Like any coach, Bill Straub and Paul Klempa always have a handful of newcomers to work with each season.
This year is no different for the Nebraska women's bowling team, with six new additions to the roster. But the difference is that these newcomers come with many years of international experience.
And that is what Straub and Klempa are counting on for the fifth-ranked Huskers.
Nebraska has competed in one tournament, finishing third at the Crusader Classic in Valparaiso, Ind., earlier this month. Sophomore Liz Kuhlkin won and earned most valuable player honors with a 230-pin score.
“Liz is blossoming all the time. It’s something that’s physical for her and it’s a joy for Coach Klempa and I to see,” Straub said. “She’s hitting on all cylinders right now.”
The 10-member Nebraska team has six newcomers, including sophomore transfers Elise Bolton and Andrea Ruiz. The others are freshmen April Campbell, Emily Eckhoff, Beth Hedley and Emily Nykiel. Junior Amanda Burau redshirted last year.
Bolton competed for Sam Houston State as a freshman and has traveled to various international tournaments as a member of Junior Team USA. Hedley is a member of Team England and has won a number of gold medals. Ruiz is a member of Team Colombia.
Eckhoff received the United States Bowling Congress award for highest high school average after finishing her prep career with a 222 average.
“We’re lucky enough that we’ve had people come to us who have been successful internationally. They will meet a player like a Shannon Pluhowsky or a Lindsay Baker and ask them where they learned to bowl and they will gladly say Nebraska,” Straub said. “We are lucky that these types of players come to us.”
The Huskers also return senior Kristy Mickelson, a graduate of Bellevue East, and junior Yan Ling.
For the first time in four years, Nebraska will not host a tournament. The Big Red Invitational was canceled because of changes made by the NCAA bowling committee. Straub is hoping to resurrect the tournament by next season.
For now, Nebraska will finish the first half of the season Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Track Kat Classic in Huntsville, Texas. NU will then take a break for final exams and the end of the semester before returning to action in January.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction. The foundation that we have now is pretty good,” Straub said.