DELAND, Fla.-The North Carolina A&T bowling team had a strong finish to their first conference tournament of the season, going 5-3 overall and finishing 3-1 on Sunday, including wins over nationally-ranked Bethune-Cookman and Norfolk State.
The Aggies (11-9, 5-3 MEAC) led the tournament in total pinfalls, totaling 3,550 on Saturday and finishing on Sunday with 6,378.
"Day 2 was a lot better than Day 1," said A&T head coach James Williams.
The Aggies started off bakers play on Sunday with a 767-690 win over No. 18 Bethune-Cookman, beginning with a 209 in the first match to overpower the Wildcats. Then the Aggies took on N.C. Central, and fell to the Eagles 688-684. The Aggies bowled a 212 to take a 520-511 lead before the Eagles out-bowled the Aggies 177-164 in the final match for the win.
The Aggies rebounded from that loss to take down No.11 Norfolk State 663-658 final. The Aggies came back from behind in the final game to secure the victory.
"The Norfolk State match was probably the defining moment of the tournament," said Williams. "We had just lost the previous match to N.C. Central. During the match, Norfolk State had a commanding 48-pin lead after three games. The girls dug deep and found a way to put together a 201 game just to force Norfolk State to be honest and bowl."
A&T kept up the momentum, and capped off the tournament with a 714-693 win over Florida A&M. Williams said that this good start sets a good tone for conference play for the season.
"The biggest thing I want the ladies to take away from this weekend is that they can't let anyone in the conference intimidate them," Williams said. "If we continue to be true to ourselves and not do anything out of character, eventually the match will come to us. We just have to be patient and understand that this is a marathon not a sprint. Just maintain the pace and wait for that opportunity to "pounce" and then get the job done."
On Saturday, the Aggies posted a 2-2 record, and had three players finish in the Top 10 in individual scores. The Aggies began the tournament with an 898-846 win over N.C. Central. Freshman Emily Strombeck led the team with a 212 game. Courtney Crook had a 196 score.
"Winning the first match really set the tone for the day," said Williams. "They were consistent, and honestly I think we caught a couple of teams off guard by how prepared we were."
The Aggies then lost to Bethune-Cookman 984-960. Crook bowled a 230 - the highest individual score on the day - while Strombeck finished with 222 against the Wildcats. The Aggies came back by taking down the Rattlers 873-835. Junior Cherise Poole bowled a team-best 198.
The Aggies ended Saturday with a 919-819 loss to defending MEAC Champion Norfolk State. Freshman Najah Owens and Strombeck bowled a 184. Strombeck finished the day second in individual standings behind B-CU's Staci Hillard with a 785 total pinfall. Crook and Owens finished seventh and eighth respectively in the individual standings with 730 and 703 total pinfalls.
The Aggies will take on the Southern Division again in the first weekend in December. To earn a berth in the MEAC Tournament, something A&T has not done since 2009, the Aggies will have to finish fourth or higher in the Southern Division.
"We definitely have a few things to work on and develop, but we have about 2 weeks to do that and incorporate that into our games," Williams said.