Lopes to try to best 8th-place finish in 2018; need top-4 finish for nationals berth
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
Flashes of greatness.
To reach their ultimate goal, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Bowling team will have to put several of those flashes together in a two-day span some 1100 miles away from the Valley of the Sun.
“Our young team has shown flashes of greatness throughout the season,” said Lopes’ Head Bowling Coach Ben Canfield. “There’s almost always one top-16 seeded team that doesn’t make it out of their sectional, so my thought is, ‘Why can’t we be the team that takes their place?’”
The Lopes found out Wednesday that they are officially seeded No. 8 in the 20-team United States Bowling Congress (USBC) ITC Sectionals, which will be held Saturday and Sunday, March 9 and 10 at USA Bowl in Dallas, Texas. It’s the fourth straight year that the team will head to this prestigious tournament in the Lone Star State. The Lopes will try to top their best-ever finish of 8th place last year.
While the Lopes have placed in the top 10 at sectionals in each of the past two years (they were 9th in 2017), Canfield knows that this team has a realistic chance to blow away its previous highs for the program, and qualify for the ITC National Championships in mid-April in Dayton, Ohio. To accomplish that, the Lopes will have to finish among the top 4 of the tournament. The Lopes are actually ranked No. 32 in the CollegeBowling.com’s online ranking system, which lists the top teams from around the country in order of season points, and that’s what the USBC determines the fields for the four sectional tournaments each year. While McKendree University (Illinois) is the top team at the Dallas sectional, the Lopes are the second-highest ranked western team in the field, just behind San Jose State University, who is ranked just above GCU in the rankings at No. 31. In addition, fellow western foes Arizona State University (Canfield’s alma mater) and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas will join the Lopes in “Big D”.
It’s a tall order to get past such perennial powerhouses as McKendree and 2nd-seeded Wichita State University to get to nationals, but the Lopes’ performances in the Tier 1 Las Vegas Invitational in December (finished tied for 5th) and the two Las Vegas tournaments at the end of last month (a 2nd-place and a 3rd-place finish) have given their head coach several reasons for optimism.
“The Las Vegas Invitational was the truest test of how we rank against teams on a national level,” said Canfield. “Our results at the South Point Bowling Plaza (site of the tournament) provide confidence of the level we can reach when we work together.”
The Lopes have just over two weeks to prepare before they head down Interstate 10 for Texas to begin play. The tournament format is the ‘baker’ format, which puts the highest emphasis of any format on the team score, and will feature 64 “baker” games, bowled in four 16-game blocks over the duration of the two days.