GREENSBORO-When asked to pick one word to describe the performance of the North Carolina A&T bowling team, head coach James Williams said, "Rollercoaster."
The Aggies, who had a five-person roster this season-the minimum number of players needed to compete-had a challenging season in 2011-12 against top-notch competition. The MEAC, which features the reigning NCAA Champions in Maryland Eastern Shore, also featured a handful of teams in the Top 25 National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association poll.
The Aggies took on a number of those other Top 25 teams in various invitational meets this season as they finished with a 25-66 overall record and a 7-23 MEAC record. The Aggies finished last in the Southern Division, and missed the cutoff for the MEAC Championship Tournament for the third straight season.
But the Aggies had a strong end to the season, finishing up with five wins at the James Brown Invitational and four wins at the MEAC Southern Division #3 meet.
"This season was challenging to say the least. There were a few goals that we fell short of, however, I believe we ended on a positive note," Williams said.
The James Brown Invitational, hosted by Morgan State, in particular stood out to Williams in terms of demonstrating the skill of the Aggies.
"That would have been probably the best the ladies bowled all season. It showed the heart and commitment needed to win tough matches. And they didn't back down in the face of the teams that we supposed to be better," Williams said.
One of the particular highlights from that trip was when the Aggies went down to the wire against Morgan State, a matchup they eventually won.
The Bears and Aggies traded games back and forth in that match and tied in the fifth game. Senior April Terry stepped up and made big shots to help pull out the wins for the Aggies. The match ended up going to a roll off to break the 3.5 to 3.5 tie after seven games. In the roll off, every player bowls one frame. A&T won the roll off 101-85.
"I think that will stay with me for a long time," Williams said.
Despite the losing record on the season, Williams saw great improvement across the board, especially with his sophomore class.
Sophomore Cherise Poole built up on a stellar freshman season with a strong sophomore campaign in 2011-12. She led the team with a 7,258 total pinfall and a 172.8 average in 42 team match games. She bowled a 235 on Nov. 12 in the MEAC Southern Division #1 Tournament, which ranked among the best games bowled in conference play this season. Poole bowled an average of 180 or better in four of the team's eight meets, and she had a game high of 200 or better three times during the season
The Aggies also saw strong performances this season from Terry, junior Amber Brown, senior Janae McCaskey and sophomore Shameka Williams. The Aggies hope to return Brown, Poole and Williams next season, as well as welcome new members to the program. As Williams hits the recruiting trail, his ideal bowler is one he doesn't have to teach the basics. He wants bowlers who are ready to read lanes and make adjustments.
"Our recruits should already have a spare shooting system we can enahance to refine," said Williams.
He also wants them ready to learn angle of entry, launch points, break points, how the lanes break down, axis tilts and ball selection. In addition, they will have the capability to produce the amount revolutions needed to be successful.
"The outlook for next season is really positive," said Williams. "There is a level of excitement right now with the potential recruits. We have a number target recruits that will definitely have an impact on the program. The program will definitely welcome the players that are returning that show the leadership, dedication and desire to compete."
Williams said that he and his assistant coaches, Ray Best and Linda Grace, are working to prepare their student-athletes for summer training.
"We will be sending all the players home with a list of things to work on and instructions on how to stay in mid-season shape over the break," he said. He added that the coaches themselves have offseason homework, as they all will be completing certification with the United States Bowling Congress.