ROCHESTER, N.Y. - - Playing in its first NCAA Collegiate Bowling Regional Championship, the Wilmington University bowling team provided one of the biggest upsets in the sport, defeating No. 2 seed Nebraska, 2-0, before falling to Fairleigh Dickinson in the winner's bracket, 2-0, and advance to Saturday in the regional bracket.
Playing in the mega match format, the Wildcats took it to the No. 2 seed and defending National Champion Cornhuskers in the Traditional style match.
The Wildcats quickly shook off the nerves of their biggest postseason match, but none better than CC Riojas. Her first ball of the day found the gutter, but she bounced back with a 10-pin spare on her next roll. She ended up leading the Wildcats in the first match with a 216 in the match.
Rachel Hirst finished with a 202 in the anchor position, as she and Riojas were the only Wildcats over the 200-pin mark. The Wildcats' sixth bowler proved valuable in the opener, as Desiree Dent came off the bench in the second half of the match, bowling strong to finish with a combined score of 195 with Malia Stout. Freshman Sydney Jones bowled a 188 from the leadoff spot while KC Miller rounded out the Wildcats with a 182, finishing with a team score of 983.
The Cornhuskers had a bowler with a 255, but their next highest score was a 181, as the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the mega match with a 983-897 win.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead in the Baker total pinfall match, but the Huskers fought back. After big games in the second and third, Nebraska took a 597-591 lead over the Wildcats. But the Wildcats didn't roll over, as they battled back with a big game four, 223-216, to take a one-pin lead, 814-813, into the fifth and final game. It wasn't pretty, but the Wildcats took advantage of Nebraska misses, winning game five, 183-156, to win the match, 997-969, for their first NCAA Tournament victory, 2-0.
The winner's bracket match didn't go as planned for the Wildcats, as nationally 13th ranked Fairleigh Dickinson remained red hot after their first-round win over Sacred Heart. The Wildcats lead early in the Traditional match, but the Knights took over from the sixth frame. Four out of the five bowlers rolled a strike in the ninth frame as the Knights put the match out of reach.
Rachel Hirst again led the Wildcats in the traditional format, bowling a 244 against the Knights. She finished fifth overall on the day with a 446 (223 average) in the two Traditional matches. Malia Stout bowled a 175 while CC Riojas bowled a 171. Sydney Jones bowled a 168 against the Knights while Desiree Dent finished with a 157.
Fairleigh Dickinson put the pedal to the floor to start the Baker pinfall match, coming out of the gates to lead by 90 pins after the first game. The Wildcats closed the gap to within 82 after the third game, 671-589, but then the Knights put the match away late once again, extending their lead to 1,105-997, to win the match, 2-0.
The loss drops the Wildcats to the elimination bracket, but they advance to Saturday and remain alive for the Regional Championship. They will face No. 2 Nebraska once again on Saturday, as the Huskers eliminated Sacred Heart in round two. The first ball will be bowled at 9:00 a.m. at the Bowl-A-Roll on Saturday.