Women's Bowling - Thu, Mar. 31, 2016
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BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The Union College women's bowling team will begin play at the 2016 NAIA Invitational Team Championship on Friday in Anderson, Ind.

The Bulldogs are one of 20 teams to qualify for the three-day event. Teams qualified for the tournament based on regular-season standings and conference play.

"Being able to compete at the NAIA national tournament is a huge success for our program," said Union coach Brandy Hensley. "It is every team's goal to reach the championship tournament every year, and very few teams get that opportunity. ... Showing that we are competitive on the national has already brought our program recognition and attention from all across the country."

This is the first time Union has qualified for the NAIA Invitational Team Championship in program history, and the Bulldogs were able to do so thanks to an amazing mid-season turnaround. Following the MSC fall competitions, the Bulldogs were 6-14 in conference play. However, Union posted a 15-5 mark in the spring meets to end the regular season sixth with a 21-19 overall conference record.

"The girls have worked hard all year for the opportunity to compete in the national tournament," Hensley said. "We have all grown together this year and learned how to work together as a team. That is how we have managed to turn our season around after a rough beginning to the conference season."

Hensley credits the seniors for really bringing the team together this season.

"The seniors have really stood out this year. They have stepped up when we have needed them," the first-year coach said. "Kimberly Alexander and Katelynn George have put together strong individual finishes this season that have helped carry the team."

The Bulldog coach also noted sophomore Kendall Lane has made great strides this season, finishing in the top five and earning an all-tournament team recognition.

"It has been a team effort by everyone involved in the program," Hensley continued. "This includes all of the support we have had from the parents and other fans along the way."

The tournament will begin with teams competing in 24 Baker games to determine seeding followed by a double-elimination tournament to crown a champion. The other teams who qualified are: Webber International (Fla.), Pikeville (Ky.), Grand View (Iowa), Robert Morris (Ill.), St. Francis (Ill.), Mount Mercy (Iowa), Marian (Ind.), Midland (Neb.), St. Ambrose (Iowa), Campbellsville (Ky.), Hastings (Neb.), Huntington (Ind.), Calumet College of St. Joseph (Ind.), Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.), Indiana Tech, Lawrence Tech (Mich.), Clarke (Iowa), Cumberlands (Ky.) and Rochester (Mich.).

While this is all a new experience for the team, Hensley believes the Bulldogs will do well.

"As always, it will be a learning experience because none of the student-athletes have competed on this level before," she said. "It is a different ballgame from what we have competed in before. It has a similar format to what we have at our conference championship tournament, and the girls do well in match play. The confidence from winning several big matches in the conference championship will help them at the national tournament."

While the final outcome is yet to be determined, Hensley considers the 2015-16 a success.

"My goal for the team is to put into play what we have worked on all year," Hensley added. "If we can work together as a team and stay relaxed, we will go far.