NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The first day of the elimination rounds of the 2016 NCAA bowling championships brought out the best in some teams, while tearing the hearts out of others.
Saturday’s matches were filled with tales of resiliency, and there are few more difficult than the sixth and final game of the match between Central Missouri and Arkansas State that sent the Jennies home in the final frame.
Not so many lanes away from UCM’s painful finish, the second round provided a glimpse into the true nature of a McKendree squad that proved it would not go down without a fight.
After a last place finish in the preliminary round, the bottom-seeded Bearcats sent the top-seeded Bearkats (Sam Houston State) to the elimination bracket; even after falling into a 3-2 hole in the series. McKendree came back to win and set up a meeting with NTCA Division I National Player of the Year Stephanie Schwartz and Stephen F. Austin.
The Ladyjacks sprinted out to a three-game lead on the Bearcats, but once again McKendree refused to yield. The fourth game for McKendree began with an onslaught of perfect frames that was halted by a spare in the eighth frame.
The Bearcats finished with a 268 in the round and set the tone for another two wins that would eventually force a deciding seventh game.
“We knew we had to come and just make good shots,” McKendree anchor Jessica Mellott said. “We just believed in what our coaches were telling us and we had to come out and give it our all and believe in it and just let the ball do the work because if you force it you’re just going to get bad breaks.”
The Ladyjacks were not asleep at the wheel when McKendree marched back into contention, but actually broke a three-year old program record with a 1,207 total score for a team game.
SFA was forced to endure a seventh frame and before the Ladyjacks even needed to start leaning on their anchor, Kiara Grant and Carly Larson were able to set the stage.
“It’s really good when you can have someone set you up,” Schwartz said. “So Carly set me up and it’s really good to get a double.”
Not to be out-done, the Bearkats answered back with their own streak of perfect frames but ultimately fell short against the Ladyjacks.
“We’ve bowled them before and we went up 3-0 and they came back firing the same way they did right now,” Schwartz said. “So we knew they’d come back fighting and that we needed to do our best and figure it out.”
McKendree will be facing Arkansas State in an elimination match in the next round. The Bearcats team that has lived with its back against the wall thus far should provide an excellent source of entertainment when the stakes are raised on Saturday morning.