UMES BOWLING TAKES THIRD STRAIGHT KUTZTOWN TITLE
UMES' Marianna Alvarado earned All-Tournament Team honors.
UMES' Marianna Alvarado earned All-Tournament Team honors.

Jan. 26, 2014

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READING, Pa. - The UMES women's bowling team likes Reading, Pa. and Heister Lanes, the site of the Kutztown Invitational. Some would say it's been good to them, others might suggest even renaming the event after the Hawks. That's because today the Hawks won their third straight and fourth overall tournament title in the six years Kutztown has been hosting the event. They also have an individual and team 300 at those lanes and a second-place finish for good measure.

But in the 2014 version, UMES, seeded fourth heading into the final bracket, topped second-seeded Wisconsin-Whitewater 4-2 in the finals to claim the title and along the way knocked down top-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU) and third-seeded Vanderbilt.

"Our girls are tough," said head coach Kayla Bandy. "I'm proud of them, they never stopped fighting, they have a killer instinct and a never say die attitude."

That can be easily witnessed in one glaring statistic this season. In Baker matches UMES now stands at 33-0, undefeated in the team format.

"I wasn't even aware of that," said Bandy. "But I'm not surprised. Our girls not only band together. We have a great bench. Our six, seven and eight bowlers are always ready and can compete with other teams' starters."

They did more than compete today. UMES opened with the third-seed, Vanderbilt and the two rivals traded blows like heavyweight fighters. The Commodores took game one 204-193 but the Hawks rebounded to take game two 235-213. Vandy struck again in game three, 218-201. UMES quickly tied the match in game four with a 204-186 win. They took the lead in game five with a 204-171 win. Needing one more to win the Hawks were in a position to get it but missed a spare and tied game six at 190. Vanderbilt won game seven 168-160 and force a tiebreaker. UMES dominated the five-frame set 129-103 and advanced to the second round.

In the second match of the day UMES would face top-seed FDU who fell in the opener to Wisconsin-Whitewater (UWW). The Hawks would trot out the same lineup to face the Knights. Megan Buja (Rockford, Ill.), Victoria Jones (Baltimore, Md.), Tatiana Munoz (Ibague Tolima, Colombia) would again lead-off the Hawk attack. Mariana Alvarado (Leon, Mexico) and Sara Pelayo (Distrito Federal, Mexico) would switch places in the fourth and fifth spots. They were shaky to start with FDU taking game one 222-159. UMES rebounded to take game two 205-198 despite struggling on the lanes. Alvarado went back into anchor in the second game and it paid off as she doubled in tenth frame to secure the win.

In game three the Hawks took advantage of a pair of missed spares from FDU to win 199-189. Game four went to FDU to tie the match at two apiece. Both teams missed spares late in the game but a Knight strike in the ninth secured the win.

Game five looked to be going FDU's way with four straight strikes. But things looked up as the Knights then missed four spares in a row. UMES took advantage with a double in the tenth to leave FDU without numbers and was a 202-190 win.

Game six saw the Hawks post a turkey (three strikes in a row) early and an impressive 3-6-7 spare conversion from Jones. They looked ready to win but Pelayo left an 8-pin in the ninth and FDU threw their own turkey to close the gap. Like she did all day Alvarado stepped up big again and struck in the tenth to give UMES the 205-203 win and a ticket to the finals to meet UWW.

"Those were great wins," said Bandy. "Marianna [Alvarado] was struggling a little in those, which for her still means she was doing good, but Vikki [Jones] and Tati [Munoz] were striking like crazy. They were a big part of the wins."

Next up was Wisconsin-Whitewater, the alma mater of Assistant Coach Tyler Schmitz. The battle of the Hawks and WarHawks was on and UMES got off to a rocky start. Despite starting with four in a row, the Hawks left three splits in a row to end the match and fall 216-183.

Game two was more to UMES' liking. They took that game 208-171. In game three the match went back and forth. When it came down to the tenth UWW could win by striking out. That would give them a one pin win, but it wasn't to be and the spare and strike combination meant UMES won 203-193.

In the next game the Hawks took a commanding lead, so commanding that they split in the tenth and still won, 182-173. Up 3-1 UMES struggled in game five and fell 182-168.

Game six was a pressure cooker. The two teams went back and forth but UWW held a slim lead throughout. Every time UMES marked, the WarHawks matched them. It seemed like the match was heading toward a game seven. But Munoz, now bowling in the fourth spot, struck in the ninth and Wisconsin-Whitewater spared. That left the door open for Alvarado. With ice water in her veins she calmly drilled the first ball into the pocket for a strike. UWW needed a strike to ensure a win. They didn't get it. Alvarado walked up again and the arm was on repeat, drilling the pocket for a second strike. UWW had to convert. They did, setting up a dramatic fill-ball fight.

If Alvarado stuck, Wisconsin-Whitewater could do the same to force a tie at 206. If Alvarado missed, UWW had to get more to win. Alvarado made sure that was impossible, again drilling the pocket and ensuring at least a tie. The junior All-American was cold-blooded in the anchor spot, feeling no pressure. The WarHawk anchor wasn't as confident, throwing a good shot, but getting just nine and giving UMES the 206-205 win.

"It was a great team effort today," said Bandy. "It is a great way to start off 2014, hopefully we can keep the momentum going down in Texas."

UMES heads to Arlington, Texas this coming weekend for the Prairie View Invitational a tournament they took runner-up honors in last year.

For her efforts, Alvarado was named to the All-Tournament Team of the Kutztown Invitational. She was seventh overall with a 211 average. Munoz, who only bowled five of the six team games was also top ten in average, sporting over a 210.