NCAA Bowling: Stephen F. Austin wins first NCAA Championship
NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- After playing this past season as the defending national runner-ups, Stephen F. Austin will play its next as the defending national champions.
The Ladyjacks were able to make runner-ups out of the previous defending champions, Nebraska, and used the sour taste of last season’s defeat as extra motivation to get the job done.
“We wanted to beat them more than anything because we knew what not beating them felt like,” SFA head coach Amber Lemke said.
Nebraska left the door open in the final game, failing to strike in the first four frames before the Ladyjacks fired off their second-longest consecutive perfect rally of the day with six strikes in a row.
“It puts some pressure on the opponents who now have to make some shots,” Lemke said. “That’s our theory always is to fill the frames and force the opponent to make the shots.”
SFA’s longest streak lasted twice as many frames, ranging from the middle of the second game to the beginning of the third. The 265 score that the Ladyjacks hurled in the third frame was the only pin total higher than the 247 final.
The surprising part of the Ladyjacks dominant performance in the final frame was its location. SFA put up scores of 160 and 164 in two previous games in the left lane, before throwing the 247 in the deciding seventh game.
Fully aware that the Ladyjacks would be forced to roll in the left lane again, Lemke brought her team aside before the final game for a quick meeting.
“We told them, you have to make the two best shots you’ve made the whole tournament if you want to win this,” Lemke said. “They’ve got to be the best ones of your life right now and that’s exactly what they did. Things were transitioning different on that lane, so we just made a little bit of a move and just said you got to believe that you can make the shots and the pins will fall.
“And that’s exactly what happened.”
Kiara Grant is a nursing major who, at times, was forced to miss road trips as classes dominated her busy schedule. The team wasn’t sure if Grant would be able to make the trip, but some extra study hours freed up enough space for her to participate.
Grant shot a school record 290 on Friday and was named Most Outstanding Player for her week in New Jersey.
“She was just clutch all week long,” Lemke said. “She had to make the most of her time when we had her and she really worked hard to make sure that we could use her all week and she really came through in the clutch.”
Grant is making sure to enjoy the night in North Brunswick because things may not be so much fun when she makes it back to classes in Nacogdoches, Texas.
“Next week, it’ll be rough,” Grant said. “But, I’m glad I came here.”