The Sam Houston State Bearkat bowling team looks to top its competition and claim the program’s second National Championship at the two-day NCAA Championships starting April 13 in Baton Rouge, LA.
SHSU is competing against a field that consists of the top teams around the country. Nebraska, McKendree, Arkansas State, Vanderbilt, Fairleigh Dickinson, SFA and Maryland Eastern Shore will all try to bowl its way to the top at the NCAA Championships.
With more than a week a preparation, the Kats feel confident heading into the tournament.
“We have had a couple of good weeks of practice,” head coach Brad Hagen said. “We had to get refocused and really simplify the last couple of weeks. I think mentally and physically we are in a good place right now and all we must do is head to Baton Rouge and take care of the execution part now. If we do so, I feel like it will be a very good week for us.”
The team changed up its typical practice routine ahead of the NCAA Championships. SHSU not only directed its attention to the bowling lanes, they are also preparing for the mental side of the sport.
“We did a hybrid approach when practicing,” Hagen said. “In the past, we haven’t had so much time in-between our last regular season event and nationals. The week before last, we spent a lot of time in individual development, sport phycology and just preparing their mentality as a team. This week was more around team building just so we know that we are in a good spot heading into the championship.”
The Bearkats have five players returning to the championship, combining for a total of 14 years of experience. With that much skill, Hagan expects the experienced players to lead the charge.
“I expect everybody who is returnees to exemplify their experience,” Hagen said. “The post season is really exciting. There is nothing that we can do to imitate that so having five returnees out of the eight that have already been there should play in our favor hopefully.”
SHSU is heading into the competition ranked No. 4 in the nation. The team will play five games on Thursday and two on Friday morning in the qualifying rounds to determine its tournament seed. Competition will then heat up Friday afternoon when the double-elimination bracket sets in.
“We are going in as number four in the nation,” Hagen said. “We will actually have seven games of qualifying. Five games on Thursday and two on Friday morning and based on our win loss record, that will seed us officially into the double elimination bracket.”
SHSU’s first qualifying match is against Vanderbilt and the Bearkats feel that since they have a winning record this year against most of the competition, they are in a good spot to be a high seed.
“We have had a very competitive battle all year with the teams that are present at this year’s field,” Hagen said. “We have winning records against all the teams and know the competition well. We are just as competitive as these teams if not more.”
The three-day event will start April 13 at the Raising Cane’s River Center in Baton Rouge, LA.
“We just must make sure that we are in a good sport mentally and physically,” Hagan said. “If we stick to that then we are in a good spot and things will work in our favor. If not, then it will be back to the drawing boards for next year unfortunately.”