Lopes return to action Oct. 18 against Arizona State University
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Coming off one of its most successful seasons in club history, the Grand Canyon University Bowling program isn’t resting on its laurels.
The Lopes have high expectations on the men’s and women’s side, and that’s by design. Both GCU traveling teams finished the 2018-19 campaign ranked in the Top 10 of the Club Team Bowling Coaches Association rankings, with the men capturing their first-ever Intercollegiate Team National Championships berth.
Last year’s success set a standard. Lopes’ Head Coach Ben Canfield hopes to raise the bar this season with a new group of bowlers.
“I’m excited that we have the largest traveling team that we’ve ever had,” said Canfield, who enjoyed a successful college career of his own at Arizona State University before becoming the head coach at GCU four years ago. “With that comes a lot of opportunity for success, but also some challenges. There’s a lot of room for growth and a lot of potential for people to step up and play a major role in what we will accomplish this year.”
The men’s side features 12 new bowlers, while the women welcome four new faces to the team. Both the men and women maintain a travel and academy team. The academy teams are more recreational by nature, and compete in an in-house league on campus. The travel teams bowl in tournaments all over the west coast collecting ranking points.
Perhaps the most exciting events on this year’s schedule are the Las Vegas Invitational and Collegiate Shoot-Out in Las Vegas. The Lopes will bowl in both tournaments back-to-back in mid-December. Both tournaments are high-stakes, Tier 1 events with a high volume of ranking points on the line.
“The first half of the season is kind of building up towards those events,” Canfield said. “There will be a lot of things that we learn in these next couple of months about the team. Hopefully, it will put us in a good position to do well in December.”
For the women, performing well in these Vegas tournaments will be critical. The women bowl a more condensed schedule than the men, meaning they won’t have quite as many opportunities to build ranking points towards qualifying for the Collegiate Club National Championships in late March. Only the top 24 men’s teams and top 16 women’s teams will qualify for that tournament.
Among the top returners for the men’s team are Josh Mabry and Kyle Gilbert, who led the Lopes to big success last year, and will serve as team captains. Mabry is the lone senior on this year’s roster.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how both of them lead our young team this year,” Canfield said. “For the men, the goal is to make it back to the Intercollegiate Team Championships and finish in the top three at our Club National Championships. The highest we’ve finished there is fifth.”
Both GCU teams will return to the lanes on Oct. 18 for the 5th Annual Grudge Match against Arizona State University beginning at 4 pm. This year’s edition of the match will be held at GCU’s Thunder Alley, and will have a few extra bragging rights on the line. The series is tied 2-2 after the Lopes pulled off a 9-8 victory in a rolloff last year to even the series against Canfield’s alma mater. Admission to the match is FREE.