The Newman and Wichita State men’s and women’s bowling teams share a bus once in a while. OK, no big deal. It saves travel money and besides, everybody knows the pecking order in college bowling: WSU is up there; Newman is down below.
But there was an interesting and unexpected development over the weekend during the Backhaul Direct Hoosier Classic in Indianapolis. The Newman women, in 21st place to start Sunday’s last day of competition, rallied to get into the finals of match play. The Jets beat Webber International. They beat McKendree.
And there they were. The Wichita State Shockers, a team that has never lost to Newman in women’s match play as far as anyone connected with either program could remember.
Newman is like the little sister. As long as the Jets behave, big sister doesn’t have a problem.
But on this day, Newman didn’t behave. The Jets beat WSU 3-1 in the best-of-five match.
Then the two teams got on the same big charter bus and drove the nearly 700 miles back to Wichita, arriving around 9:30 on Monday morning.
What happened on that bus?
Name calling? Fits of temper? Shout downs and hair pulling?
“We have a great relationship with the Shockers,’’ Newman men’s and women’s coach Billy Murphy, a former Wichita State bowler, said. “Our kids are pretty good friends with their kids.’’
But come on, thiswas for a tournament championship. This was Newman against Wichita State.
“It really wasn’t awkward at all,” Wichita State women’s coach Mark Lewis said. “It really wasn’t.”
Murphy and Lewis, I thought, might just be saying that. For all I know, there was a food fight on that bus. The driver might have thrown up his hands in St. Louis and said he’d had enough with all the bickering. There had to be some juicy details of the bus ride home that the coaches were hiding.
Well, do you want to know what these teams did? They watched “The Lion King.’’ Just a couple of hours after this big grudge match, they turned on Simba and Mufasa and Nala and went to a peaceful place.
“I made it all the way through the movie before I fell asleep,’’ Newman senior Linzey Roberts said.
Wasn’t there a big party on the bus? Didn’t the Newman women make the Wichita State women clean their shoes? Wasn’t there something?
“There wasn’t really much talk on the way home,’’ Roberts said. “If one of their bowlers passed us on the way to the front of the bus, she might have said something small. But nothing too in-depth.’’
The bus was crammed not only with the men’s and women’s teams from Wichita State and Newman, but also the teams from West Texas A&M, which drove from Amarillo to share the bus with the Shockers and Jets.
“We save money and there’s the safety factor on these trips,’’ Lewis said. “We used to drive to Vegas for tournaments in multiple cars and caravans. We’ve kind of evolved from that.”
But the teams never anticipated going toe to toe in the finals of match play before boarding that bus for home. And after Wichita State’s bowlers watched the Newman women celebrate for a good 30 minutes after winning the tournament.
“I guess it was a little awkward getting on the bus with this big check for $1,200,’’ Roberts said. “I’m sure they would have liked to have had that. But they’ve gotten plenty of them over the years.’’
In the early days of the Newman program, the Jets’ roster consisted mostly of bowlers who couldn’t make the cut at Wichita State. That’s changed some because of Murphy, who shortly after arriving in Wichita with his team hit the road for St. Louis to do some recruiting.
“When I think of Wichita State bowling, I think of Kansas men’s basketball,’’ Newman senior Georgia Drewes said. “Wichita State is one of those programs you always see in the finals of something, in match play, on the (TV) show. It’s just kind of expected of them.’’
Newman, though, was able to slay the giant. And then ride home with the giant.
“We get along with them pretty well,’’ Drewes said. “We know all their names and I thought they knew ours.’’
That changed when Drewes was pulled aside by one of the WSU bowlers, she said, before their match-play finale Sunday.
“She told me she didn’t know I bowled for Newman,’’ Drewes said. “I was a little taken aback by that.’’
Finally, someone was taken aback.
Otherwise, though, the ride home was smooth. So after “The Lion King” was over, another movie started. By then, though, almost everyone was asleep.
“This was special to us, though,’’ Roberts said. “Whenever we go somewhere and people find out we’re from Wichita, they’re like, ‘Oh, WSU, we know about them.’ We have to tell them we’re the other school in Wichita.”
Read Bob’s blog at blogs.kansas.com. Reach him at 268-6597 or firstname.lastname@example.org.