In a dramatic championship match Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) captured its second NCAA Championship in the last four years with a 4-2 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday evening at Skore Lanes in Taylor, Mich.
Kristina Frahm was named Most Outstanding Performer of the Championship and earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team along with fellow senior Maria Rodriguez.
The match was a back and forth struggle between two teams that last meant in a championship in 2007, when Vanderbilt won their only title.
UMES took a 1-0 lead after game one topping the Commodores 215-197 getting three strikes in the last four balls to secure the win.
The drama however came over the next two games as the big stage seemed to bother the Hawks. They tightened up and Vandy took advantage. Lead-off bowler Paula Vilas left an open frame in the very first frame of the second game and did it again in the sixth frame. Add in one by Frahm and UMES was shaken, handing the Commodores a 193-164 win.
Game three saw a big move by head coach Sharon Brummell. She pulled Vilas, who had arguably been the most consistent Hawk all week along. In came top reserve T'nia Falbo who brought the team back. While UMES didn't win game three, they got better, posting a 201-248 loss, but put together five strikes in the game. Unfortunately for UMES, Vanderbilt was hot and opened with six strikes, something the Lady Hawks couldn't overcome.
"Paula was just too tight, we tried to let her get right but we made a change and it paid off. T'nia coming off the bench was a key to our win because she made good shots and closed her frames. It was a huge part of our win," Brummell said.
Coach Brummell knew her team was too serious and worried too much about the match. She lightened the mood, got the team smiling again and it paid off. The relaxed Hawks left no open frames in game four, getting just one spare in the last four frames, netting four strikes and using a bunch of Vandy spares to win 248-204.
With the match tied at two, UMES knew they had to get game five. The oil was changing under the television lights but the Hawks were making adjustments under the eye of Assistant Coach Doug Dukes and they were paying off.
"I give Doug a lot of credit. He came back when we needed him most. His specialty is knowing how to read these lanes, how the oil changes, how to make the girls adjust to make their shot work. We needed that and he gave it to us, he is a key to this title," said Brummell.
The momentum had shifted and the Commodores were now shaken. It was obvious to the large crowd that had gathered, as Vanderbilt threw three opens and took a 235-166 loss. Falbo was huge, sparing and striking. The Hawks tallied seven strikes, including three in a row, over the fifth, sixth and seventh frames. Martha Perez was huge down the stretch at one point posting seven strikes in six frames over the games.
Up three games to two, UMES wanted to finish it up in six. They did, but was a tight one. After both teams struck in the first frame, Vandy opened in the second, leaving the 'big four' and UMES spared. The Hawks had the advantage. The Commodores answered with a strike but Anggie Ramirez couldn't answer her, leaving an open on a 7-10 split. It seemed the momentum was back to Vanderbilt as Jessica Earnest picked up a huge 8-9-10 split. Frahm then spared to keep it close. Both anchors would then spare the fifth frame heading into the television break.
Coming back UMES was down just two pins. Vandy got a strike from lead-off bowler Brittany Hamilton and Falbo threw a spare. The seventh saw a pair of spares and the eighth a pair of strikes. The match was incredibly tight.
Vandy got another strike in the ninth frame and Frahm made an eight spare to make the Vandy lead a little bigger. All Vandy needed was a strike or spare to seal the win but anchor Samantha Hesley left an eight-split and picked up just a pin. Rodriguez needed a nine-spare or a strike, she got the latter. Needing just an eight-count in the last two balls, Rodriguez struck again and sealed the school's second NCAA Championship.
Asked after the win, Frahm was asked about the Rodriguez shot, "I saw it, it looked good and I saw all 10 go down, then I knew we had won."
Rodriguez was her usually calm self in discussing it, "I did what I was supposed to do as the anchor, it is my job to make that shot and I did. I don't feel pressure like that. I knew I could make it."
The match marks the end of NCAA competition for the three seniors, Frahm , Perez and Rodriguez. Coach Brummell was emotional talking about them. "This group of young ladies is so talented and so hard working. They are easy to coach because they do what we tell them to and more. They don't ask questions, they just do it. They have worked so hard all year and they go what they deserved, a national championship."
Brummell added, "They are the leaders of this team. They have worked so hard and pushed the team so hard. They knew what it was like to win it all and they wanted it again. If it were not for their leadership we wouldn't be here. They came in as champions and leave as champions. They are that because they did whatever it took at the time to win. Whatever we needed they did it. They have put our bowling program and our school on the map and have done it with class, dignity, respect, hard work and a great attitude. They have been awesome! I don't even want to think about them not being here next year, but I am not scared because they have made us into a program, more than a team, and we will be fine moving forward and a lot of that has to do with what they have contributed."
While an NCAA Championship would be the end of most teams' season UMES has one more event left. They bowl for a second national championship next week in Colombus, Ga. at the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships. They enter as the team with the highest pinfall at any qualifier.
"We want another one," Ramirez said. "We can do it, how many teams get a chance to win two national titles in one year, we want to say we did."