BATON ROUGE, La.—McKendree rolled its way to a strong start in qualifying play on the first day of action at the 2017 NCAA Women's Bowling Championships. The tournament is being held at the Raising Cane's River Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
All eight teams in the field competed in five round-robin traditional games to open the event on Thursday. McKendree, which earned its way into the field as the No. 2 at-large team, was the only squad to post a perfect record through the first five games. Vanderbilt is right behind the Bearcats with a 4-1 mark, while Stephen F. Austin and Fairleigh Dickinson are each tied in the pool-play standings at 3-2.
The eight squads will return to action Friday morning with two more qualifying matches. The standings from those seven contests will determine the seeding for the eight-team, double-elimination bracket tournament in Baker format that will begin Friday afternoon.
On Thursday, McKendree opened its day by facing Stephen F. Austin. The two teams traded leads throughout the contest, with the Bearcats finding themselves trailing by pins heading into the 10th frame. However, a strong final frame helped lift McKendree to a 947-942 victory.
Spurred by the come-from-behind effort, McKendree rolled past Arkansas State in the second contest, 1,022-975. The match was the 12th of the 2016-17 season between the two programs, with McKendree grabbing its seventh win over the RedWolves. The Bearcats' third contest of the day came against Maryland-Eastern Shore. The Bearcats had not defeated the Hawks in two previous meetings this season, but the third time proved to be the charm as McKendree battled its way to a 1,047-915 victory. The 132-pin margin was the largest of day one action for the Bearcats.
In its fourth match on Thursday, McKendree was paired against Sam Houston State. McKendree racked up its highest pin total of the session on its way to a 1,053-958 win in a battle of the Bearcats (Bearkats for Sam Houston State). McKendree then closed out its run on the opening day of the NCAA Championships with a 962-899 decision over Fairleigh Dickinson. That gave the Bearcats their fourth triumph this season against the Knights.
The final two rounds in qualifying is set to begin at 11:50 a.m. ET on Friday. McKendree will face Vanderbilt to start the day before closing out pool play against the No. 1 at-large team, Nebraska. Following a break for lane conditioning, the teams are slated to begin bracket play at 4:30 p.m. ET.