GREENSBORO-This Saturday and Sunday, the North Carolina A&T bowling team will be looking to stamp a ticket to the MEAC Championship Tournament for the first time since the 2008-09 season as they compete in the MEAC #3 Southern Division Tournament at the AMF Durham Lanes.
It's a key step for the Aggies, who are looking to get back to the championship caliber success they enjoyed in the early years of the program. The Aggies have four MEAC crowns to their credit, the last in 2003-04, and are looking to add to their trophy case this month.
"For the program, it symbolizes that we have turned the corner. That we are on the right track with the things we have been doing and the recruiting. To do it with five players, that just shows the grit and determination of these ladies to get the job done," said A&T head coach James Williams.
The Aggies (37-29, 10-6 MEAC) are hoping to knock off defending MEAC champions, No. 14 Norfolk State, from first place in the division at this weekend's tournament.
"It's going to take hard work and determination, and commitment to spare shooting," said Williams about the chance to win the division. "I feel great about our chances. But we can only control our own actions. We are definitely going to need some help from the other teams in the division to make it happen."
The Aggies are currently three games behind the Spartans, and are ready to hit the lanes.
"The (tournament) in Durham coming up is going to be exciting," said junior Cherise Poole. "We've played top schools and now we're playing top schools in our conference. It's going to be good."
This weekend is important for the Aggies not just because they will be able to qualify for the tournament, but because it can help ensure a winning conference record, which will be a first for Williams and all of his players. A&T has not posted a winning season since 2008-09, when they finished 32-27 overall and 13-11 in the MEAC.
"I'm excited because it's my last year, and it's been going so well," said senior Amber Brown. "I think everybody's been pulling their weight and that's all you can hope for."
The Aggies' success this season has sprung from career-best performances by Brown and Poole, as well as strong performances from a trio of first-year players. Freshman Emily Strombeck leads the team with a 195.9 average, and has a team-best 5,484 total pins this season. Each of the five players on the team is averaging at least 170 this season. Williams added that he is excited for Brown to be able to finish off her career with a strong season.
"It's rewarding personally to be able to do this with Amber, since she basically started this journey with me four years ago. To allow her to experience the success we've had this year has been tremendous," he said.
If things go as planned this weekend, the Aggies will be back in the championships, March 22-23 in Chesapeake, Va.