I was going to pore over every single word of information I could find on the bowling team anyways, so why not fill y’all in while I’m at it right? In case anyone is unaware, this team is coming off a season that ended in a national championship thanks in a big way to NCAA Championship MVP Jennifer Loredo. So far this season they’ve played in four tournaments: the Warhawk Classic, Destination Orlando, the MOTIV Ladyjack Classic, and the Hawk Classic. The ‘Dores have placed top 3 in all four tournaments and won the Warhawk Classic.
I’ll get into tournament-by-tournament results in just a second, but first I want to bring attention to what I have to assume is the biggest story in collegiate bowling this year: Jacksonville State. This is the school’s first ever year sponsoring bowling, and so far the Gamecocks have placed second, first, and first in their program’s only three tournaments ever. We have faced them three times across two different tournaments and lost both times. At the helm? Who else but Vaunted Rival McKendree’s old coach, Shannon O’Keefe. In a saga reminiscent of Coach Prime’s move to Colorado, six of Coach O’Keefe’s nine bowlers are athletes that followed her over from McKendree. The roster is rounded out with an All-American transfer from Nebraska and two freshman. All of this was enough to earn the brand new program multiple first-place votes in the NTCA Preseason Coaches Poll. The move has left McKendree struggling a few rungs below their normal tier of competition. They have placed as low as 12th in a tournament this year. I don’t know what, if any, backroom bowling deals led to this, but Jacksonville State essentially stole a national championship-contending team right out from under McKendree. And oh yeah, they’re in our conference, which means we’ll see them often all the way up to and including the conference championship.
Moving on from McJacksonville, Vanderbilt has been more-or-less business as usual this fall. You can’t win every single tournament, and certainly not every single match. Paige Peters, who struggled with injury last year, seems to have returned bigger and better than ever. She has two top 2’s so far this year, and bowled the third-highest tournament average in Vanderbilt history during her second place campaign at Destination Orlando. It is huge to have the former National Rookie of the Year back. This year’s big newcomer, Haley Lindley, has made an impact early with an all-tournament team already under her belt and rather consistent performances. At this point, I would say she is probably our number two bowler behind Peters. Athletics has a short profile on her if you want to learn more. I am not sure if there is a clear number 3 bowler, although Amanda Naujokas did earn a top ten finish at the Hawk Classic.
Rest of the team seems same-old, same-old from last year, which is great. There does not seem to be any injury trouble up to now, either, and as long as that remains the case, my eyes are set on going back-to-back. We won a natty last year, and we have a chance to do it again this year, Jacksonville State Super Team or not.