After a successful first half of the season, the Sam Houston bowling team will enter 2018 as the No. 5 ranked team in the country. The Bearkats received one first place vote in the latest NTCA top 25 poll.

The Kats used a pair of first-place finishes in the first half of the season to keep them solidified as one of the top bowling programs in the country.

“Coming in to this year, there were several unknowns with this team,” said head coach Brad Hagen. “We had some big players to replace and that can take some time. But this team responded to the challenge immediately.”

Sam Houston opened the year with a victory at the Tulane invitational, capturing a team title in the season opener for the fifth time in the last six years. The team victory wasn’t the only highlight of the trip to the Pelican State.

Junior Madysen Keller bowled the first perfect game in the history of the program in a victory over SFA on the second day of the tournament.

“I started thinking about the 300 in the 6 frame,” the junior said about the first perfect game of her career. “I know that’s early but I thought there is a chance. If I don’t it’s okay because I’m filling frames but if I do, what a incredible way to end the day, against our rivals as well.”

As it turned out, it wouldn’t be the only 300 game of the year for the Bearkats. Bowling at their home event, the Kats rolled the first team baker 300 in school history, once again, doing it against SFA.

Hayley Connelly got it started for the Bearkats with a strike followed by Keller. Taryn Gray, Stephanie Zavala and Amber MacLeod made it five in a row to get the Kats halfway there.

After four more strikes, MacLeod Needed three in the 10th frame to finish off the perfect game. After the final strike the celebration started. The previous best game for the Kats was a 299 at the Music City Classic against Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2013.

In the final event of the year, the Kats finished the same way they stated, with a team title. They entered the final day of the UMES Hawk Classic and rolled through the day unbeaten to take home the hardware.

“I think the thing that stands out the most about the first half of the season is they way we have been winning,” Hagen said. “We have been doing this as a team. Every day, every match, it is someone different stepping up and making big shots for us.”

The Bearkats will get their second half of the season started on January 12 when they head to Arkansas for the Mid-Winter Invitational hosted by Arkansas State. It will be the first of seven regular season tournaments this spring, including three in the state of Texas. The Southland Conference Championship will be March 23-25 in Dallas.