Wickliffe, OH - Only eight teams are left standing and two are from the Northeast Conference. National No. 2 Fairleigh Dickinson and No. 7 Sacred Heart open up play at the 2012 NCAA Bowling Championships on Thursday, April 12.
The eight-team national championship tournament will begin with traditional match play on April 12 and continue with double-elimination, best-of-seven baker match bracket play on April 13 & 14 in Wickliffe, OH, a suburb of Cleveland.
FDU, which slipped to second in the latest NTCA Top 20 Coaches’ Poll following its NEC Championship final loss to Sacred Heart, will look to keep an impressive streak intact when it opens play at Freeway Lanes of Wickliffe, the nation’s largest bowling center. The Knights are contesting the NCAA bracket for the eighth time in nine years and have made it through to the semifinal round during every one of their prior seven trips.
FDU went all the way in 2006 and, most recently, in 2010 when 2012 NTCA Bowler of the Year Danielle McEwan was a freshman. McEwan, who won the NCAA Tournament MVP award that year, will look to continue her season-long tear that includes a win at the Team USA Trials.
“We have been very fortunate to be a program that is at this tournament often but it never gets old,” said FDU head coach, and reigning two-time NEC Coach of the Year, Michael LoPresti. “We are really looking forward to the chance to possibly win a National Championship.”
Meanwhile, Sacred Heart, which rolled through the 2012 NEC Tournament on the way to its second title, is back in the NCAA Championship Field for the fifth time in program history, but the first time since 2008.
Both 2012 NTCA All-American First Team selection Jackie Carbonetto and NEC Tournament MVP Jackie Willy were in high school when the Pioneers last made it to the “Big Dance.” Now, with the hope of adding a national title to the NEC crown they won back on March 25, they will look to continue the fine play that allowed them to successfully navigate through a conference tournament field that featured five of the nation’s top-15 teams.
FDU and Sacred Heart’s quest for an all-NEC NCAA Championship final will gain intensity come Friday, April 13 when the tournament format switches to championship bracket play. In Thursday’s preliminary seeding rounds, each of the field’s eight team will face one another in a traditional team matches. The results from traditional team play will determine the seed order in the championship bracket.
This year’s championship final will air on ESPNU at 8 pm Saturday, April 14. A replay of the championship finals will air on ESPN at 2:30 pm Sunday, April 15.