Bearcat Women’s Bowling Team Captures NAIA Invitational Championship
(Lebanon, Ill., April 3)—The McKendree University women’s bowling team won the NAIA Invitational national championship on Sunday at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis, Ind. It is the first national title for the Bearcats’ women’s bowling program.
McKendree stormed through the field with an unblemished record in bracket play on Saturday and Sunday, winning five matches to claim the national championship. After defeating Saint Ambrose University and Notre Dame College on Saturday, the Bearcats swept past Webber International University and defeated Robert Morris University to reach the championship match. In the title contest, McKendree rolled past Saint Ambrose for a second time to capture the NAIA crown.
“In Friday’s qualifying rounds we were just okay in terms of our overall play,” said McKendree women’s bowling coach Gary White. “We made a change on the lanes when we started bracket play, and all eight ladies had a look after that. We were a totally different team. The ladies were just incredible out there. You could see the confidence get higher and higher with each passing match. We did not beat ourselves out there. It was just a phenomenal performance. I’m so proud of them.”
In Sunday’s first match, McKendree met the tournament’s top-seeded team, Webber International University, in the championship bracket semifinals. The Bearcats rolled to a sweep in the best-of-five match, winning by a 3-0 score. That pushed McKendree into the championship bracket finals against Robert Morris University, the No. 2 seed. The Bearcats coasted to a 3-1 victory against the Eagles to reach the NAIA championship match.
McKendree then met Saint Ambrose for the second time in bracket play. The Queen Bees, who bounced back to take the elimination bracket, were no match for the Bearcats in the finals. McKendree dropped the first Baker game, 220-185, before winning the final three games, 168-164, 217-186 and 243-159.
In addition to the team championship, two McKendree bowlers earned post-tournament accolades. Junior Brandi Branka (Momence, Ill./Bishop McNamara) was named the Most Valuable Bowler of the NAIA Invitational, while senior Danielle Belobraydich (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield Central) was voted to the All-Tournament Team.
This marks the seventh overall national championship for McKendree. The Bearcats won four consecutive NAIA women’s indoor track and field national championships from 1999-2002. McKendree also won the NAIA women’s outdoor track and field title in 1999 and the NAIA men’s indoor track and field crown in 2001. All of those teams were coached by Gary White, who guided the Bearcat women’s bowling squad to Sunday’s championship.
The McKendree women’s bowling team will have a few weeks off to prepare for the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Intercollegiate Team Championships, which will be held April 20-23 in Columbus, Ga..