For those that know me, they realize that I'm a softy for Bill Straub and the Nebraska Women's Bowling team. The 2013-14 season comes to an end this weekend as the team makes their way to Ohio for the NCAA Championships.
NCAA Women's Bowling Championships
When: Thursday through Saturday evening.
Where: Game of Wickliffe, Wickliffe Ohio. The tourney is hosted by the Mid-American Conference. Yes folks, MACtion.
Teams involved: Nebraska, Central Missouri, Arkansas State, Maryland- Eastern Shore, Fairleigh Dickinson, Vanderbilt, Sam Houston State, Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Thursday: All 8 teams bowl each other in traditional 5-person games. Seeding for Match Play comes down to win/loss records, with total pinfall being the tiebreaker.
Friday: Match play begins. Double elimination, Baker Style matches where 5 bowlers bowl 10 total frames. Matches are Best of 7, with a 5 frame Modified Baker tiebreaker if matches are tied at 3.5 each. Match play can go into Saturday morning if necessary.
Saturday: Championship Match. The match will be carried live on ESPNU. It will be a Best of 7 match, also following the 5 frame Modified Baker Format if the match ties at 3.5. Whomever wins this match will be National Champions.
The Nebraska storyline:
If there was a season that makes you wonder what HC Bill Straub has created in the East Union in Lincoln, this season was the answer. Just after January of this season, Straub was rushed to the hospital with cardiac issues. Ever since then, assistant Paul Klempa has been in charge of the entire program up to this week when Straub returned to the program on a part-time basis. The team has been just as strong after the New Year under Klempa's leadership with victories at the Prairie View A&M Invite in Arlington, the Central Missouri Invite in KC, and 3rd place spots in the Mid-Winter Classic at Arkansas State, and the Track Kat Clash near Houston, hosted by Sam Houston State.
Nebraska is one of about 3 true favorites that you look at in this tournament. However, as we just found out in the NCAA Tourney when a 8 seed was cutting down the nets, almost anything else can happen. If the Huskers can find a way to win this tournament and go back-to-back, it could quite possibly be the final, ecstatic celebration in Straub's outstanding career.
Leading this team is Liz Kuhlkin, who is a first team NTCA All-American and last year's NCAA Tourney Most Valuable Bowler. Along with Kuhlkin, Senior Yan Ling, who almost single-handedly kept the Huskers in their National Title match last year vs. Vanderbilt, will be the 2 upper classmen leading Nebraska's title hopes. Nebraska is young also, with three Freshmen helping the cause in Gazmine Mason, Briana Zabierek and April Campbell all contributing this year.
Other teams to watch:
Arkansas State: The RedWolves, led by former Nebraska Men's Club player Justin Kostick, have been better through the season than the Huskers. Winning the Track Kat Clash, their own Mid-Winter Invite and the Crusader Classic, Arkansas State has lived on top of both the National Tenpins Coaches Association poll and Media poll at the end of the season.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores, who Nebraska defeated last year in the Title tilt, just won the final big tourney in Nashville right before the Championships. Even though that was a full month ago, the way John Williamson seems to get his team ready to go makes you worry. The fact that his 2 assistants are members of Team USA (including former Lincoln-ite Rob Gotchall) means VU could take the crown.
Central Missouri: Scoring a vicory in the Big Red Invite at Sun Valley Lanes along with the Bethune Cookman Invite, the Jennies have shown the ability to do well when necessary. Ron Holmes has gotten three top five finishes from his teams, and they are due for a title since their last one was the year before the NCAA counted the title in 2003.
Maryland-Eastern Shore: The MEAC champions does a lot more bowling than most NCAA teams because the Hawks also compete in USBC Intercollegiate Bowling Tourneys still. UMES won both the NCAA title and USBC IBC's team title a couple years ago, and they know how to win.