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Somerset, NJ - Sacred Heart rode the hot hands of Jacqueline Willy (Lewiston, NY/Lewiston Porter), Erin Weinmann (Temple, PA/Central Catholic), and Nicole Trudell (Coventry, RI/Coventry) to its second Northeast Conference Bowling Tournament title in three seasons.
Less than one week removed from hoisting the NEC trophy above their heads at Bowl-O-Rama in Reading, PA, the three Pioneers received additional recognition for their championship performance.
Each of the three ladies, who helped the Pioneers post a perfect 4-0 record during the double-elimination tournament, earned a place on the five-member NEC All-Championship Team, the composition of which was determined through a post-meet vote of the league’s head coaches.
The conference office announced the voting results on Thursday, March 29, four days after SHU held off National No. 1 Fairleigh Dickinson in a more-than memorable best-of-seven championship baker match.
A pair of FDU Knights filled out the two remaining spots on the Team. The well-decorated Danielle McEwan (Stony Point, NY/North Rockland) along with freshman Liat Vizenfeld (Holon, Israel) joined the trio of Pioneers on the list of All-Championship honorees.
The 2012 NEC Championship Most Valuable Player award went to Willy, who topped the entire field of individuals with her 24.00 baker frame average.
“Willy was a machine on Saturday,” marveled SHU head coach Becky Kregling. “She played at a level above what I expect from anyone on the team. It was an amazing thing to watch.”
After a glance at the numbers that Willy put up over the course of the two-day meet, it’s easy to understand why Kregling feels that way. Willy left only three open frames the entire weekend. During three matches on Saturday, she struck on 21 of her 26 chances for an incredible .808 strike percentage. At one point during Saturday’s competition, Willy had thrown 10 strikes in a row. The right-hander from Western New York accounted for a .700 strike percentage and .925 filled frames percentage over a four-match sample comprised of 20 baker games.
As amazing as the performance was, Kregling was not willing to attribute the team championship to the efforts on one individual.
“The entire team played well together and every player had moments to shine,” said Kregling.
Weinmann, a graduate student who has been battling knee trouble, took full advantage of her opportunity “to shine” right from the start.
“She was throwing the ball very well in the practice session so we put her in the #2 spot for the first match,” said Kregling of the injury-plagued bowler. “The first ball off her hand was great. The reaction which followed showed she wanted to end her collegiate bowling career with the conference championship.”
Remaining in the lineup for the entire tournament, something she had previsouly been unable to do during her SHU career, Weinmann averaged 22.02 pins per frame and left only four opens. She converted on 62.5 percent of her strikes opportunities and was especially effective during the title tilt against FDU. Weinmann struck on each of her first six balls to help the Pioneers grab a commanding 3-to-0 lead in the best-of-seven baker bout.
Trudell, who was right behind Weinmann in SHU’s lineup, threw her share of strikes, too. Trudell struck 25 times in 40 chances (.625) and filled 95.0 percent of her frames.
“Nicole and Erin threw quite a few doubles to help the team be up by the third frame,” said Kregling.
As it turns out, Trudell was executing despite a shoulder injury she suffered earlier in the week.
“Nicole walked into the practice session unsure if she would be able to bowl due to the injury,” said Kregling. “We all determined she would be able to bowl, but we were not sure how effective she would be. Each shot she focused on using her legs instead of the pain in her shoulder. She quietly averaged 218 in the third spot with two opens for the entire weekend.”
FDU’s McEwan is the lone member of the group of honorees to have previously garnered All-Championship status. Although Fairleigh Dickinson’s anchor bowler was unable to repeat the MVP performance she put forth during the Knights’ 2011 title run, she still picked up her third NEC All-Championship Team selection in three years. McEwan, who won the Team USA trials earlier this year, posted a 21.88 frame average over a five-match sample. She struck 51 times in 80 chances (.638) and nearly strung together 12 strikes in a row, the equivalent of a perfect 300 game, during Sunday morning’s semifinal round match against New Jersey City. The right-hander opened the best-of-seven baker match with 10 straight strikes before settling for a 9-spare to fill out the 10th frame of FDU’s Game 3 victory. McEwan followed with four more strikes in the match-clinching Game 4 triumph.
Receiving her first taste of NEC Championship competition, Vizenfeld performed like a grizzled veteran in helping FDU make its fourth consecutive final round appearance. The Israeli-born bowler posted a .940 filled frames percentage and made good use of her spare ball throughout the weekend. Vizenfeld cleaned up nearly 87 percent of her spare opportunities, accounting for the highest success rate of all bowlers on hand.
All five All-Championship honorees received an extension to the 2011-12 season when the NCAA unveiled its eight-team national championship bracket on Wednesday, March 28. Both FDU and Sacred Heart earned at-large berths into the field and will vie for the NCAA team title come April 12-14 in the Cleveland suburb of Wickliffe, OH.
FDU, a two-time NCAA champion (2006, 2010), heads to Ohio in search of its eighth trip to the Final Four in nine years. Sacred Heart will contest the national title meet for the fifth time in program history, but the first since 2008.