Nebraska wins fourth NCAA title after defeating Vanderbilt in seven games
CANTON, Mich. -- Nebraska put the finishing touches on a dominant week at the NC Bowling Championship on Saturday, defeating Vanderbilt at the Canton Super Bowl to clinch its fourth national title.
But it was hardly easy.
The match went into seven grueling games. Only Nebraska’s clinching 246 was above 215.
In the end, the Huskers were victorious 4.5-2.5.
Nebraska grabbed the early lead with a 211-199 win in the opening game, but Vanderbilt answered with a 197-186 win in Game 2. The Commodores continued with a 169-156 win in Game 3. The two teams then split the fourth game 190-190, before Nebraska roared back with consecutive victories in the sixth (196-189) and seventh (246-200) games.
“We were fighting with a swizzle stick in a war out there,” Nebraska head coach Bill Straub said. “Fortunately, shot-making and staying calm gave us a chance to fight back. Then when we got lined up, it got -- kind of easy.”
Straub said it was another case of preparation in September paying off in March.
“We were just so fortunate to have a bunch of girls who work their tails off on fundamentals over and over and over again and couple that with the fact that they were clutch when it mattered most.”
Through the match’s first six games, strikes were hard to come by, then came the seventh game. In a match where there were just two three-baggers thrown through the first six games, the Huskers managed to throw a six-bagger to clinch the match.
Sophomore anchor bowler Liz Kuhlkin -- bowling on television for the first time -- threw the last of those strikes.
“Just from the beginning, we were too far left, so coach and I talked about changing balls and moving a little further right. Once I made that move and got the nerves out of my system, everything was great.”
The honor of the clinching shot went to senior Kristina Mickelson, who came back from a broken arm that she suffered at the beginning of the season. Up until throwing that clinching strike, Mickelson had thrown only two the entire match.
“I was doing what I wanted and it wasn’t working,” Mickelson said. “Then I would make an adjustment and something would go wrong, then I would focus on that and fix it, then something would go wrong the next time.
“I finally figured it out, then I wasn’t carrying, then it carried when it mattered most, which is all I care about.”
The Huskers finished the qualifying round at 5-2 and as the top seed with three bowlers in the top five in the individual standings. Mickelson led, averaging nearly 225, with Kuhlkin second at nearly 220. Elsie Bolton was fifth at a shade more than 210.
In the bracketed Baker-style match-play session Friday, the Huskers went unbeaten, defeating pre-tournament top-seed Central Missouri 3-1, 2012 national champion Maryland-Eastern Shore 3-1 and Arkansas State 3-1.
Vanderbilt’s improbable run fell one win short.
“They were better at spare shooting than we were,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “Nebraska handled the lights and the enviornment better than we did. We threw some pretty good first shots that left nine-counts. With a little luck, we may have been there.”