By David Carter/GCU Club Sports Web Marketing Intern
It’s a location that the GCU Men’s Bowling team knows very well. It is where the Lopes will compete in the 2019 Intercollegiate Team Championships (ITC) Sectional Qualifier this weekend. It’s the third straight year that the Lopes will compete in “Big D” for the chance to go to nationals.
“We are ready to go,” said GCU Men’s Bowling Head Coach Ben Canfield. “We have been keeping busy since the regular season ended with practice, and the bowlers have been bowling tournaments on their own.”
“We have been working on our spare games and preparing physically,” said Lopes’ Men’s Captain Joshua Mabry. “It will be a big mental grind as making the spares will be what counts.”
It is especially important that the Lopes focus on ‘making the spares’ as they will face tough competition outside of collegiate club sports. They will also bowl against varsity bowling teams from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (which comprises universities with smaller student body populations) and junior colleges from the National Junior College Athletic Association. It is important to note that this is the highest level of men’s collegiate bowling as there is no NCAA Division I, II, or III equivalent.
Even though the Lopes are competing as a club team at the event, they can still make a run for a top finish at sectionals & automatic berth for nationals after finishing No. 7 of the Collegiate Club Team Bowling Men’s Final Rankings. Only two other club teams that finished ahead of them last year are bowling at this event: No. 4 West Texas A&M and No. 6 San Jose State University. The Lopes are seeded No. 8.
Other noteworthy club teams competing at the event besides GCU include No. 11 University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the Lopes’ in-state rival, No. 21 Arizona State University.
This bowling event will be a challenge for the Lopes, not only with the caliber of teams competing at the event, but also with the amount of bowling the Lopes will do. GCU will compete in exactly 64 Baker games. In a Baker game, five bowlers from one team bowl against five bowlers from the other team to equal one game.
“I think we have a very young and talented team,” Mabry said. “We just need to stick together as a team.”
The Lopes will face top teams from the 2018-2019 CollegeBowling.com’s Week 19 rankings including No.3 McKendree University, No. 5 Wichita State University, and No. 14 Midland University. The Lopes are ranked No. 32 in the poll.
It’s not just the opponents that will challenge the Lopes.
“This is by far the toughest lane conditions that we will have faced,” said Mabry. “It will be about how fast we can adapt and adjust to how the lanes are playing.”
In order for the Lopes to make it past sectionals and qualify for the ITC Nationals taking place April 17-20 in Dayton, Ohio, they will need to finish in the top four of the tournament.
“It would be incredible to make the top four,” said Canfield. “Making it to ITC Nationals is the pinnacle in collegiate bowling.”