On March 21, the Sacred Heart University women’s bowling team traveled to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Northeastern Conference (NEC) Championships for their fifth consecutive season, where they took on Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU). The Pioneers fell to FDU, losing a deciding best of 7 finale, to lose the overall series 2-1.
The Pioneers finished their season with a 15-5 record. The team is not looking past their accomplishments this season.
“Just when you think you know what is going on, it changes,” said head coach Becky Kregling.
Kregling expressed her admiration of her team’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus and to keep themselves bowling amidst the changes they had to adapt to.
According to Kregling, the team has had “tolerance for all the changes and restrictions like not being allowed to go home, respect for the COVID rules, no complaining, hard work and amazing team dynamics.”
The format of the NCAA bowling championship is structured by each team playing three separate “games” or “formats.” One team must win two out of three of the separate differently formatted games to win the overall match, and in this case, the NEC Championship.
The first “format” is a team game. Both teams have five bowlers, all five bowl a game and the total pins are accumulated and tallied. The final score of game one on March 21 was Fairleigh Dickinson 978-977 Sacred Heart, giving FDU a 1-0 series lead.
Losing by one pin could potentially have a dismal effect on the team.
“We talked about coming back after being down and not letting the one pin loss in the first game affect us after that,” said Kregling.
The second “format” is called “total pinfall.” Teams match up individually with opponents and play five games, and then the total points are tallied.
In a back and forth second match, a key strike from senior Rachel Bamford to close it out gave Sacred Heart the win in the second format by a total score of 1084-1053. This evened the series at 1-1 and sent Sacred Heart to a final third “format” for the championship.
The third “format” is best of seven. FDU had a 3-1 lead in the final “format.” The Pioneers were able to tie the final match at 3-3, forcing a final game. FDU was able to take the final game of the Championships, closing the overall series at 2-1.
“We were all disappointed. Losing stings, but it stings more when it was so close and everyone knows that if they did one little thing better, the team could have won,” said Kregling. “But the positive is that we played well enough to make it that close of a match.”
This was a historic night for Sacred Heart despite the championship loss. Senior Skyler Mulligan-Brown bowled a perfect 300 game, which marks a personal first and a first in program history.
“I refused to look at the screen until the ninth frame. I knew I was striking a decent amount, but I didn’t realize how close I really was getting,” said Mulligan-Brown. “Once I got
into the 10th frame, I started to feel the nerves. My legs were shaking, and it felt like my entire body was vibrating.”
Mulligan-Brown was able to put the pressure to the side and bowl her final three strikes in the 10th frame to secure a perfect 300 game.
“After my last shot, my head was going in a million different directions,” said Mulligan-Brown. “I remember catching my breath since I was holding my breath during my last shot since I was so nervous.”
Kregling was amazed at Mulligan-Brown’s performance and calm in the final stretch.
“Skyler is who made this happen by her composure and keeping her head calm. She made three great shots in the 10th frame, which still impresses me,” said Kregling.
Mulligan-Brown credited the history of Sacred Heart bowling and her mental preparation.
“Being surrounded by all of my positive teammates and friends made me beyond excited and happy to share that moment with them,” said Mulligan-Brown. “The fact that out of all of the talented women to have been on the Sacred Heart women’s bowling team I was the only one to have shot a 300 is incredible.”