ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Lincoln Memorial was eliminated from the National Collegiate Women's Bowling Championship with 2-0 losses to No. 1 Nebraska and No. 5 Sam Houston State on Thursday at Tropicana Lanes.
The two losses draw the curtain on the historic 2017-18 campaign, which saw the Lady Railsplitters make a dramatic 31-win improvement from the inaugural 2016-17 season to post a cumulative 72-52 record. The second-year program captured the first East Coast Conference title in program history to earn its first-ever berth to the NCAA tournament. The Lady Railsplitters went 25-7 over their last 32 matches, including a 10-3 mark in postseason play.
Lincoln Memorial opened the day against the most successful program in all of college bowling with a daunting matchup against five-time national champions Nebraska, and the Lady Railsplitters gave the Cornhuskers all they wanted, particularly in the individual team matches.
It was nip and tuck throughout most of the first segment but Nebraska ultimately outlasted the Lady Railsplitters 1031-972 in a high-scoring set of traditional team matches to take a 1-0 lead. The Cornhuskers had to survive an LMU lineup that was paced by heroic efforts from Justine Brookover, who reeled off six straight strikes at one point to lead all players with a 242, and Danyn Terry, who subbed in early for Mary-Kate Kersting and sparked the team by bowling a 221.
"I couldn't be more proud of our young team," said LMU Director of Bowling and Head Women's Bowling Coach Joseph Slowinski. "We took them to the 10th frame. It really was undecided until halfway through the 10th frame. For us to do that, go out and fight the most historic college program in history, you can't be more proud of that."
The Cornhuskers then put the match away in the next segment, beating the Lady Railsplitters 1062-945 in the five-game Baker block. Lincoln Memorial bowled 200 and 224 in the first two games, but Nebraska built a 61-pin cushion with scores of 246 and 239. The Lady Railsplitters then fell even further behind with a 222-136 loss in the third game. LMU outscored Nebraska 167-163 and 218-192 in the final two games but the deficit was too big to overcome.
"We got off to a good start in the Baker format against them but multiple splits really took us out," Slowinski said.
That loss set up an elimination game against the Bearkats of Sam Houston State, who fell into the loser's bracket with a 2-1 setback to Vanderbilt in the morning match.
Unlike the Nebraska match, the Lady Railsplitters struggled mightily in the individual team matches, stumbling in a 1007-831 loss. Terry led Lincoln Memorial's effort with a 197 while Brookover posted a 185.
Leading the match 1-0, the Bearkats got off to a fast start again in the five-game Baker block, winning the first four games 203-186, 224-181, 203-200 and 246-216 to take a commanding 93-pin lead into the final game. The Lady Railsplitters made things interesting and very nearly pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory, beating Sam Houston State 247-177 to close the final margin to 1053-1030.
The Bearkats were willed to victory by a remarkable individual performance from four-year senior Stephanie Zavala, who struck out in the 10th frame three times in the five-match set, including in the fifth and final game that thwarted Lincoln Memorial's comeback bid.
Following the most successful season in the program's brief history, expectations will be high next season for the Lady Railsplitters, who return everybody aside from the program's lone senior, Danyn Terry.
"We will work hard. There's no doubt about it," said Slowinski. "The work ethic is unparalleled. We pride ourselves on blue-collar work ethic and working harder than anyone else. This is just another catalyst for us. We have big dreams and big aspirations, and we have had them from day one. I love these young women who have come here with that same vision of being a world-class program."
Provided by the Lincoln Memorial Sports Information Department.