By Emil Williams Jr.
ADDISON, Ill. – The Wisconsin-Whitewater men and Stephen F. Austin women captured team championships, and William Paterson’s Brandon Vallone and Stephen F. Austin’s Chloe Skurzynski claimed singles titles at the 2022 Intercollegiate Team and Singles Championships at Stardust Bowl.
The championship rounds in the men’s and women’s divisions in each event were taped for broadcast Saturday and will air on Tuesdays in April and May on CBS Sports Network.
The women’s ISC finals will air April 26 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, with the men’s ISC show airing May 3 at 8 p.m. Eastern. The men’s ITC finals will be May 10 at 8 p.m. Eastern, and the excitement will conclude with the women’s ITC title match May 17 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.
In the men’s team final, Wisconsin-Whitewater trailed Wichita State in the best-of-five Baker final, 0-2, and for a moment, it looked like the Hollywood script would not be greenlighted as head coach Shawn Wochner was retiring after the match.
But, needing a mark to stave off elimination, Wisconsin-Whitewater senior Donovan Thomas followed his three teammates and struck on his first shot in the 10th frame to win Game 3 (223-192). This began the rally for the Warhawks, in which they won Game 4 (182-168) to force the deciding fifth game.
With the momentum in their favor, the resilient Warhawks built a lead with three strikes in their first four frames as the intrigue continued to build, with Wichita State struggling late in the match.
The Shockers, who were looking to repeat as champions at the ITC, had three opens in the first six frames. This allowed Wisconsin-Whitewater to fill frames until the ninth, when the Warhawks tossed a strike to lock up the game (204-161) and a 3-2 win to claim the program’s first Helmer Cup.
Wochner, who had announced his retirement from coaching in previous months, finally broke through as the Wisconsin-Whitewater head coach after a couple of third-place finishes in recent years. He’s now in rare company as a winner of the ITC as both a player (Western Illinois in 2001) and coach.
The bleachers were filled with current and former Warhawk alumni, as well as Wochner’s family and friends from the Quad Cities. It’s a moment Wochner or the team will never forget.
“This means everything,” Wochner said. “We had alumni here. The two alumni who suggested I come to Whitewater (Kiefer Sullivan and Mike Dolan) were here. It validates all the time these guys have put in. It’s all the frustrations. It’s all the thrills of victory and the agony of defeats. The guys came together. We were able to control what we can control and stay in the moment. It’s something that will live with these guys for the rest of their lives. It was a total team effort.”
Thomas, who was named the men’s Most Valuable Player of the ITC, stepped up and performed in clutch moments throughout the tournament, and it did not stop in the finals. He’s someone the team trusts in the anchor position not only for his striking abilities, but for his leadership and understanding of the game.
“It feels amazing,” Thomas said. “Getting to TV was an amazing feeling, but now that we’ve won, it’s definitely the best feeling in bowling. Becoming a leader definitely came over time. I’ve been a team captain for the last two years, and it’s just gaining the trust of everybody, and having a lot of knowledge in the sport helps, too, because I can help in any aspect they want. The way I see the lanes is super analytical, and I can help with other players moves and work with coach in that aspect.”
The 2022 championship team for Wisconsin-Whitewater featured Thomas, Drake Bazzy, Maguire Hansche, Garrett Meadows, Mason Peterson, Ty Peterson, Quinn Sheehy and Brett Beuthin.
Joining Thomas on the men’s all-tournament team was Savannah College of Art and Design-Savannah’s Alex Glinski, Emmanuel’s David Hooper, Wichita State’s Alec Keplinger and Indiana Tech’s Marcus McClain.
The Chris Stoehr Sportsmanship award went to Michael Nape Jr. of St. Francis-Illinois.
In the women’s title match, two-time NCAA champion Stephen F. Austin started Game 1 with four strikes in their first five frames, while Wichita State began with three consecutive opens.
