Lopes head to Sin City for Las Vegas Invitational, Collegiate Shoot-Out
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
The biggest tournaments of the year are finally here.
The Grand Canyon University Bowling Program will head to Sin City this week for two of the highest profile club tournaments of the season: the Las Vegas Invitational and the Collegiate Shoot-Out.
The pair of Tier 1 tournaments represent the peak of the Lopes’ season, with a lion’s share of Intercollegiate Team Championships (ITC) ranking points on the line. The Las Vegas Invitational takes place Dec. 18-19 at the South Point Bowling Plaza, with the Collegiate Shoot-Out to follow on Dec. 20-21 at Gold Coast Hotel and Casino.
Tier 1 tournaments hand out 250 ITC ranking points to the winner, while Tier 2 events grant 150 points to the champion.
“These tournaments are definitely the highlight of our season,” said GCU Head Coach Ben Canfield. “It’s going to be great to compete on the national stage and see how we stack up against some tough competition. Everybody’s really excited to get going.”
The loaded Las Vegas Invitational men’s field features 43 teams from around the country, including some heavyweights like Florida’s Webber International University and Wichita State University from Kansas, which has historically been the most dominant bowling program in the country. Webber International returns after sweeping both the Las Vegas Invitational and Collegiate Shoot-Out in the Vegas desert last year.
Also in the field is crosstown rival Arizona State University.
“I’m really excited,” said GCU Co-Captain Kyle Gilbert. “Tier 1 tournaments bring out the best competition in the nation. I like to watch the top teams and try to learn from them, and hopefully, we can incorporate what they do into our games.”
The Las Vegas Invitational’s two-day format includes nine team games followed up by match play, which cuts the field down to the top 16 men’s teams and top 8 women’s teams. Those schools then compete in rounds of best-of-five Baker games.
The Collegiate Shoot-Out qualifying includes six team games and 16 Baker games. Match play follows and cuts the field down to four teams, which then go head-to-head for the Baker match play finals.
The Lopes have had good success in these tournaments. The men have made it into the match play bracket each of the last two years, and qualified sixth before being bounced out in the round of eight last year. GCU tied for third in the Las Vegas Invitational in 2017.
The GCU men have bowled well this year, most recently taking first place in both the Floria Financial Services Open and Oak Tree Open in California in November.
“We expect to make it to the bracket this year,” Canfield said of the men’s team. “Once you do that, it’s anybody’s game.”
What will be the keys for another successful showing on the men’s side?
“We have to make our spares and keep talking,” Gilbert said. “Spares are typically what sets good and great bowlers apart. While the sport of bowling is very individual, college bowling is a team game. Everyone needs to communicate and trust each other in this environment.”
The two Vegas events represent the first tournament action of the season for the GCU women. The women have bowled in a few challenge matches, recently topping Arizona Christian University earlier this month.
“I was on the team last year and these are by far my favorite tournaments,” said GCU’s LeAnne Kommenich. “Everyone is done with classes, so it allows us to bond as a team and get to know each other while bowling in an exciting venue.”