Wickliffe, OH – The fourth seeded Sacred Heart bowling team suffered back-to-back losses in dramatic matches Friday morning as the Pioneers were eliminated from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Sacred Heart battled back from a 3-0 deficit in its first match but faltered in game seven against UMES, a team SHU was previously unbeaten against. The Pioneers had a chance to force a game seven in its elimination contest with eighth seeded Valparaiso but a split in the tenth frame would end the season.
"We didn't execute very well today," said SHU head coach Becky Kregling. "A few of our players did at different times but we weren't the team you need to be to beat the teams out here now."
Sacred Heart (79-39) got off to a slow start against the fifth seeded Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, as the Pioneers posted five open frames in a 206-171 defeat. UMES put together four straight strikes in the second game and took a 2-0 advantage on the strength of a 214-183 victory. SHU fought through two early open frames in the third game but came roaring back to close the gap. Nicole Trudell (Coventry, RI) Savannah Zientara (Lewiston, NY), and Meghan Pero (Staten Island, NY) rolled three straight strikes to start the rally. However, the Hawks notched a clean game and were able to hold on late, 212-202, to take a 3-0 lead.
The Pioneers kept the match alive with its highest game of the block, shooting a 235 that including eight strikes. SHU continued to stay hot and used a key turkey in the middle frames to take game five, 212-205. Sacred Heart came out of the blocks firing in game six and strung together four straight strikes starting in the second frame. SHU forced the deciding game seven with the 206-191 win. However, the Pioneers were unable to overcome an early open frame along without registering a double. The Hawks tallied a triple early and spared down the stretch to hold on and claim the game, 205-187, and the match 4-3.
Sacred Heart struggled in the opening game versus Valparaiso while the Crusaders used a late surge to earn the 188-162 decision. SHU rebounded in the second game, starting with a double and eventually picked up the 197-178 verdict. The Pioneers were unable to keep the momentum and left three open frames in game three en route to a 202-153 loss.
Valparaiso gave SHU new life in game four as a split by the Crusaders' anchor allowed the Pioneers to make a comeback. Jackie Carbonetto (Blauvelt, NY) struck in the ninth frame to set the stage for Trudell. Trudell buried the pocket twice in the tenth and filled the frame with a nine count as SHU stole game four, 202-201. The Crusaders caught fire in game five and rattled off five straight strikes to take the match, 222-197. The Pioneers season came down to the tenth frame in game six where SHU had to have at least a mark. However, a 4-7-9 split remained after the first ball and the Pioneers were eliminated from the 2012 NCAA Tournament, 201-190.
Sacred Heart finishes the 2012 campaign as the Northeast Conference champions and earlier this season reached second in the national poll, the highest ranking in program history.