Act like they've been there before
No shortage of title-winning pedigree in championship field
When you take a look at the list of teams vying for the 2013 NC Bowling Championship beginning Thursday at Super Bowl Lanes in Canton, Mich., two-time defending national champion Maryland-Eastern Shore is sure to grab your attention.
And it should. After all, the Hawks are two-time defending national champions and have won 10 tournaments this season. What's more, they haven't finished worse than second in any event they've competed in this year.
"We are honored to be the second overall selection," head coach Kristina Frahm said. "I do feel, however that we have a top team and I think our experiences can help us make a serious run at winning another national championship.
"Obviously, we are looking for a three-peat."
Look a bit further at the team list and you'll notice that the field includes every school that has won the national championship since its inception in 2004.
Current NTCA No. 1 Nebraska won the first two championships in 2004 and '05 and the Huskers hoisted the hardware again in 2009. The Huskers, like the Hawks, have participated in every national championship tournament. This season's Huskers, however, sport a bit of a different look than in years past. The team boasts just one senior, team leader Kristina Mickelson, who suffered a cracked elbow in a car accident in September and has seen limited action this season.
"She's pretty gritty," head coach Bill Straub said. "She's been wearing herself out with applications of Icy-Hot. She's had a restrictor on her elbow to kind of keep things tight so it's not too troublesome for her, but she just grits her teeth and plays along.
"It's been a tough year for her, but not through lack of effort."
Mickelson's roommate, sophomore Liz Kuhlkin, has been more than a pleasant surprise this season, Straub said. She's earned spots on four different All-Tournament teams this season.
"Surprised might be too strong, but certainly well-pleased," Straub said of Kulikin. "She's worked her tail off to try to help us out as best she can and she's just continuing to develop as a player and she's turned into quite an excellent one."
Central Missouri is ranked No. 2 in the country and enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed after snagging three tournament titles. The Jennies are led by senior Natalie Jimenez, who has averaged 209.60 this season while garnering a pair of Most Outstanding Player honors, including one at the McKendree Duals where she averaged more than 239.
Vanderbilt lost to UMES in the championship game in 2011. Last year in Cleveland, the Commodores lost to Fairleigh Dickinson in the last semifinal match. This year, Vandy will make its eighth trip to the championship tournament.
Head coach John Williamson says while it may seem differently, his team's consistency has not come easily.
"Because we have had a nice run of success, it might be tempting for some fans to think this is easily attained but anyone closely following the regular season can attest that there are more quality teams than ever before and some very good teams were not chosen."
Just as Nebraska, the Commodores come to the championship with just one senior starter -- Jessica Earnest, a three-time All-American who averaged 207 in team games and 212 in Baker contests.
Expect Vanderbilt to rely heavily on its underclassmen, including freshman Robyn Renslow, who often bowled in the anchor spot thanks to her 208.5 average Another freshman, lefty Amanda Fry, averaged 210 was the Most Outstanding Player at the Sam Houston State Track Kat Klash.
Fairleigh Dickinson, which lost to UMES in last year's final and won titles in 2006 and '10, is back again as the eighth and final seed.
“I am so proud of this team,” head coach Mike LoPresti said. “Now we have a new life and a second season. We went through a lot of transitions this year with a combination of a few veterans and a lot of new players. We're so happy to extend the season because we have made so many improvements, and now we get to put it all together on the nation's biggest stage.”
One of those key veterans for the Knights is senior Danielle McEwen, last year's NTCA Division I Bowler of the Year. McEwen appears poised for more honors in Detroit. She averages 216.52 with a strike percentage of 54.65. In January, earned the individual championship at the USBC Team USA Trials for the second consecutive year. As a result, McEwan will be the sole US representative at the QubicaAMF World Cup and will be a member of Team USA during the calendar year.
For right now, however, McEwen is focused on enjoying this week.
"It's not enough for me just to make it, especially in my senior year," she said. I want to ... go into nationals with a different mindset and hopefully come out with a better outcome.”
As for those defending champion Hawks, they are led by Colombian left-hander Anggie Ramirez. Recently named a finalist for the International Bowling Media Association College Bowler of the Year, Ramirez averaged nearly 213 during the regular season and earned MEAC Bowler of the Year, All-MEAC First-Team, MEAC Championship MVP and MEAC All-Tournament Team awards. She was also named the conference's Bowler of the Week six times.
"It was always my dream since I was MEAC Rookie of the Year to be MEAC Player of the Year. Now that I won this and MVP of the tournament, I am so happy that my dream could come true," Ramirez said.
Competition begins with qualifying rounds on Thursday, in which each team bowls one five-person regular team game against each of the other seven teams participating in the championship for a total of seven games.
Bracket play begins Friday morning, as teams will be seeded based on Thursday’s record during team qualifying. Teams will then compete in best-of-seven-games Baker matches in a double-elimination tournament.
In the Baker format, each of the five team members, in order, bowls a complete frame until a complete (10-frame) game is bowled. A Baker match tied 3½ games to 3½ games after seven games will be decided by a tiebreaker using the Modified Baker format.