April 8, 2010

Special to NCAA.com

NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Seven games, or 70 frames, are a lot in one day - even for bowlers who like the sport and are already conditioned to endure long days at any alley. Not surprisingly, energy levels sagged during the first day of the NCAA Women's Bowling Championship - and so did the scores.

Cassandra Leuthold, a Nebraska senior from Black Hawk, S.D., had four games of 206 or better in the first five games of an eight-team qualifying round-robin tournament Thursday. In her last two games, she rolled a 173 and a 160. She still was the fourth-best individual bowler of the day, with a seven-game pinfall of 1,486, but she said she struggled to the finish.

"I've been here at Nationals for the past three years," she said Thursday night, "and this is a new format for everyone. It is a really long day which requires endurance, and, unfortunately, I kind of went a little bit downhill in the last two games. I'm dealing with a back injury, and I'm probably borderline hypoglycemic, but regardless I needed a little more energy out there at the end of the day."

The eight teams entered get a little break Friday at Brunswick Zone Carolier Lanes, as the tournament moves to double-elimination match play. No team will roll more than four games on Friday. The Baker system, in which each of a school's five bowlers rotate to roll two frames apiece in a 10-frame game, probably will ease the burden.

What is to be determined is how heavy a burden Thursday's round-robin will turn out to be. Delaware State rolled a team total of 777 in its last match of a long day, against Nebraska, which earned the No. 1 seed. The Cornhuskers, which won all seven of its matches Thursday, had a team total of 883 in the match, their lowest total of the day by 92 pins.

"It's not just physical endurance, because one of the things that I teach is the fundamental aspects of the game, and I think if you're more fundamentally prepared, the better you will perform under pressure," said Justin Kostick, whose Arkansas State team was second to Nebraska in the qualifying round-robin.

"I compare it to a Jerry Rice scenario," Kostick said, referring to the retired San Francisco 49ers receiver. "Jerry Rice used to find out someone else's workout and take it one step further. I try to do the same thing with our players. Whatever other teams do, I try to take our team one step further."

Arkansas State lost its fifth match of the day to New Jersey City University, the host team, but beat Vanderbilt and Maryland-Eastern Shore in its last two matches to earn the second seed. In the qualifying round at the 2009 NCAA championships in Canton, Mich., Arkansas State finished in last place in pinfall among eight teams.

Last year, Arkansas State had to play the top qualifier, Nebraska, in the first round of the double-elimination tournament and lost the best-of-seven match under the Baker system, four games to three. Vanderbilt then eliminated Arkansas State from the tournament, 4-3. As the second seed this year, Arkansas State faces Delaware State in the first round, a more favorable match-up.

"I think it sets up everything," Central Missouri coach Ron Holmes, whose team lost to Nebraska in the title match last year but qualified eighth on Thursday, said of facing Nebraska in the first round Friday.

"If you can win that first match," Holmes said, "you put yourself in pretty good shape to at least get your feet underneath you. If you can survive that first match, it works well for you. Otherwise, you have to scramble to get to the final."