By Marc Weems
With the Youngstown State University women’s bowling team finishing its inaugural season, it did better than expected.
YSU was the only first-year program to crack the NTCA Coaches Top 25. It ended the season ranked No. 21 in the country. YSU beat many teams including 10th-ranked Central Missouri State University and many more.
“We definitely had ups and downs throughout the whole year,” YSU head coach Chelsea Gilliam said. “It was very exciting for the girls and the team to beat some of those ranked teams this season. That is a confidence boost for them and gives them a lot of hope in the future.”
Gilliam said that it was important because the girls know that even though it is young, the team can compete.
YSU was able to beat teams such as No. 19 Adelphi University and No. 17 Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. YSU’s best individual win was against No. 6 Sam Houston State University. It beat SHSU by just 23 pins.
“We definitely had our low times no doubt,” Gilliam said. “We missed easy spares here and there that we should have had. Those small things cost us games and matches. It was rough, but was a very good year.”
Speaking of very good years, Nikki Mendez and Rachel Darrow both led the Penguins last season. Darrow was the only girl to average above a 190 with a 190.59 average. Mendez and Alexis Grim both averaged in the 186 range. Mendez, Darrow, Grim and Emily Dietz all played in over 30 matches.
“I think the season went well and we have room for improvement,” Dietz said. “Now that we’ve been out there, we see what our competition is. We know the high level of play that we need to meet. Now, we have time to work on things in the summer. We know our weak points and our strong points now.”
Dietz said that now expectations are higher because of everyone’s great play.
“Coming here as a first year program, we didn’t know what we were getting into,” Mendez said. “As soon as we started having practices, we realized what we were capable of. To set those big goals and then to actually exceed them is really exciting. We are really excited for next year.”
Darrow and Mendez have been the highest pin-getter, except in the Crusader Classic in which Grim led with a 211 average.
“We have always set high expectation for the program and what we want to achieve,” Gilliam said. “We already got a jumpstart on that by beating these ranked teams. Also, being ranked in two of the polls sets us up to go even further next year. At first I was thinking, ‘Let’s go out and be competitive and let’s hang with these teams.’ We kept working and then we made the Top 25 in the February poll. I was so excited I could barely talk.”
Gilliam also said that was the best feeling because the polls are coach voted and that they all can compete on that level.
“This was the only first year program that I was looking at,” Mendez said. “I know of others that are first-year programs and it is nice to know that we are doing so much better than them. We are all from different areas and so it is important that we are all very close.”
Mendez said that being close has made them a better team and that without closeness, it wouldn’t be succeeding as well.
“We are all freshmen or sophomores,” Dietz said. “To do this well starting off gives us a great future. It’s an exciting feeling because we can make this program whatever we want from here on out. We are the first for YSU, the first to make the Top 25 and the first to do so well. Hopefully we are setting the pathway for the future.”