GREENSBORO (September 28, 2017) – For the fourth straight season, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference head bowling coaches and sports information directors picked the North Carolina A&T bowling team as the preseason favorite to win the MEAC Southern Division.
The MEAC released its predicted order of finish on Thursday along with its preseason all-conference team. The Aggies received 13 of 18 first-place votes. Norfolk State received the other five and are predicted to finish second. Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman took the final two spots. Defending MEAC champion Maryland Eastern Shore took nine-first place votes and are the favorites in the north. Delaware State with six first-place votes is second followed by Howard and its three first-place votes. Morgan State and Coppin State round out the order of finish.
N.C. A&T has won the southern regular-season title three straight seasons. Last year the Aggies came up short at the MEAC tournament, losing to MDES in the final.
“Honored to once again be named the favorite in our MEAC division,” N.C. A&T coach Kim Terrell-Kearney said. “As a conference, we have continued to consistently produce top quality programs in the sport of bowling.”
The Aggies did not place anyone on the preseason all-conference team after losing their two All-MEAC performers from a year ago, MacKenzie Robinson and Kristin Shinn. Robinson was also an All-American and the 2016-17 N.C. A&T Female Athlete of the Year. During their careers, Shinn and Robinson led the Aggies to a national championship at the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships in 2015 and a third-place finish at the NCAA tournament in 2016.
“Losing two of our strongest players in Shinn and Robinson could put some pressure on the team to meet expectations, but I am really looking forward to see what we do as a team this season,” said Terrell-Kearney. “We are young, but filled with talent.”
Kearney added three freshmen to the roster during the offseason in Ana Olaya, Candyce Bradley, and Cameron Strombeck. Olaya brings a career 226 average from her high school days, while Strombeck had a 222 average and Bradley posted a 208.66. The Aggies have had good look with Strombeck’s in the past. Strombeck’s older sister Emily is the most accomplished bowler in Aggie history. She was a three-time All-American and the two-time MEAC Bowler of the Year during her tenure in Aggieland.
While the Aggies are young, senior Brianna Boze brings needed experience. Boze was on the national championship and NCAA teams. She also had a career season in 2016-17, posting a 174.55 average. Sophomores Mia Pope and Tyra Merritt had impressive freshman seasons with Pope posting a 177.19 average and Merritt collecting a 169.90 average in traditional team play.
The Aggies will get their season rolling with the McKendree University tournament, Oct. 27-29, in Fairview Heights, Ill.
Preseason Bowler of the Year: Jacqueline Rhoda, Maryland Eastern Shore
Preseason All-MEAC Team
Elizabeth Burkholder Delaware State
Chelsey Merklinger Delaware State
Alexis Neuer Delaware State
Jacqueline Rhoda Maryland Eastern Shore
Alexa Rodriguez Norfolk State
Predicted Order of Finish
First-place votes in parentheses
1. Maryland Eastern Shore (9) 79 points
2. Delaware State (6) 68
3. Howard (3) 51
4. Morgan State 45
5. Coppin State 27
1. North Carolina A&T State (13) 67 points
2. Norfolk State (5) 57
3. Florida A&M 29
4. Bethune-Cookman 27