The #15 Valparaiso University bowling team kicked off hosting duties at the seventh annual Crusader Classic at Inman’s Bowling and Recreation Center on Friday, recording a win against the nation’s top-ranked team in Nebraska to highlight the day’s proceedings.
Valpo tallied 4,511 pins over the day’s five matches, contested in the five-game baker format, to finish the opening day of competition in ninth place out of the 14 competing teams. The Crusaders did post a 3-2 record on the day. #5 Vanderbilt leads the team standings after day one with 5,053 total pins.
Valpo kicked off the tournament with a matchup against #8 Central Missouri. The Crusaders were behind eight pins after game one, but used back-to-back efforts of 202 and 222 to go ahead by 89 pins and cruised from there to a 930-813 victory. The Crusaders’ second contest would not be as kind, however, as they fell to #7 UW-Whitewater by a 1019-886 final.
“We had a really good start to the day in beating Central Missouri, which has been in the NCAA Tournament every year that it has been in existence,” said Crusader head coach Matt Nantais. “We had a rough time against UW-Whitewater – we seemed to not be able to get anything going and could not get ahead of the transition.”
The matchup against the top-ranked Cornhuskers was next on the docket, and the Crusaders were up to the challenge. The two squads battled through three relatively low-scoring games to open the match, with Nebraska holding a 21-pin edge with two games to play. Valpo turned the tables in game four, posting its best game of the day with a 240 to counter a 210 from Nebraska and take a nine-pin lead. Game five would go the Crusaders’ way too by a narrow margin as they closed out a 942-931 win – the program’s 11th win all-time in a matchup with the nation’s #1 team.
“The next match against Nebraska was back-and-forth,” said Nantais. “We took the lead in the fourth game and had lane choice in the final game, which definitely benefited us. This marks back-to-back weekends we have beaten a former national champion.”
Valpo earned its third win of the day next time out with ease as the Crusaders faced #RV Alabama A&M and bested the Lady Bulldogs by at least 34 pins every game in an 897-658 victory. The day would end on a down note, though, as Elmhurst defeated the Crusaders 907-856 in the finale.
“The match against Alabama A&M wasn’t our best, but we came out with the win,” said Nantais. “Elmhurst came out and threw the ball very well in the last match for such a young team. We just could not keep up our intensity, and missed a lot of easy spares which cost us the match. Tomorrow, we will come out and try to start the same way we did today – hopefully we have a little bit more fire throughout the day and can improve our record.”
Valparaiso (7-10) continues action from its home tournament on Saturday morning.