Playing the role of Wichita State’s women’s bowling team on Saturday afternoon was Webber International.
Adopting some of the same characteristics that WSU used to reach the intercollegiate national championship match, Webber defeated the Shockers 3-1 in a best-of-five series at Northrock Lanes to claim its third title.
Webber’s ability to seize upon an opponent’s mistake while making few of its own was on display Saturday. Those were hallmarks of WSU as it easily handled four consecutive opponents on the way to the finals.
The Shockers missed a chance to claim their 10th title and appeared in the finals for the first time since winning the 2009 championship.
“We’ve been (ranked) No. 1 and 2 all year long. We’ve had a great year and they’ve had a similar year, too. They battled (through the losers bracket) to get here,” WSU coach Mark Lewis said. “It was just a bunch of really good shots, both teams playing at a really high level.”
WSU won the first match 207-177 and appeared on the way to dispatching another overmatched opponent. After a seven-game first-round series, WSU defeated its next three opponents in five, five and four games in best-of-seven series.
The Shockers swept Maryland Eastern Shore in the semifinals, winning by an average of more than 58 pins with 32 strikes and no open frames in four games. Saturday’s Game 1 victory wasn’t quite as dominating, but WSU had three strikes in the first five frames to take control when Webber left open the second frame.
WSU didn’t get many more opportunities to pounce. Webber won Game 2 230-215 even though the Shockers finished with five straight strikes. WSU left open the sixth frame and saw Webber seize the chance with 106 points on the final five frames.
“It depends on where you are in that moment and it’s one of those things that can give momentum to the other side,” Lewis said of open frames. “It gives them a little bit more energy. It gives them a reprieve, making them feel like they’ve got a chance.”
Webber didn’t relent. WSU was finished off by three straight 10th-frame strikes in a 203-196 Game 3 win for Webber, but that defeat offered the Shockers a brief bout of hope.
Laura Plazas’ ninth-frame strike gave WSU the energy it had been missing for most of the match. It propelled the Shockers to four strikes their next six attempts, including four in Game 4.
“We got a little more pumped going into the last two (games),” Plazas said. “We were a little low, and that (strike) definitely got us a little more energy that we needed going into the last game.
The enthusiasm didn’t last. WSU had an open seventh frame and Webber finished with seven strikes in its final eight attempts. Webber seemed to better handle the nerves of the match’s pivotal moments, totaling 10 strikes in the eighth frame or later and winning 238-213.
“There will always be nerves. Even when we were in the qualifying there were nerves,” Plazas said. “But we did good. We started strong. At the end, we were strong, they just got a little more breaks than we did.”
Other championships – The day began with men’s singles. Daniel Hanson of Robert Morris (Ill.) beat Darren Tang of San Jose State 203-174 in the final. Tang’s brother Michael won the singles title in 2015.
In the women’s singles final, Emily Eckhoff of Hastings College repeated as champion, beating Morgan Brown of Fairleigh Dickinson 227-222.
The mean’s team final between William Patterson and McKendree was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.