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'Our athletic department really needed this': Husker bowlers defeat Arkansas State to claim program's 6th NCAA title

'Our athletic department really needed this': Husker bowlers defeat Arkansas State to claim program's 6th NCAA title

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The Nebraska bowling team claimed its sixth NCAA title with a 4-1 win against Arkansas State on Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri.

In the best-of-seven Baker format match, the Huskers dropped the first game before rolling off four straight wins to capture the crown.

After losing the first game 224-217, the Huskers turned in wins of 235-194, 201-190, 179-162 and 198-170.

"Our athletic program really needed this and we are proud to bring it home," said NU coach Paul Klempa after the match on the ESPNU broadcast. 

Klempa is in his third season as head coach. He had served as an assistant coach since 1997, when women's bowling became a varsity sport at Nebraska.

"I could not be more proud of this group," Klempa said. "They just kept pushing and grinding until they reached their ultimate goal. The team executed both physically and emotionally exactly how we had planned and prepared. They deserve this win and will celebrate it for some time to come."

In a way, NU's rally Saturday is reminiscent of its trip through the tournament bracket. Nebraska lost its first match of the tournament Wednesday before winning six straight to advance to the title round.

The starting lineup for the Huskers consisted of Michelle Guarro, Gwen Maeha, Kayla Verstraete, Cassidy Ray and Crystal Elliott in the baker format where each bowler rolls two frames per match in order.

"This team has worked so hard to get to this moment, and we took it and ran with it," Ray said. "After Wednesday (losing in the first round), I wasn't sure what to expect, but we earned that win."

Trailing 1-0, the Huskers opened the second game with two straight spares before taking control of the match. NU started slow in Game 3 before Ray's strike in the fourth frame got the Huskers going. Four straight strikes followed.

Verstraete, Ray and Elliott rolled three straight strikes to spark Nebraska in the fourth game. Three straight strikes in the fifth game helped seal it.

Nebraska previously won NCAA titles in 2004, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015. The Huskers also won titles in 1999 and 2001 in the IBC.

The championship marks Nebraska Athletics' 29th NCAA title and first since 2017. It also marked Nebraska's first tournament win of 2021 out of five tries since the season began in January. 

Nebraska's eight bowling national titles matches the men's gymnastics team for more titles at the school.


Three Huskers were named to the National Tenpin Coaches Association all-region team. Sophomore Elliott earned first-team honors, and junior Ray and freshman Verstraete were named to the second team.


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