Sarah Florence and Nikki Mendez both finished in the top four individually, and the Youngstown State bowling team remained in first place after Saturday's traditional play at the Columbia 300 Penguin Classic. The tournament is being held at Holiday Bowl in Struthers, Ohio.
The Penguins increased their lead from Friday by posting 4,931 pins in their five matches, which pushed them 180 pins ahead of the rest of the field. Youngstown State heads into Sunday's bracket play as the top seed in a tournament for the first time in program history.
"The lanes played differently today, and the ladies made great shots and relayed good reads," YSU head coach Doug Kuberski said. "We communicated well in practice and throughout the day, and I think that allowed us to be pretty consistent. I'm proud of our ladies for being good teammates today with all of the lineup shuffling we did. We still have some little details to fine-tune for tomorrow and going forward, but I'm definitely proud of where we are for the first tournament."
Youngstown State went 4-1 in head-to-head matches and finished the two days of qualifying with a 7-3 mark. The Penguins topped Lewis 932-848 to start the morning in a positional battle between the teams that had the highest total pinfalls on Friday. YSU followed that up with a 994-763 win over Belmont Abbey, a 987-956 victory over No. 16 Saint Francis U and a 1,013-946 win against Medaille. The Penguins dropped their final match on Saturday in another positional round to SFU 1,021-1,005.
Individually, Florence placed second in the field of 56 bowlers with a five-game total of 1,093. That school-record total edged Rachel Darrow's mark for highest tournament total of 1,077 that was set last November. The junior from Hammonton, N.J., had the highest total on Saturday after the second, third and fourth games, but Kentucky Wesleyan's Angelique McKeny bowled a 300 in the final game to jump ahead of Florence by 14 pins.
Mendez finished fourth with a 1,044, which was the second-highest tournament total of her career, to join Florence on the all-tournament team. Emma Wrenn averaged 218.3 over her final three games to shoot up the standings with a ninth-place total of 992, and Emma Dockery finished 13th with a 941. YSU's other six bowlers also saw action on Saturday.
As the top seed, the Penguins will have two chances to advance to the tournament title match on Sunday. The first chance will be when YSU takes on second-seeded Arkansas State at 8 a.m. If YSU falls to the Red Wolves, it will play either third-seeded Lewis or fourth-seeded Saint Francis U in the second round for another shot at bowling for the championship.