MILLSBORO, Del.-The North Carolina A&T bowling team finished the three-day Hawk Classic tournament, hosted by the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, with an0-11 record, after taking on some of the top-ranked teams in the nation. Senior Jenae McCaskey set a new season-high by bowling a 180 in the match against St. Francis College.
It was stiff competition for the Aggies (12-35, 2-8), as 13 of the nation's top 20 teams competed in the event. They lost to No. 11 Adelphi University, Monmouth University, No. 9 Sacred Heart University, No. 10 New Jersey City University and St. Peter's College in baker matches on Friday. The Aggies then went 0-5 on Saturday in team match play against No. 2 Vanderbilt University, No. 3 Fairleigh Dickinson University, No. 19 St. Francis College, No. 8 Kutztown University and No. 7 Sam Houston State University. On Sunday in the NCAA bracket match-up, the Aggies lost to Hampton by a 4.5-3.5 final.
"Basically it was a rough weekend," said head coach James Williams. "Fifteen of the 19 teams in attendance are ranked in the Top 25. In addition, six of last year's Final 8 were in attendance, including National Champs UMES and runner-up Vanderbilt. This tournament is on the schedule as a measuring stick to see how far we have progressed and how far we need to go.
"With that said, we did not do very well," he added. "On day one, in the baker matches we left way to many splits. Those splits definitely hurt our multiple pin spare percentage. However, I will say that the single pin percentage was way up as compared to the MEAC divisional competition, but we didn't give ourselves enough opportunities because of the splits. Thirty-five percent of our first shots resulted in splits, and that is just too high of percentage to overcome."
N.C. A&T and Howard University were the only two teams to not record a bakers or a team match win.
The Aggies lost to Adelphi, 730-572, in the first bakers match. In the second match, A&T fell to Monmouth by a final of 679-608. They dropped their third match of Friday by a 696-607 final to Sacred Heart. The fourth match resulted in an 809-644 loss to New Jersey City. The Aggies closed out Friday with a 681-601 loss to St. Peter's College. The best game the Aggies bowled on Friday was a 185 in the second game against New Jersey City.
On Saturday, the 19 participating teams in the Hawk Classic competed in team matches. On Saturday, senior April Terry bowled a team-best 208 in the first game against Vanderbilt, but the Aggies fell to the Commodores, 883-794. The Aggies scored 836 pinfalls (their best of the day), but lost to FDU, who totaled 975. In the third match, the Aggies took on St. Francis, and lost 800-745. Against Kutztown, the Aggies lost 812-793. They succumbed 833-776 to Sam Houston State to end their team match competition.
In team matches on Saturday, Terry led the team with a 171.80 average on the day, while sophomore Cherise Poole was close behind with a 171.40 average. Poole's best game was a 186 against Sam Houston State. Terry and Poole finished 36th and 37st respectively in the individual standings for with their averages.
"It was a much better day with the split percentage down, but we didn't convert the other multiple pin spares," Williams said. "Again, our single pin conversations were good and better. The one highlight of the day was Senior Jenae McCaskey was above her season average. Her spare conversions were up on both single pin and multiple. She made some key shots to keep the game close. She had one of the four games above 180 for the team."
On Sunday, the teams were placed into a bracket and went head-to-head. The Aggies had a bye for the first round, and took on Hampton in the second round.
"Day three was a stepladder match, though we battled Hampton to a 7 game tie, it was ultimately two missed spares (one being a split) that was our undoing in the tie-breaker game," Williams said. "It was very symbolic of our weekend."
The Aggies will take the Thanksgiving holiday weekend off and will next compete on Dec. 3 and 4 in the MEAC Southern Division #2 Tournament, which will be hosted by S.C. State in Orangeburg, S.C. The Aggies will look to improve in the MEAC Southern Division, in which they are currently 2-8.
"I believe the ladies learned a lot by watching the best in the nation," Williams said. "I saw better focus throughout the day. And the disconnect from practice to competition seems to be shortening. We'll see how this prepares them for practice this week and next week before the second MEAC Divisional."