The Sam Houston State bowling team started the second half of their season earlier this year in the Mid-Winter Invitational hosted by Arkansas State. The Kats placed sixth in the invitational but bounced back at the Kutztown Invitational and Prairie View A&M Invitational in the following weeks.
Sam Houston entered Spring 2018 ranked No. 5 in the national polls. The team looked to start the year off in the right direction in Jonesboro, AR.
“It is important for us to get the second half of the season off on a good note,” head coach Brad Hagen said. “With the new selection format for the NCAA Championships, RPI is even a bigger factor this year and we don’t want to put ourselves in a position to where we are under pressure at the end of the year.”
The Kats did start the tournament on the right foot. Sam Houston had a total of 5,111 pins, leading Nebraska by 58, and went 4-1 on the first day. Sam Houston went 4-1 in their second day as well and entered the final day as the No. 3 seed.
“Consistency was the key to our success today and once again a great group effort,” said Hagen. “Everyone was filling frames and we did a great job at not paying attention to anything but what was in front of us. We have to climb the ladder tomorrow but we’re going in to that first match with a chip on our shoulder.”
The final day of the invitational was when that Kats seemed to struggle. Sam Houston took on No. 4 Mckendree, the defending national champs. Mckendree defeated Sam Houston 4-2, which caused the Kats to play against Arkansas State. Sam Houston jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but soon fell to their hosts 2-5.
The loss forced the Bearkats to play a fifth match versus Tulane for fifth place. The Kats lost their final match to Tulane 4-1, placing them in sixth to end the tournament. The team finished with an 8-5 overall record.
The Bearkats were back in action soon after as they were now focused on the Kutztown invitational in Reading, PA.
“I think it will be good for us to get right back out there and compete again,” said Hagen. “We bowled really well for two days last weekend, and just had a really bad showing on Sunday, and that just can’t happen.”
Sam Houston opened the day with a 4-1 record and sat in seventh place out of 28 teams. The team started their day with a loss but picked up their last sets of matches.
“Our last three sets were huge and ending on a high note in a tough match against a quality opponent is great for momentum and one we needed to have moving forward,” said Hagen. “We just made too many self-inflicted mistakes the first set of the day. Once we got comfortable especially with the lanes and our shapes we caught up to the scoring pace.”
The Bearkats set themselves up for a tournament title in the second day as they went 3-2 and moved up to the top four. Senior Stephanie Zavala had a commanding performance as she posted a top five individual performance for the day and averaged a 226.
The Kats started off the last day of play by beating Tulane and advancing to the semifinals against Vanderbilt. Although the team dropped their match against Vanderbilt in a seven-game match, they were able to bring it back as they trounced Tulane for a second time, earning the Bearkats a third place spot. Sam Houston finished the tournament with a 9-4 record.
“Walking away with nine wins in a quality field keeps us in the mix and where we need to be moving forward,” Hagen said.
The Kats next stop was in Arlington as the team participated in the Texas A&M Invitational. The team had an impressive start as they went unbeaten on the first day.
“Anytime you can go undefeated in a single day with three top 10 wins and all five in the top 20 it’s a great day,” said Hagen. “This team is deep and talented and we just need to keep focusing on us and what we can control.”
The second day of the tournament started out rough for the bearkats. The team went 2-3 on the day, but were still in a position to take home a first-place title as they ended the day in fourth.
SHSU ended the tournament in third against a competitive field. The 12-team field consisted of ranked teams and eight of the top 10 teams in the country.
“Anytime you can compete in a tournament like this and walk away with a top 3 finish is a great weekend,” said Hagen. “We saw some of the best teams in the country this weekend and had a strong showing.”
The bearkats will now prepare for SFA Jacks Invitational which will take place Friday through Sunday in Houston.