LINCOLN, NE - The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) claimed their second ever xbowling Intercollegiate Team Championship (ITC) and fifth overall National Championship this afternoon at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska, solidifying themselves as one of the premier programs in the nation.
The Hawks topped Pikeville 2-0 in the finals, recorded for a tape-delayed airing in May on CBS Sports Network. It is the Hawks second USBC Collegiate Championship in three years and fifth title in six seasons.
In game one the Hawks fell behind early, opening the first two frames. After freshman Kristie Lopez (Puerto Rico) and junior Megan Buja (Rockford, Ill.) both recorded an open nine count in the first two frames, the Hawks got going. A spare from Mariana Alvarado (Leon, Mexico) followed by a turkey from Anggie Ramirez (Bogota, Colombia), T'nia Falbo (Greensburg, Pa.) and Lopez jumped the Hawks back in the game. They would then spare and then post another turkey from the threesome of Alvarado, Ramirez and Falbo to secure the win. Senior Valentina Collazos (Cali, Colombia) would throw the fill balls in the tenth for some National Championship action.
UMES took advantage of Pikeville, who opened in the sixth. Despite marking in every other frame, they only tossed three strikes in the match, one on the fill and never doubled.
In game two the Bears jumped out on the Hawks again. Just like in game one, UMES opened in the first two frames. While they would spare the third and strike in the fourth, Falbo opened in the fifth and things looked bleak as Pikeville struck in the first and third and spared the other three frames.
While UMES began marking with spares in the sixth and seventh and a strike from Alvarado in the eighth, they were still playing catch-up to the Bears who struck and spared twice in the same frames.
Then disaster struck for Pikeville. An open in the ninth after a split that accounted for only six on the first ball and two on the second meant UMES was in it. They needed a strike from Ramirez. But it didn't come, she picked up eight and spared the frame, chances were slim. The Pikeville anchor, who had marked each frame of the match, then didn't. She tossed an eight on the first ball. That meant the Hawks trailed by 27 pins. A spare would force a deciding game three. She got one.
The Bears finished up with a 171. UMES was sitting on a 135 heading into the tenth. To have any chance Falbo had to strike. The anchor didn't miss. All ten came crashing down and that meant UMES closed out the ninth with a 145 and had a strike to work on in the final frame. A spare would do UMES no good. That would be six pins too few. Falbo needed another strike.
A week ago in Michigan Falbo had to have a strike to force a tie, she left the ten pin. This time she left no doubt. As the ball smashed the pocket all 10 fell and that meant UMES would need just six to tie and seven to win. Eight would work. Falbo got enough to win and the Hawks took advantage of Pikeville mistakes to claim their fifth National Championship in program history.
"We worked together all year long and came up stronger and stronger every time," said Ramirez.
"This feels amazing," said Falbo the senior and three-time All-American. "It's great to go out with a championship!"
Buja, the unsung hero of the group, was much more business-like in her answer to the generic `how do you feel' question. "I feel like we need to design a new ring," she said with a smile.
Ramirez, a four-time All-America selection relished the fact that her collegiate career ends with a win. "So few people get to go out with a win, to go out on top, what a great way to end a great experience," she said. "My last day of collegiate bowling couldn't be any more perfect."
The trio has helped account for four of the program's five National Championships and will go down as some of the greatest athletes to ever grace the Princess Anne, Md. campus.
"These young ladies are so special," said head coach Kristina Frahm. "I have bowled with them, coached them, and been their friend and teammate. To accomplish what they have is nothing short of incredible. The team is so phenomenal. A National Championship in each of the last three years, wow, what a feat."
What a feat indeed.