The Bearkats split a pair of matches on the opening day of the NCAA Bowling Championships, avoiding elimination on Thursday afternoon.

After an opening round loss to the No. 4 seed Commodores, the Kats bounced back to eliminate Lincoln Memorial University. Sam Houston will face Arkansas State in another elimination match Friday morning at 9 a.m. The winner will face Vanderbilt Friday afternoon.

“We came out a little slow, and that’s tough when the scoring pace it high,” said head coach Brad Hagen. “We caught a tough Vanderbilt team and the took advantage of some good breaks. We bounced back this afternoon, tweaked some things and the score were a bit more consistent.”

With their backs against the wall, the Bearkats responded. In the traditional game, the Kats took the opening round, winning 1007-831. Three Kats broke the 200 mark, with Stephanie Zavala leading the way with a 259. Zavala opened with three straight strikes. After leaving the fourth frame open, she was perfect the rest of the way. Amber MacLeod posted a solid 215 and Madysen Keller rolled a 203.

In the total-pin team bakers, the Kats once again came out strong winning by 17 pins in the first game and building the lead to 62 after a 224-181 win in game 2. In Game 3 the Kats closed strong with six straight strikes, including three from Zavala in the 10th for a 203-200 win.

They carried that momentum into the fourth game, starting with six straight strikes and won 246-216, building a 93-pin lead. LMU made a charge in the fifth, beating the Kats by 70 pins, but SHSU had a big enough cushion to hold on for the victory.

“It was very important (to win in 2) because now we can go back to the hotel and get some rest, get a good dinner and get as much sleep as possible,” Zavala said. “We were just able to settle down and control the emotions better (against LMU). We filled frames more efficiently and took advantage of the breaks we did get. 

In the opening match of the day, the Bearkats fell to No. 4 Vanderbilt in game 6 of the best of seven series. The Kats opened the day with a 1007-986 win over the Commodores in the Traditional Game.

Keller got thigs going early for the Bearkats with strikes in the second, third and fourth frames and then closed strong with three in the 10th. She finished with a 226. Lynne Fishler led the way for the Kats with a 238. She going it going in the sixth frame starting a run of five straight strikes. Stephanie Zavala also cracked the 200 mark, with a 209.

In the opening game of the total-pin team bakers, the Kats took the opening game 171-162. Vanderbilt shifted the score in their favor in the second game, winning by 59 pins and they never looked back. The Commodores took the five-game series 1093-988, a 105-pin victory.

In the best-of-7 round, Vanderbilt opened strong, taking the first two games. The Kats bounced back taking the next two, dominating the fourth, 223-145. But Vanderbilt took the final two games to close out the match.