Wichita State’s women’s bowling team is going on four years without an intercollegiate national championship, and in the context of the Shockers’ recent history, that’s agonizingly long.
WSU won championships in 2005, ’07 and ’09 but missed the next year of that every-other-year pattern and thenfinished fifth last year. No current Shocker has been on a title-winning team, something that hasn’t been true for WSU since 2004.
After finishing first in eight of 11 tournaments this season, the Shockers are a favorite to capture the program’s 10th championship, which would tie them with the men’s team. The WSU women are flying solo at the Intercollegiate Team Championships next week in Lincoln, Neb., because the men failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 28 years.
"You’ve got to get there and you’ve got to step out and play as well as you possibly can," WSU women’s coach Mark Lewis said. "We are the hunted. Everybody gets up for a match with us and people play above their level. If we can stay with what we need to do and stay in the moment, I think our chances are pretty good."
The Shockers didn’t finish worse than third in any tournament this season, a product of depth that no team in the country can match.
According to collegebowling.com, WSU has the top three players in the country in average scoring: junior Tannya Roumimper and Russian freshman Dasha Kovalova are the top two at 208 each.
Jazreel Tan, a senior from Singapore, is a former amateur bowler of the year and a two-time collegiate bowler of the year. But as she approaches her fourth straight All-America season with a 206 average, she’s probably on the fringe for those awards because of her teammates.
Juniors Kelsey Muther and Allie Ijams are both in the top 20 nationally in scoring. WSU’s top six includes one senior, and three players from foreign countries.
"We’ve bowled together for three years," Tan said. "I feel like, if anything were to happen, we could click really well. If we have differences, we can talk it out and just focus on the lanes and have fun, and hopefully something something good comes out of it."
Lewis calls the Shockers "the hunted," but several other teams in a top-heavy competition are likely feeling good about their chances, too.
Robert Morris-Illinois won all three tournaments WSU didn’t; Webber International, Midland and Lindenwood have been highly-ranked all season; Maryland Eastern Shore is the defending champion and Wisconsin-Whitewater has three of the top 13 scorers.
The benefit for WSU is that head-to-head competition at the national tournament doesn’t happen until after 32 games in the Baker format, in which five teammates bowl two frames apiece. That will allow teams to feel out lane conditions without worrying about what the opposition is doing.
"Nothing really has been different this year except now everyone has graduated who won a national title," Muther said. "All their experiences are kind of gone, and now we’re pulling from what we know works and just preparing for the best."