Story by Dave Hilbert, St. Francis (Ill.) Athletics
LEXINGTON, Ky. – In only its fourth year as a varsity program, the University of St. Francis women's bowling team captured the 2017 NAIA National Invitational championship. Head coach Tony Talley's squad topped a field of 20 teams at the three-day event held at Collins Eastland Bowl which concluded Sunday afternoon.
Seniors Lauren Douglas (Phoenix, Ariz./ Wickenburg), Courtney Fowler (Romeoville, Ill./ Lockport), Allyson Lakota (Shorewood, Ill./ Minooka), Autumn Lee (Plainfield, Ill./ Plainfield Central), Sara Michalowicz (Homer Glen, Ill./ Glenbard East) and Lauren Troha (Lockport, Ill./ Lockport), junior Nicole Troha (Lockport, Ill./ Lockport) and freshman Abby Ragsdale (Aurora, Ill./ Oswego East) comprised the Saints' contingent. Ragsdale was named the Invitational MVP.
After 24 Baker games on Friday, only seven pins separated the top three teams – 2015 NAIA Invitational champion University of Pikeville (4,592), USF (4,588) and last year's winner Robert Morris University Illinois (4,585) – heading into match play.
USF survived a scare in the opening round of Saturday's match play with a 3-2 win over No. 15-seed Hastings University. After splitting the first four games, the Saints advanced with a 212-191 win in the decisive fifth game. Following a 3-1 win over No. 7-seed Midland University in the next round, the Saints edged defending champion and this year's No. 3-seed Robert Morris Illinois in four games, capped by a 203-169 decision in the final game.
Taking on Pikeville in Sunday's winners bracket match, the Saints prevailed in five games. Tied at two games apiece, USF took game five 181-179 to advance to the championship contest. Pikeville defeated Robert Morris in the consolation bracket final to force another meeting with USF for the NAIA Invitational title. This time, the Saints swept the Bears 187-178, 183-166, 190-158 to claim the team championship.
USF will close out its season at the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Apr. 19-22.