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GREENSBORO (March 28, 2018) -  North Carolina A&T, ranked No. 17 in the National Tenpin Coaches Association, avoided having to participate in the play-in round on the 2018 NCAA Bowling Championships on Wednesday by earning the No. 6 seed, giving them the opportunity to head straight to St. Louis to play for a national title.

The NCAA changed its postseason format this season. Instead of handing eight at-large bids to deserving teams, the NCAA decided to allow 10 teams to advance to the postseason. Therefore, NCAA committee decided to give six conference automatic bids for winning their respective conference championship regardless of whether teams are Division I or II.

The four additional bids would be at-large bids based on a team's play against quality competition. Teams seeded 7-10 would have to participate in a play-in round April 6-8 for a chance to be one of eight teams to play for a national title in St. Louis April 12-14.

Teams 7-10 would also have an opportunity to host a home match on one of those dates. Teams seeded 1-6 would head straight to St. Louis without having to compete a week prior. N.C. A&T head coach Kim Terrell-Kearney thought her team, an automatic qualifier thanks to winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Bowling Championship Tournament last week, would be one of those teams the committee selected to be a play-in team.

That is not the case. The Aggies (90-55) will bypass the play-in round and travel to St. Louis to face No. 3 seed Arkansas State Thursday, April 12 at 9 a.m.    

“We are overjoyed,” said Terrell-Kearney, whose team gathered at AMF Lanes on Holden Road in Greensboro on Wednesday to watch the streamed NCAA selection show. “After being under the impression that we would be in one of the opening round matches, we were completely shocked but absolutely ecstatic for the opportunity to represent North Carolina A&T at the highest level.”

The other five teams guaranteed to be in St. Louis is top-seeded Nebraska followed by defending national champion McKendree, Arkansas State, Vanderbilt and Sam Houston State. 

The four teams battling out for the final two remaining slots available in St. Louis are SWAC champion Texas Southern, ECC champion Lincoln Memorial, CIAA champion Bowie State and NEC champion Saint Francis. 

The Aggies have faced many of the competitors selected to play in the 2018 NCAA championships. They defeated Nebraska on Feb. 3 during the Prairie View A&M Invitational 1,073- 997.

N.C. A&T has been one the premier programs in the nation over the past four years, earning their first-ever national ranking in 2014. In 2015, they won a national title after winning the United States Bowling Congress Intercollegiate Teams Championships. They were an NCAA qualifier in 2016, finishing third nationally. The Aggies defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 4-1 in a best of seven Bakers series to claim the 2018 MEAC crown. It was their first conference title in 14 years.  

MEAC Rookie of the Year Ana Olaya leads the team in total pinfall (7,943) and has a 198.58 average. Another freshman, Cameron Strombeck, has a 7,460 total pinfall with a 196.32 average over 38 games.

The Aggies will also bring experience to the NCAA championships in Brianna Boze who has played on a national championship team, an NCAA team and a conference championship team. Sophomore Tyra Merritt was superb in the MEAC final with four spares and six strikes.