Paula Vilas hoists the 2012 National Championship trophy.

April 15, 2012

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WICKLIFFE, Ohio - The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) became the first school to win back-to-back NCAA Women's Bowling Championships since 2004/2005 with a 4-2 defeat of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in the championship finals aired live tonight on ESPNU from Freeway Lanes outside of Cleveland.

T'nia Falbo (Greensburg, Pa.) was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the tournament and an All-Tournament Team selection. "Words cannot describe the feeling of winning, it's the greatest feeling ever," she said.

With the win UMES claims their third NCAA Championship and fourth National Title in Women's Collegiate Bowling, winning the 2008 & 2011 NCAA crowns and the 2011 USBC Collegiate title. They are now tied with Nebraska for most NCAA championships with three and most final appearances with four.

Head Coach Kristina Frahm becomes just the second woman in championship history to coach her team to a title and the first ever to win as a player and head coach. UMES is the only program to win titles with different head coaches.

"All of our work has paid off; the girls put everything into this. I am so proud of them," Frahm said. When asked about the difference of winning as a player and winning as a coach Frahm answered in coach style. "It is great as a player because you put in everything on the lanes and you see it pay off. As a coach I am there to help them, guide them and be on the mental side of things. You are proud of them for what they came together and accomplished together. You just can't describe this feeling to somebody; you have to experience it to know."

The match itself was exciting top to bottom, lasting just over two and half hours and going six games.

The Hawks struck first, winning the first game 222-204. The Knights of FDU seemed to have the slight edge, but an open frame in the eighth allowed the Hawks to capitalize. UMES had opened themselves in the seventh and ninth frames, but five strikes to start the match kept them in contention. FDU threw a seven split in their final frame and that meant a win all fell on Falbo's shoulders. As the anchor she calmly threw a strike, then another and then another to give UMES 222 and her Hawks a one game lead.

In game two the Hawks were clean, throwing eight strikes and three spares to rack up a 236 and put the match out contention before FDU could throw the tenth frame. They would finish with a 214.

Game three saw FDU get the line back and the Hawks lose theirs. The Knights easily rolled to a 249-167 win and finished with an impressive seven strikes in a row.

The Hawks hadn't lost confidence though; they remained calm, cool and collected. They laughed, joked and cheered and the pressure they took off themselves was put onto FDU after a 208-168 win in game four. The Knights couldn't get it together, leaving four open frames. UMES, on the other hand threw five strikes and had the match won in the ninth frame.

Now up 3-1 the Hawks were looking to end it in five. But FDU wasn't. While UMES took an early lead with three strikes to FDU's one, the fourth frame spelled trouble. Mariana Alvarado (Leon, Mexico) threw a beautiful shot into the pocket but the pins didn't carry and the 7-10 split was left. While she got one, and made an effort kicking the seven into the air, it allowed FDU the break they needed. They put a pair of strikes on the board before the TV timeout. Falbo threw one herself to keep the Hawks in it just before the break.

The final five frames were made for TV as FDU threw a seven split, picking up just a pair. So did UMES. With the game tied at 114 and no one building on any marks, drama ensued. Megan Buja (Rockford, Ill.) matched FDU's second bowler with a strike. It was still tied. FDU threw a strike, but Anggie Ramirez (Bogota, Colombia) couldn't, leaving an eight-split. Getting just one pin on her second ball, spelled doom for UMES. The Knights went on to throw two more strikes and a spare. Alvarado struck but by then it was over and Falbo finished with an open in the tenth to give FDU the 223-170 win and cut the Hawks' lead to 3-2.

Game six was another back and forth affair. FDU opened in the second, but the Hawks opened in the seventh to keep the match close. FDU's Joely Carrillo came up in the ninth frame with a chance to give them the lead. She had been striking all match, carrying pins throughout to mark. But this one time wasn't to be. She left a seven split. She picked up just one, trying to force the pins to carry across, knowing she desperately needed it. It was now the Hawks' match to lose. Falbo had been clutch all tournament long and this time would be no different. Still calm, she got all ten pins, throwing a first ball strike and needing only six to secure the win over the next two balls. She got 20, striking out to finish with a 203 and giving the Hawks their third NCAA title. FDU, knowing they had lost subbed in the final frame to finish with a 176.

"It feels amazing to make those big shots," said Falbo. "I know that those seven girls behind me have complete trust in me. There is no extra pressure because of that. They trust me to be in that position so I am going to go up there and do what I have to do."

Paula Vilas (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), with championship hair styled in maroon, was a big factor in the win. As the lead-off bowler Vilas threw six first ball strikes to open each game and threw three strikes and three spares in the sixth frames. Nine strikes and three spares in 12 frames is a far cry from last year's championship when she was replaced early.

"I only threw three frames," said Vilas referencing the 2011 finals. "But it was the right call, this year I am just so happy I was able to contribute to the team. This was such a team win, we won because WE bowled as a team."

All in all the Hawks were on their game the last two days, going 4-0, not taking any losses after the seeding round. The championship match saw a combined 35 strikes from UMES. Ramirez threw five of those in the third frames to add some foundation to the middle of the lineup.

"I was the only lefty today," said Ramirez. "So I was getting some good shots but didn't have anyone else to talk to or watch about how the lane was reacting, so it times it was trial and error."

"Bowling is a game. You have to have fun playing a game. You have to be truly relaxed to strike. If you are tense you will leave that ten pin," said Vilas when asked about the team's approach to the championship.

"You have to have fun," Falbo added. "That is the biggest thing we learned this week. Between yesterday and today all we did is say we have to stay loose and have fun if we are going to win. And that is what we did. It was a great atmosphere. Even when someone missed something we were all standing, we were there to pick each other up."

The Hawks have one more chance at picking each other up this season. They bowl for a United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Collegiate Championship next weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska. They are looking to defend that National title as well and winning what would be back-to-back-to back-to-back championships for the first time ever.

As for the NCAA Championships the Hawks return seven of the eight players in uniform. Vilas, the lone senior was asked about following in Frahm's shoes and coaching next year. In true fashion she answered, "I'm just looking for a job man."

The bowling world can just hope that still includes them.



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