Kats strike out in national semifinals, championship hopes cut short

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The Sam Houston Bearkat bowling season ended on April 15 with a loss in the National Semifinals in Baton Rouge, LA.

SHSU entered the tournament ranked No. 4 in the nation and played in the qualifying rounds to determine tournament seeding. After competing in two days’ worth of matches, the Kats finished the qualifying round with a 1-6 record, placing the team as the eighth seed.

“We ended up as the eighth seed because we used the qualifying rounds to get comfortable at the facility and familiarize ourselves with the oil pattern,” junior Heather Penatzer said.  “The oil pattern is what makes the competition difficult, so using qualifying to experiment with what equipment worked and did not gave us important information.”

After the qualifying rounds, the Bearkats began match play on April 14 as they played matched up against the top-seeded McKendree. After losing to McKendree, the Bearkats played in a must-win match against Fairleigh Dickinson University. SHSU ran away with a 4-1 victory over FDU in a best-of-seven match, eliminating FDU from play.

“We started off too comfortable,” sophomore Madysen Keller said. “For the qualifying we were laid back, which should have been a different mindset so we could get a good seeding. When we got to our first match against McKendree, we still had the practicing mind set. Once we got to the FDU match, we realized that if we don’t win this game, we are going home. We came back to be the team we know we can be.”

Following the survive and advance situation, the Kats started off the next elimination day strong as they swept Arkansas State. The Bearkats scored five strikes in the first six games and took the win with a 4-0 record.

“The day started off very strong,” Keller said. “We swept Arkansas and eliminated them with four wins. That felt amazing, to still be in the competition.”

However, the Bearkats’ dreams of hoisting the National Championship trophy was cut short in the National Semifinals in a rematch against McKendree. After four games, SHSU trailed three games to one, but the team fought back and won consecutive matches to force a game seven. The Bearkats forced McKendree to the 10 frame before being eliminated from the competition, finishing in fourth place. McKendree went on to win the national title.

“All of us came together and stuck together as a team,” Keller said. “We really gave McKendree a run for their money. Obviously, we came up short in the end, but it was awesome just for us to get to that point in the competition. From doing so bad in the qualifying rounds to being placed in fourth is amazing. It isn’t what we wanted, but it’s nice to have a comeback as a team.”

With the season ending, the SHSU is expecting some incoming freshman as well as saying goodbye to seniors Randi Speiler and Janine Kuwahara. The team feels very confident about next season, as well sad to see familiar faces go.

“I think we are going to be stronger,” Keller said. “The freshman coming in look really good, one has a good hand and I’m really excited about that. At the same time, I’m sad to see our two seniors leave.”

The Bearkat bowling team can now rest for next season and they will look to make another deep run in the national tournament for the fifth consecutive season.