OTTAWA, Kan. – Separated by a handful of lanes and only a couple of minutes, both Avila bowling teams upset the tournament’s top seeds to becomes champions of the inaugural KCAC Bowling Invitational this Saturday in Ottawa, wrapping up the teams’ second season of competition by collecting the first conference banners in program history.
Last year the KCAC and GPAC hosted a combined conference tournament, and last week the AMC joined those two leagues to establish a field large enough to award a team automatic entry into the NAIA Tournament, but this was the first year in the young history of bowling in the KCAC that only the league’s four full-time member squads (Avila, Ottawa, Kansas Wesleyan and Saint Mary) were on hand to compete for a tournament title.
Despite the small field, the conditions on Saturday were extremely challenging for everyone, resulting in some low scores and, ultimately, a wide open tournament. Both team bowled three total individual games to determine an all-tournament team followed by a total of eight Baker-style games; the scores from both disciplines were combined to determine seeding for a single-elimination bracket on Saturday afternoon.
On the women’s side, Bailey Stephan had one of the best tournaments of her Avila career, shooting an average of 172.7, the fifth-best mark in the field, and earning a spot on the All-Tournament team for the first time. Kirsten Zirjacks shot the best game of any Eagle at 191 and finished sixth, just outside of the All-Tournament field, while Devyn Coleman finished just three pins behind Zirjacks in seventh.
There weren’t too many high scores on the men’s side, but Brody Stanback had one of them, clearing 200 twice to average 203.3 and finish fourth in the field, earning a spot on the All-Tournament team for the first time. Nick Hays placed 12th and Caleb Wangler placed 13th in the field; Aidan Tesdall was the team’s highest scorer with a 244 in game two.
But even with a fair bit of individual success in the early stages Saturday, the Avila women were seeded second and the men third in the four-team bracket on Saturday afternoon. Both brackets were best-of-five Baker-style showdowns, but unlike most other fields this season this one was single elimination, meaning every team only had one chance to win before their tournament came to an end.
And both Eagle teams made the most of their opportunities. Facing No. 2 seed Ottawa in the first round, Avila won game one and Ottawa won game two to drop…