Things are almost back to normal within the Wichita State bowling program.
The men’s team is returning to the Intercollegiate Championships next week in Reno, Nev., after a one-year absence that followed 27 straight seasons of reaching nationals and 10 championships.
The WSU women are ranked No. 1, and inspiring confidence Gordon Vadakin that he reserves for all-time great teams.
To restore full normalcy, one has to win a championship. Or both.
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“Last year was kind of a huge surprise on the guys’ side,” said Vadakin, the men’s coach. “One of those things that you never really saw coming.… I can’t say we took it for granted, but we sure didn’t take it for granted this year.”
The men, ranked sixth nationally, possess the depth necessary to outlast 15 other teams when the team tournament begins Wednesday. Quebec native Francois Lavoie is the only WSU player among the top 15 nationally in scoring average, but the Shockers boast four others in the top 40.
WSU had the top three spots in individual regional qualifying with Lavoie, Devin Bidwell and Zach Rhoades, who is following a team-wide trend by bowling his best late in the season. A.J. Chapman, the Shockers’ seventh-best scorer, recently placed high at a USBC event.
Lavoie, who, along with Bidwell and Rhoades will compete for the national singles championship in Reno, has three of his four best finishes in the three most recent tournaments, and his 213.6 average ranks 11th.
“Our focus has been much better,” Rhoades said. “We’ve been working really hard in practice and in team workouts, and I think the extra effort is leading to success on the lanes.”
The men, who last won a national title in 2010, have won five of 11 tournaments this season, an impressive showing except, perhaps, when compared to the WSU women, who have won nine and finished second and third in the other two.
The Shockers have five women in the top 20 national scorers, including the top two — Indoneisian Tannya Roumpier and Daria Kovalova, from Ukraine. Roumpier, Allie Ijams and Heather Melvin have combined for five individual tournament championships and 13 top-10 finishes.
WSU’s women are trying to add to the program’s nine national championships, and the only thing keeping them from being discussed among that group is that they haven’t done it yet. The last women’s championship was in 2009.
“We’re a deep, experienced, hungry group on the women’s side,” Vadakin said. “They want this bad. Hopefully not too bad, but it is bad. They’ve worked very hard this year to get this group of underclassmen ready for this postseason experience.”