the weekend of Feb. 17-19, finishing 12-0 and taking down No. 2 Arkansas State in the championship match at Lakewood Bowl in Richton Park, Ill. Julia Bond finished first in the overall standings with a strong 220 average, earning her first tournament victory of the season and the fourth of her career. Kelly Belzeski recorded her first top-10 finish, finishing sixth with an average of 212.5. Briana Zabierek joined them in the top-10, finishing ninth overall with an average of 205.

Huskers Take Second at SFA Stormin' Ladyjack Invitational
Nebraska closed a solid weekend at the SFA Stormin' Ladyjack Invitational in Houston with a second-place finish and a 10-3 overall record the weekend of Feb. 10-12. Each of the three Husker losses on the weekend came at the hands of McKendree, including a 4-1 defeat in the championship match. Julia Bond posted her highest average of the season and the fourth-highest of her career with a dazzling 228 to finish second overall, while Gazmine Mason joined her in the top five, finishing fifth with an average of 219.

NU Wins Fifth-Consecutive Prairie View Invitational Crown
For the fifth year in a row, Nebraska left the Prairie View Invitational as tournament champions, winning the loaded invitational the weekend of Jan. 27-29 at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas. NU went 11-2 on the weekend, defeating 10 ranked teams along the way. The Huskers swept Vanderbilt in the championship match to claim the title. Gazmine Mason led the way for the Huskers, finishing eighth overall with an average of 202.7.

Huskers Win Mid-Winter Invitational Title
Nebraska picked up its first tournament title of the season, winning the Mid-Winter Invitational in Jonesboro, Ark., the weekend of Jan. 13-15. NU went 9-2 on the weekend, defeating six ranked teams in the process. The Mid-Winter Invitational field featured 10 ranked teams, including eight of the top-10 teams in the nation. Nebraska defeated McKendree in the opening round of the championship tournament, and then took down the Bearcats again in the final, 4-2. Meghan Straub paced the Huskers with an average of 210 to finish second overall, while Julia Bond was right behind with an average of 209.6 for a third-place finish.

Bond Wins U.S. Amateur Championship, Named to Team USA
Julia Bond was crowned United States Amateur Bowling Champion and was named to Team USA for the 2017 season after winning the women's U.S. Amateur final at the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials the week of Jan. 4-8 in Henderson, Nev. Bond finished fourth overall at the trials with 54 ranking points. Kayla Johnson, a Husker from 2010-2012, was also named to Team USA for the 2017 season by the National Selection Committee based on her performances throughout the week, while Shannon Pluhowsky, who competed for Nebraska from 2000-05, was selected by the National Selection Committee based on her submitted resume. Husker senior Gazmine Mason and junior Kelly Belzeski also competed at the trials.

Back to Back
Nebraska won back-to-back tournaments in January, finishing first at both the Mid-Winter Invitational (Jan. 13-15) and the Prairie View Invitational (Jan. 27-29). The back-to-back wins were the first for Nebraska since winning the Big Red Invitational and the TRACK Kat Klash in November and December of 2015. NU also won back-to-back tournaments with wins at the Crusader Classic (Feb. 17-19) and the Central Missouri Mid-America Invitational (Feb. 24-25). The latest back-to-back wins mark the 24th time in school history that NU has won multiple tournaments in a row. The program record is 13 tournament wins in a row, stretching from the 2004-05 season to the 2005-06 season.

NU Notches Third-Place Finish at Warhawk Invitational
Nebraska ended the 2016 calendar year with a third-place finish the weekend of Nov. 11-13 at the Warhawk Invitational in Kenosha, Wis. The Huskers went 9-3 on the weekend, defeating six ranked teams. NU entered the final day as the third seed, but was swept in the opening round of the championship tournament by Vanderbilt. The Huskers rebounded with a win over Sacred Heart to reach the third-place match, where the Big Red took down Vanderbilt in seven games. Meghan Straub led the Huskers with a 209.6 average, while Julia Bond posted a 209.2 average and Briana Zabierek added a 200 average.

Huskers Finish Second at KAT Klash
Nebraska posted a strong second-place finish at the KAT Klash the weekend of Nov. 4-6 at Emerald Lanes in Houston. NU went 9-1 over the first two days of competition, leading the tournament heading into the final day. The Huskers dropped their opening round match in the championship tournament, but rebounded with a win over Vanderbilt to reach the final. Sam Houston State defeated the Huskers by a score of 4.5-1.5 to win the title. NU went 10-3 overall during the tournament, defeating eight ranked teams. Gazmine Mason posted a 206.2 average to lead the Big Red.

Huskers Open Season with Fifth-Place Finish
Nebraska opened its season with a fifth-place finish at the Wildcat Invitational at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the weekend of Oct. 21-23. NU defeated Monmouth in the fifth-place match, one of three ranked teams the Huskers took down on the weekend. NU went 6-6 overall during the tournament.

Huskers Gain International Experience in 2016
Gazmine Mason and Julia Bond were selected to Junior Team USA for the 2016 season. Bond and Mason represented the United States at the 2016 World Bowling Youth Championships, held July 24-August 3 at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln. Freshman Raquel Orozco also competed at the tournament for her native Mexico. Mason earned gold medals in singles and all-events, silver in doubles and team-of-four and bronze in masters, while Bond earned silver medals in doubles and team-of-four and bronze in singles.

Kuhlkin Sets Record with Three-Game Series Score of 890
Lizabeth Kuhlkin, a Husker from 2011 to 2015, set a USBC women's record with a three-game series score of 890, which she bowled on Oct. 17 in the Reis Group Kim Brown Memorial League at Towne Bowling Academy in Schenectady, N.Y. Kuhlkin, a member of the Professional Women's Bowling Association, was a three-time All-American and the 2015 National Collegiate Player of the Year for the Big Red.

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