The Youngstown State bowling team will compete in a conference championship for the first time in program history this weekend as it participates in the Southland Bowling League Championship.
The Penguins will be the sixth seed in the tournament and will begin play at 9:30 a.m. on Friday against defending tournament champion and third-seeded Arkansas State. The tournament is being held at USA Bowl in Dallas, Texas, and live video of the Penguins' matches will be streamed on the YSUsports YouTube channel. InsideBowling.com will stream featured matches all three days of the tournament as well.
The winner of the SBL Championship will earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Women's Bowling Championship that will be held April 11-13 in Wickliffe, Ohio, which is located just east of Cleveland.
"The Southland and USA Bowl run a top-notch event, and we are excited to compete in our first conference championship," YSU head coach Doug Kuberski said. "This is mega-match format, so we'll be on the same pair for the entirety of each match, which definitely makes things interesting. In terms of our strategy, we are going to continue to focus on playing our game. This team is resilient and knows how to battle. I can't wait to take the lanes with them tomorrow."
The Southland Bowling League Championship will be a double-elimination tournament, and each head-to-head matchup will follow a best-of-three format to determine which team advances. Each head-to-head contest will be a Mega Match that consists of a five-person team match, a Baker total pinfall match and a best-of-seven Baker match. If one team wins both the traditional game and Baker games, it will advance without bowling in the best-of-seven series.
If YSU prevails against Arkansas State, it will advance in the winners bracket and take on either Sam Houston State or Louisiana Tech at 2:30 p.m. If the Penguins fall to A-State, they'll fight to stay alive against the loser of the Sam Houston State-Louisiana Tech match at 2:30 p.m.
Scouting The Field
Seeding for the Southland Bowling League Championship is based on the most recent NCAA RPI ranking. Defending National Champion Vanderbilt is the top seed, and the Commodores are followed by Sam Houston State, Arkansas State, Stephen F. Austin, Tulane, Youngstown State, Louisiana Tech and Valparaiso. A-State won the SBL Championship in 2018, and Vanderbilt and Sam Houston State earned at-large berths into the NCAA Championship.
Scouting the Penguins
Youngstown State is in its third season as an intercollegiate program, and it competed as an independent before joining the Southland Bowling League for the 2018-19 season. The Penguins have been with two head coaches this season en route to a 49-49 head-to-head record and a No. 24 ranking in the most recent National Tenpin Coaches Association Top 25 Poll. Clint Dailey led the program on an interim basis during the fall semester, and Doug Kuberski became the full-time head coach in December. Kuberski was an assistant coach and interim head coach at Arkansas State in 2017-18.
Sophomore Emma Dockery has led the Penguins with a 189.25 average in team games, and she has bowled in the anchor position in Baker play for most of the spring semester. Junior Nikki Mendez leads the Penguins with 14 games over 200, and she is slightly behind Dockery in average at 189.13. She has moved from anchor to the leadoff spot in the spring. Junior Rachel Darrow has bowled in all but one team game and is averaging 187.15, and Emily Dietz, Rachel Ellis, Ashley Kolb and Alexis Sullivan have been on the travel squad all year while Emma Wasielewski has traveled for the last three tournaments. Ellis is the program's lone senior.
Recapping Last Week
Youngstown State finished 11th among a 29-team field at the Columbia 300 Music City Classic in Smyrna, Tenn., last weekend. The Penguins beat No. 1 McKendree in Baker play last Friday for the program's first win over a top-ranked team. YSU tied a program record with a 258 Baker game against Central Missouri at the tournament, and their 196.48 Baker game average was its best a tournament in school history. Mendez and Dietz both posted their best pinfalls for a tournament during their Penguins careers, posting respective scores of 1,063 and 988.
If Youngstown State can win the Southland Bowling League Championship, it will earn an automatic bid to bowl in the NCAA Women's Bowling Championship on April 11-13. The national tournament will be held at RollHouse Wickliffe in Wickliffe, Ohio, which is located just east of Cleveland.