Few stories in Sam Houston State's recent sports history are more remarkable than the inaugural Bearkat women's bowling team's rise to glory last year.

During its first season of competition, the bowling team rolled up a match record of 70 victories and only 42 losses. More than half of their wins came over squads ranked among the nation's top 20 and all but four of the losses were to ranked foes.

The season ended with Sam Houston becoming the first inaugural program to earn an NCAA Division I national tournament berth in the eight-year history of the event.

The Bearkats were one of eight squads invited to the NCAA tournament in Detroit where they won two matches before being eliminated.

Now, with five players returning including one All-American and two top new recruits, the Sam Houston bowling team begins its second season Saturday October 22 with the "Piney Woods Shootout" with Stephen F. Austin at the International Bowling Training and Research Center in Arlington.

The big question for the Bearkat bowlers is what to do for an encore.

"People ask me was I surprised at our success last year and, in a way, I was, but really I wasn't," Sam Houston head bowling coach Brad Hagen said. "I've always believed in quality over quantity. Starting this program, we recruited quality young people and told them that we had a chance to do something really exciting here at Sam Houston.

"We tried to do things the right way, the girls bought into the program and it paid off. We got a lot of people's attention in the bowling world. I'm very proud of what our girls accomplished last year."

Seniors Dana Galganski, Lisa MacAllister and Aida Sanchez will lead this year's team. Galganski earned All-America honors as the team's leading in total pins in 2010-10. She twice was named all-tournament and was voted as the Bearkats "Most Valuable Player."

"The team can't wait to get the new season started," Galganski said. "Qualifying for the national tournament last year was exciting but this season our goal is to win it."

Sophomores Neishka Cardona and Kimi Davidson also return from last year's squad that participated in eight major national tournaments, each with fields made up of top nationally-ranked opponents.

"Talking about quality, one of the most important factors in our success last year was our schedule," Hagen said. "We always want to play the best and our strength of schedule was key to earning the invitation to the NCAA championship."

Sam Houston won one tournament, placed in the top three in four others and finished no lower than eighth in any of their appearances. The Bearkats ended the year seventh in the final national women's bowling rankings and were ranked as high as No. 5 during the year.

Further strengthening the squad are two top recruits. Freshman Elise Bolton of Merritt Island, Florida, has earned numerous gold medals playing for the USA National Junior Team and last summer participated in international events for Team USA.  Michelle Secours, a junior transfer from Bellarmine University brings a resume that includes 13 top 25 performances in 21 intercollegiate events as a freshman and sophomore.

"By adding more depth and experience we feel we've really improved our situation," Hagen said. "All of the other teams that were at the NCAA tournament lost some quality players to graduation. We have an opportunity to accomplish a lot more this year. We just have to play with the heart and passion to get it done."

Sam Houston chalked up at least one victory over each of the other seven teams that earned berths in the NCAA Division I championship tournament. Hagen believes his squad must set the tempo for another strong season performance immediately.

"It's really important we get off on the right foot against Stephen F. Austin in Arlington next weekend," Hagen said. "We went 6-0 against the Lumberjacks last year and even our two new players have learned all about the rivalry with SFA. The team went together to Reliant Stadium for the SFA football game and saw first-hand what the Kats versus Jacks thing is all about."

The women's bowling team is well known among the more than 350 student-athletes on the Huntsville campus as the squad that goes to the most sports events.

"If the girls aren't at a bowling tournament, they are at a home athletic event whether its football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, track or tennis," Hagen said. "It's something that has really build a team spirit."

One major plus for the second season of women's bowling is that Sam Houston will host a tournament in Huntsville this year. The inaugural Kat Klash will take place Friday through Sunday December 2-4 at Huntsville Lanes. The field already includes five nationally ranked opponents and each of the women's bowling programs from Texas.

"Obviously our goal is to end up back at the NCAA championships in Cleveland in April," Hagen said. "The girls are a lot more confident this year and they are excited to get started. There is a lot of potential this year. We need to stay focused and not take things for granted. It's going to be a fun ride."