Women’s Bowling concludes historic season


Megan McKay, Staff writer

Mercyhurst Women’s bowling’s historic season has unfortunately come to an end. The Lakers put together an impressive record this past season including the program’s first ever Conference Championship and bid to the NCAA tournament. Two weeks ago, the Lakers were able to secure the Eastern Conference Championship with excellent bowling and heart. With not much time to celebrate the historic feat the team was back to practice in order to prepare for their next matchup and the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
This past weekend the Lakers traveled to Pittsburgh to compete in the NCAA Regional round to play for a bid to the Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Lakers first matchup in the opening round began Friday against the number 4 ranked Nebraska. This would not be the first time the two teams had seen each other. The Lakers faced off against the Cornhuskers at the McKendree Bearcat Open back in October where they beat Nebraska by a score of 4-1 and placed second at the tournament.
Head Coach of the Lakers, Michael Machuga, also bowled at Nebraska. There was certainly a personal touch to the matchup and a lot at stake. Machuga said, “It feels a little like destiny to be for our first trip to the dance and excited with how the draw went and looking forward to the matches.” There was certainly an excitement in the room he described as his team had taken down Nebraska once before and are not afraid of big teams.
As expected, the faceoff between Nebraska and Mercyhurst was a strong match back and forth. However, Nebraska took the first game 1049-914 and the lead. Nebraska would go on to beat the Lakers 2-0 after a final score of 1013-960. However, Mercyhurst was not finished with their NCAA appearance as they were faced in double elimination.
The Lakers were off to a great start in their second match as they defeated Stephen F. Austin 933-835, but the Ladyjacks came back in the second game 1121-948. Tied 1-1 the teams faced off in a best of seven. Early in, the Ladyjacks took a 3-0 lead which put them on the defense and despite the Lakers effort to come back in the tiebreaker they lost 4-1 in the five game baker match and Stephen F. Austin took the match 2-1. It was a heartbreaking end to a historic season but the Lakers have a lot to be proud of.
The team was able to accomplish more than any other team before and it says a lot about their dedication and commitment. The team was able to come in first in four tournaments from their season and even added on a fifth at the most important time of the year in Long Island, NY at the ECC Championships.
Individually the team had impressive seasons among players both young and old. Graduate Student, Haley Youker, has been the player to watch of the year. Recently receiving her second Bowler of the Year award, she has accomplished so much in her time here. She has bowled over 300 games and arguably has become the best bowler Mercyhurst has ever seen.
In her final match as a Laker she showed her skill with an impressive 256 knocked pins in her first match and 235 in her second. Youker commented on being named the ECC Bowler of the Year saying, “Last year didn’t go as planned, as I dealt with injuries, over the summer I learned how to manage my injuries to make it through the season. I powered myself forward and put in the work. It’s nice to see the results.”
Leaders on the bowling team like Youker, Samantha Strebel and Samantha Schurr have set a strong precedent for the future bowling players to come. The team is currently made up of eleven women, six of whom are underclassmen.
Coach Machuga has also taken the bowling program under his own reigns. Over the course of the season there were certainly bumps in the road especially in the ECC Championships but the team looked to prosper. Machuga is the first coach the program has seen who has paved a new path and spotted excellence.
Therefore, it is promising to say the bowling program has a bright future ahead and has proved their excellence in our community and on the National stage.