Coronavirus results in sour end to otherwise successful season
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Two weeks ago, moments before the Grand Canyon University Men’s Bowling team was set to leave for Dallas, Texas to compete in its Intercollegiate Team Championship (ITC) Section Qualifier, Lopes’ Head Coach Ben Canfield received the news he was dreading.
The trip was off.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) had struck again, claiming yet another sporting event during what has become one of the most bizarre periods in our country’s history.
Just like that, what was shaping up to be arguably the best season in the program’s brief history came to a surprising and abrupt end.
“The season was filled with excitement and a couple of challenging ‘what-ifs’,” said Canfield, who wrapped up his fifth season leading the Lopes. “Although we didn’t have a chance to repeat our postseason run from last season, it would be foolish to call our year anything but a success.”
Canfield’s Lopes were headed to Dallas looking to advance to April’s ITC Championships in Wyoming, Michigan for the second consecutive year. The ITC Sectional Qualifier featured a 19-field team, with the top four squads moving on.
As it turned out, the tournament was suspended over health concerns and the ITC later made the move to cancel all sectional qualifiers, effectively ending the college bowling season prematurely. The ITC finally made it official by canceling the national tournament yesterday.
Although GCU never got its chance in the postseason, the Lopes turned in a masterful regular season that included four tournament victories, three runner-up finishes and a perfect 300-game rolled by Mathew Adragna in January.
“Our win at the Sin City Open in January was the most satisfying moment of our season,” Canfield reflected. “We lost a couple of key players after winter break and struggled a bit at our home tournaments the week prior. The guys were resilient and rolled to a victory in the one-day event.”
GCU’s season — as successful as it was — didn’t get off to the smoothest start.
In addition to losing their season-opening Grudge Match to Arizona State University in October, the Lopes also lost one of their best bowlers for much of the season after team captain Joshua Mabry suffered a hand injury in one of the last frames of the night.
The injury costed Mabry nearly half the season, but GCU rallied and weathered the storm in a big way with early-season victories at the Oak Tree Open and Floria Financial Services Open in Southern California.
“Joshua remained steadfast in his leadership role during his time off the lanes,” Canfield said. “His absence gave some of our less experienced team members a chance to step up and play a big role in our early season success.”
One of those bowlers was Jackson Speece.
The sophomore made big strides in his second season with the Lopes, capturing an individual title at the SLO Rollers tournament in Santa Maria, California to help GCU take second in that event.
“Jackson’s dedication to work on facets of his game that were previously outside of his comfort zone led to team and individual success,” Canfield said. “He was an integral member of the starting lineup on our varsity team throughout the season.”
One of the keys to GCU’s success was team comradery and culture.
The Lopes rostered 19 student-athletes this year on its three travel teams – five more than any previous year. The extra manpower was needed for more reasons than one as GCU went through the rigors of another season.
“Our students did a great job of creating an environment where each bowler felt like they were part of something bigger,” Canfield explained. “With a large roster, it is easy to draw lines between the three teams we entered at tournaments. It was encouraging for me to see the solid relationships formed between our most experienced bowlers and those who joined the team for the first time.”
Interested in joining GCU Club Bowling? Visit the team page to learn more!