The Bearkat bowlers will kick off the season this weekend with an exhibition event in Fort Worth for the SWIBC at City View Lanes. It will be the first of five events for the Bearkats in the state of Texas.
The Kats will also stay close to home for the TRACK Kat Klash in November, back-to-back events in February and the Southland Conference Championships in March.
"It is huge for us, especially on the mental side,” said Head Coach Brad Hagen about getting multiple events in Texas. “The travel and the in-and-out of airports, it can take its toll on you. When we first started the program, we were the first legitimate NCAA tournament in Texas. Now we are getting the chance to compete here five times.”
Hagen, who enters his 9th season in charge of the program, decided not to make a ton of changes to the schedule from last season where the Kats qualified for the NCAA championships for the 6th time.
“With the changes in the NCAA selection process last season, we weren’t really sure what the expectations were going to be from the selection committee as far as wins and strength of schedule so we had to set it up the way we did,” Hagen said. “Everything worked out for us last year, so I really didn’t see a need to change a whole lot. That’s why this schedule is 99 percent the same as last year.”
The regular season will kick off for the Bearkats at the Tulane Invitational where they will enter as the defending champions. After a weekend off, the Kats will host the Kat Klash once again at Emerald Bowl in Houston. That will begin a stretch of three straight weekends of competition, closing out the fall semester UMES Hawk Classic in Millsboro, Dele.
The spring semester will kick off at the Mid-Winter Invitational in Jonesboro, Ark. and concludes with the Southland Bowling League Championships at USA Bowl in Dallas. It will be the second look at the facility for the Kats, with SFA also hosting their home event at USA Bowl five weeks earlier.
“It is exciting to be able to compete there twice this year,” Hagen said. “We won’t play on the same pattern and lanes, but for the girls to get into the environment and see what we are going to expect for conference will be huge. Any time you can get a look at a facility a few weeks before competing for a championship there is beneficial.”
The Kats are hoping once again to get a bid to the NCAA Championships, which would be the 8th time in the program’s nine years. It would also mark a return trip to Cleveland, Ohio and the Game of Wickliffe, the same facility the Bearkats won the only NCAA Division I national championship in school history.
“It’s exciting to go back there,” Hagen said. “Every year our goal is nationals and that what the girls come here for. Nobody on the team has been there, but we won there last time, so hopefully we can get the chance to go back. It’s exciting because that is where things really changed for this program.”