The Shockers, who entered the 2022 event as the defending champion in the women’s field, were able to right the ship down the stretch and forced Stephen F. Austin senior Carlene Beyer to mark in the 10th frame. Beyer was able to seal a Game 1 win, 193-182.
In Game 2, the Ladyjacks tossed eight strikes to defeat the Shockers, 240-159.
In Game 3, Wichita State came out aggressive with four straight strikes but followed with three consecutive open frames, including two splits. Stephen F. Austin saw their first double appear in the fifth and sixth frames, but perhaps the moment of the match came in the seventh frame, when right-hander Katie Heady left a 1-2-4-10 washout. She was subbed out for left-hander Megan George, who converted the spare and sent the team and its fans into a frenzy.
The Shockers had a chance to shut out Stephen F. Austin in the 10th frame, but a split from senior Addie Herzberg left the Ladyjacks with a chance to win the game and the title.
Needing a mark, Beyer left a 6-10 on her first shot and converted the spare to give the Ladyjacks their first ITC title in program history. The final score was 196-188.
In the month of April, the team has bowled in 11 matches across two national championship competitions and have lost just one match during that span, which was last week’s NCAA Women’s Bowling Championship to McKendree.
“I think all of the things we have been preaching since Day 1 have come together at the same time and the right time,” said Stephen F. Austin head coach Amber Lemke. “We are not a team that typically does very well in the fall. We struggle to find our way during that time, and as we find our way, things to start to click for the players and propels everyone to be better. We tell them ‘we’re doing all of this hard work to be ready for March and April,’ and once they see it pay off, it takes them to another level, and that’s what you’re seeing.”
Beyer, who was named the women’s Most Valuable Player, has been on a roll in April during Stephen F. Austin’s run. She brought her striking ways to Stardust Bowl and now is a two-time national champion, after winning the 2019 NCAA title as a freshman.
“To me, this means so much, because we had a little experience last weekend bowling McKendree and getting swept,” Beyer said. “This weekend, we kept telling ourselves ‘go out, be fun, be loose and just throw the ball down the lane and whatever happens, happens.’ It’s really something special. We had each other’s backs, and we showed it again on the show.”
The 2022 championship team for Stephen F. Austin featured Beyer, her sister, Brystal Beyer, Crystal George, Megan George, Katie Heady, Isabel Hughes, Hana Roers and Chloe Skurzynski.
Joining Beyer on the all-tournament team were Herzberg, Sam Houston State’s Denise Blakenzee, Pikeville’s Kristina Catoe and Mount St. Mary’s Rebecca Dodson.
The Chris Stoehr Sportsmanship award went to Mount St. Mary’s Tamera Stanton.
In the men’s singles title tilt, Vallone beat St. Ambrose’s Nate Stubler, 184-158, to win the ISC crown.
The title match began with both players producing open frames, but Stubler was the first to double in the third and fourth. Stubler found trouble later in the match, though, leaving back-to-back splits in the sixth and seventh frames.
After the initial open, Vallone traded strikes and spares until the fifth frame, when an untimely split left him facing a 19-pin deficit. Following Stubler’s troubles, Vallone took the lead in the seventh frame, and a key ball change helped him lock up the match with a strike in the ninth.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Vallone said. “I haven’t experienced anything like this before in my life. I made a ball change a few frames before and I trusted it. I knew what I was doing. I gave myself the best chance to mark and I did. Having my team behind me and supporting me helped me settle in.”
Vallone’s first year of college bowling has been life-changing, especially with the time he has spent with his William Paterson teammates. He is one of the hardest workers on the team, and both his coach and teammates couldn’t be prouder.
“He’s one of the hardest working bowlers I’ve ever coached,” said William Paterson head coach Greg Hatzisavvas. “He’s super dedicated. He practices. He’s focused at practice. He pays attention. He asks questions. And, when he’s not bowling team practices, he supplements with tournaments on the weekends. He’s earned this.”
