Smart bowling has been the Sam Houston State University bowling team’s motto this season and it seems to be paying off as the Bearkats hold their highest ranking in the polls since winning the National Championship in 2014.
It was a historic first half of the season for the Kats as the team took home first place in four of their five events. They opened the season with a first place victory at the Midstates Invitational in Wichita, KS. The team turned around and took home the top finish at the Wildcat Invitational before finishing first at the hosted KAT Klash in Houston and the UMES Hawk Classic.
SHSU knocked off No.1 Nebraska at the KAT Klash and continued their dominance by notching three wins over top-25 teams at the Hawk Classic. The bowling team’s effort and play in the lanes have earned them a No. 2 national ranking. The Bearkats concluded the first half of their season with an overall record of 41-10.
“I’m happy with how we ended the first half and where our record is at this point,” said head coach Brad Hagen. “It’s been a historic first half once again for us but we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of tournaments still a head of us. Time to recharge the batteries, get back to the drawing board, and start preparing for the second half.”
Although bowling is a team sport, the clear standout for the Bearkats during the first half of the season was senior Janine Kuwahara. She was named to the KAT Klash All-Tournament team and she was also honored with a second team selection at the Hawk Classic. Junior Heather Penatzer was named to the Hawk Classic first-team all tournament squad.
“Janine is a great model to her peers as a student athlete,” Hagen said. “She knows what she needs to do and she knows what her job is. To have someone like that, and to have that kind of senior leadership, she’s definetly everything a coach wants on his team.”
The stellar play and national spotlight has also grabbed the eyes of recruits across the country.
Hayley Connelly will be joining the nationally ranked Bearkats next season. Connelly is from Raritan High School in New Jersey and was one of the most sought out bowlers in this year’s recruiting class. She boasts a 3.7 GPA and stands among the top of her graduating class.
Hagan believes that Connelly will fit the program well.
“Hayley’s enthusiasm, passion, and work ethic academically a long with athletically will fit perfectly in with the dynamics and standards that this team has set in place,” Hagen said. “Her national competitive experience and what she demands of herself to contribute will play key roles to her success on and off the lanes.”
SHSU also inked Tracey Ballen, which marks the first ever recruit from Ohio to join the Bearkat bowling program.
Ballen is from Centerville High School, which ranks among the top five percent of all high schools in Ohio. Like Connelly, Ballen also has a strong academic and leadership background. She is a Scholar Athlete award recipient, which is given to athletes with a 3.2 GPA average or higher, and throughout the last three years has recorded over 600 hours of community service. Ballen bowls a 215 average.
“Tacey is a great diamond in the rough and she will just add to the talented roster already in place for next season,” Hagen said. “I see a lot of passion and enthusiasm this young lady has which are great attributes to have at this level. Tracey will definitely have an impact on this team’s future success on and off the lanes.”
The Bearkats will continue their season on Jan. 27 with the three-day PV A&M Invitational at the ITRC in Arlington.