Facing perhaps the toughest overall tournament field it will take on all year, the #15 Valparaiso bowling team opened the Prairie View A&M Invitational on Friday with a pair of wins.
The Crusaders ended the opening day of competition from Arlington, Texas with 4,706 total pins over Friday’s five matches, contested in the five-game baker format. Fairleigh Dickinson leads the team standings after the first day of action.
Valpo opened the tournament against two of the nation’s top-three teams and could not come out with a win. The Crusaders dropped their opener to #1 Nebraska, 991-845, and then fell 1056-959 to #3 Arkansas State despite breaking 200 in each of their final two games of that match.
“After a really good practice session yesterday, we came out really flat today,” said Crusader head coach Matt Nantais. “We didn’t throw the ball very well early on and dropped the first two matches.”
Valpo broke through in its third match of the day, exploding to a 99-pin lead after game one against #9 Maryland Eastern Shore by posting a 256 in the opener. UMES would out-score the Crusaders in each of the final four games, but the effort in the first game was enough for Valpo to hold on for a 939-927 win.
The Crusaders would make it two straight wins with a 1067-1021 win in their next match against #RV Alabama State, breaking 200 in each of the first four games of the match. The 1067 score was the third-best for a Valpo team in a five-game baker match in program history. Despite carrying a 22-pin lead into the final game of the day’s last match against host Prairie View A&M, the Crusaders were unable to win their third straight, as the Panthers closed with a 237 as Valpo fell 930-896.
“We were able to come back and beat UMES and Alabama State in a couple of close matches that could have gone either way,” said Nantais. “The last match, we didn’t throw the ball well – we missed multiple spares, and then we weren’t able to answer in the last game when they threw the last seven strikes against us.”
Valparaiso (36-38) continues action from Arlington on Saturday.
“We have to come out tomorrow with more focus and intensity than we did today,” said Nantais. “All our opponents tomorrow are ranked in the top-10, so it will be a very challenging day – but I believe we have the talent to beat them.”