Vallone defeated Calumet’s Daniel Chin, 201-174, in the opening semifinal match. Both players didn’t look comfortable through the first five frames, but Vallone was able to remain clean and put together strikes in frames six, seven and eight to secure the victory. Chin was looking to follow in the footsteps of teammate Pete Vergos, who won the men’s title in 2021.
Stubler advanced to the final by defeating Oklahoma Christian freshman CJ Petrin, 217-183. Petrin found an early double to start the match but followed with two consecutive opens, while Stubler stayed clean early and followed with five straight strikes to advance.
In the women’s final, Skurzynski, who has been nursing a back injury during the previous three weeks, began the title match against Duquesne’s Olivia Farwell with strikes in three out of the first four frames, but she left the 4-6-7-10 split on the right lane in the fifth frame to momentarily pause her momentum.
Meanwhile, Farwell, the 2022 National Tenpin Coaches Association Division I Player of the Year, was clean through the first five frames until she left a 4-6-7-10 of her own in the sixth. Skurzynski seized the moment and followed with a double to take the lead, which she never relinquished. Needing a mark to win and finishing on the left lane, Skurzynski tossed a strike to claim the singles crown.
In total, she tossed a total of 10 strikes in 13 chances on the left lane across two matches.
“I bowled against Liv for years in Pennsylvania,” Skurzynski said. “We’ve been bowling since we were 15 years old through high school and now in college. So, it was somewhat comforting bowling against her in the match, but with the injury, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I still don’t know what it is, except it started three weeks ago at the NCAA Arlington Regional.
“It was really bad after ISC qualifying. I actually didn’t bowl during the first day (Thursday) of team event, and I threw one fill shot the next day. When I practiced this morning, every shot hurt so I said, ‘it’s going to hurt regardless, so I might as well throw it as best as I can, since the season is over.’”
Skurzynski has had quite the run in 2022. It began in January, when she won the U.S. National Amateur Bowling Championships to earn a spot on Team USA.
“I’m just somebody who likes to go for the moment in the moment,” Skurzynski said. “But, when you start saying the accomplishments together, and looking back on it, it’s a lot. Honestly, I haven’t had a lot of confidence in my game lately, especially when my back started flaring up. I was probably 75% today. I’m incredibly grateful for the Team USA opportunity, the amateur title, the opportunity to compete at the ISC and the title, and the ITC win with the girls. I honestly didn’t even know if I’d be bowling because of my back. It’s crazy.”
In the first women’s semifinal, a ball change following two open frames was key for Skurzynski, who tossed six out of the last seven strikes to defeat Duquesne’s Kiearra Saldi, 205-164. Saldi was looking to battle her teammate, Farwell, in the finals.
In the other semifinal, Farwell defeated Vanderbilt’s Mabel Cummins, 213-191. Farwell tossed five strikes in the first seven frames, while Cummins, who controlled the pocket and was clean with no open frames, was never able to find a double in the match.
All qualifying and match-play rounds held prior to the televised finals were broadcast on BowlTV.com.
Teams and individuals competing at Stardust Bowl this week earned their spots at the ITC and ISC through four sectional qualifiers held throughout the country in March.
2022 INTERCOLLEGIATE TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Stardust Bowl, Addison, Ill.
Wisconsin-Whitewater def. Wichita State, 3-2 (211-213, 138-203, 223-192, 182-168, 204-161).
Stephen F. Austin def. Wichita State, 3-0 (193-182, 240-159, 196-188).
2022 INTERCOLLEGIATE SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Stardust Bowl, Addison, Ill.
Brandon Vallone, William Paterson def. Daniel Chin, Calumet, 201-174.
Nathan Stubler, St. Ambrose def. CJ Petrin, Oklahoma Christian, 217-183.
Vallone def. Stubler, 184-158.
Chloe Skurzynski, Stephen F. Austin def. Kiearra Saldi, Duquesne, 205-164.
Oliva Farwell, Duquesne def. Mabel Cummins, Vanderbilt, 213-191.
Skurzynski def. Farwell, 202-167.