UMES TAKES 3rd AT NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS; FALL 4-3 TO VANDERBILT
Megan Buja tossed a huge strike in game seven of the match.

Megan Buja tossed a huge strike in game seven of the match.

April 12, 2013

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CANTON, Mich. - Three in a row wasn't to be. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore's (UMES) bid to be the first team in the history of women's bowling to win back-to-back-to-back titles ended in the semi-final round of the 2013 NCAA Women's Bowling Championships late Friday night. But what a match to end it.

UMES and rival Vanderbilt went toe-to-toe in a match some on site were calling "one of the greatest matches ever in NCAA Championship history." It ended in gave seven with a single pin as the difference.

"What an amazing match," said head coach Kristina Frahm. "I couldn't have asked for any more, they did everything they could and threw the shots that were supposed to be thrown. I can't be upset."

Perhaps the shot thrown the best was T'nia Falbo's (Greensburg, Pa.) final one of her NCAA career. "I know I couldn't have thrown it any better," said Falbo. "What can you do?"

The shot was the fill ball in the tenth frame and it was perfect, with the exception of a 10-pin.

Rewind ten frames.

After the match was tied three games apiece, UMES, the higher seed in the event got lane choice. They chose to stay on the right where they had just won, rolling a 202. More importantly Vandy hadn't rolled well on the left with a 184. They didn't seem to notice at first. The Commodores threw two quick strikes followed by five straight spares.

In comparison UMES opened with a turkey and followed it with three spares of their own. Vandy, on the left had to bowl first and the Hawks knew that in the nip and tuck match every pin mattered. When they saw that the Commodores spared they knew they had to strike.

Enter Megan Buja (Rockford, Ill.) The junior all academic, all-MEAC, all everything star tossed it a little harder than usual, you could tell by the thump. But she knew what she was doing, all ten came crashing down and the Hawks were in the driver's seat.

But in racing, as soon as you pull in front, someone else wants to be ahead and Vanderbilt surged. They tossed a double in their eighth and ninth frames. UMES couldn't strike in their final frames and spared their eighth and ninth.

Left lane goes first.

`Dores senior star Jessica Earnest wanted all ten, but nine fell. She spared. Vanderbilt could max out at 213, UMES at 224, things looked up. Earnest left the 10 pin, got nine. Vandy finished with 212.

A strike from the All-American Falbo, followed by a mark would give the Hawks the game. She got eight. UMES could now only max out at 212, to tie. Falbo spared.

All ten to tie and a chance to bowl again on Saturday was on the line.

As one reporter described it, "I knew she would give it a little extra, and I knew it would be in the pocket."

It was. It had the `umpf' too. Everyone knew she threw it perfect, everyone watched the pins explode when the ball hit the pocket. Everyone knew they were all going down. Someone forgot to tell the 10-pin. It stood firm and never flinched.

That one ten pin. It meant the Hawks lost 212-211.

To add insult to injury Falbo's strike ball came out of the return gouged by the belt. Apparently the 10-pin and the ball return were in league together.

After a few tears and a few "well what else can you do"s, UMES accepted their semi-finalist trophy and left for milkshakes.

The match ended the NCAA careers of Anggie Ramirez (Bogota, Colombia) and Falbo as well as first-year senior Valentina Collazos (Cali, Colombia). While all three get a shot next week at the USBC Collegiate title, it was a little emotional for the trio.

"I'm, glad I get one more shot," said Ramirez. "It was a great way to end it, in that kind of match, but a tough way too. I love college bowling so much, at least there's one more tournament."

This is the 14th tournament the Hawks bowled this season and the first they were not first or second. They end the NCAA season at 116-26.

In the first six games the heavyweights just slugged it out. The Hawks took game one 218-192, tossing five strikes over the final five frames to offset a turkey in the tenth for Vandy.

Game two was also a burn for the Hawks. One pin the prequel. Vanderbilt's Earnest struck out to give the `Dores a 203 while Falbo struck on her first ball, she spared the fill balls and that one pin would bite the Hawks for the first time. At least they all fell down that time.

The third game was also painfully close. Both squads left 7-2 opens in the eighth frame but the Commodores strung four strikes together from the fourth through seventh frames to hold the edge. UMES had three strikes and a spare. The Hawks had 203, Vandy 209. Six pins that time.

UMES dominated in the fourth game, posting a 248 after flushing the first six. Vanderbilt had the last five balls for strikes but mustered a 227 to make the match tied at two each.

Game five was ugly for UMES, four opens and just two strikes made it a low 168 game while Vandy had a four-bagger early to roll a 218.

Maybe a little too confident, Vanderbilt opened the sixth game with an open frame and UMES jumped on it with a strike. The Hawks spared the next four and got a double from Kristie Lopez (Ponce, Puerto Rico), who had a great tournament, and Buja. They would finish clean with a 202. The `Dores opened again in the seventh and Earnest's turkey in the tenth pushed the score to 184.

Vanderbilt will face Nebraska for the title tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. It will be the Commodores second appearance in the match in three years. UMES beat them in 2011 for their second title. Vandy topped UMES in 2007 for their only championship. Nebraska is going for a record fourth NCAA Championship. The Huskers beat Arkansas State 4-1. Both teams escaped bracket play without a loss, the first time it has happened since 2010.