Continuing to build success as a program, the Waldorf University men’s bowling team is set to make its second straight postseason appearance during this weekend’s United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Sectional tournaments.
The Warriors, who are ranked 52nd nationally out of 169 teams, have made significant strides the past two seasons. Qualifying for sectionals in back-to-back campaigns is a significant milestone for the program, which is in its seventh year of competition and finished 83rd in the national rankings two seasons ago.
“It means that we are taking the correct steps to have an extremely competitive program,” Waldorf coach Joe Squires said. “We are looking now to get to the point where we can secure a spot into the national tournament.”
The Warriors compete in the USBC Intercollegiate Singles Sectionals on Friday and then open the two-day USBC Intercollegiate Team Sectionals on Saturday. Both tournaments begin at 8 a.m. at the Stardust Bowl of Addison.
The Stardust Bowl of Addison is the same venue that Waldorf competed at during last year’s postseason run and also during this season’s Kegel/Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association (ISBPA) Midwest Collegiate Classic, which was a tier-1 tournament held in January.
Stakes will be high during this weekend’s sectional tournaments. On Friday, each bowler will complete six games and the top eight finishers will qualify for nationals.
The format for the USBC Intercollegiate Team Sectionals consists of 64 baker games. Twenty-four teams compete in the two-day tournament and the top four teams advance to the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships, scheduled for April 19-22 at Baton Rouge, La.
Four sectional tournaments will be held this weekend with the other three tournaments in Dallas; Allentown, Pa. and Smyrna, Tenn. Waldorf is shooting to be in the mix as one of the top teams in its sectional.
“There are 24 teams competing for four spots to go to nationals,” Squires said. “Being a part of the top 80 teams in the nation, the atmosphere will be highly-competitive with high-stakes bowling. The best way to handle the stress is to relax, enjoy the tournament and have no expectations.”
It’s been a strong season for Waldorf, which began the 2016-17 campaign with a runner-up finish in the Stout State Open on Oct. 22-23 at La Crosse, Wis. The Warriors recorded an 8,628-pin total through 45 games to post a 191.73 average.
Kyle Swiderski and Nicholas Heimerman landed on the Stout State Open’s all-tournament team. Swiderski claimed third place with a 1,089-pin finish through nine games as the sophomore from Minneapolis rolled a 201 average. Heimerman, a senior from Faribault, Minn., secured fifth with a 1,708 score and 197.8 average.
Waldorf went on to place third in the 4th Annual Crusader Open on Jan. 28-29 at Dubuque. The Warriors knocked down 9,092 pins behind an opening-day score of 5,887 and a 16-game baker total of 3,205. They topped the team standings and clinched the No. 1 seed in match play before falling short to Mount Mercy University in a match-play semifinal.
Tanner Schmitz and Roger Harford captured all-tournament team honors in the Crusader Open. Schmitz earned second, putting together a six-game total of 1,269 as the sophomore from Faribault recorded a 211.5 average. Harford locked up third as the sophomore from Jacobus, Pa. turned in a 1,259-pin performance and a 209.8 average.
Waldorf placed in the top six during six of its 10 regular-season tournaments. The Warriors qualified for match play in all but two of the eight tournaments that utilized the format.
Once again, Waldorf battled in a pair of tier-1 Las Vegas tournaments in December and wrapped up the regular season with another tier-1 tournament during the 48th Annual Hoosier Classic on Feb. 11-12 at Indianapolis.
Harford leads the Warriors with a 197.9 average this season, Heimerman owns a 192.6 average, Swiderski is sporting a 191.8 average and Schmitz holds a 184.3 average. Waldorf has also received solid contributions from sophomore Damon Helgevold and junior Michael Templi in each outing.
“Each bowler on the team has brought their own unique talents to lead this team to where it’s at,” Squires said. “They rely on each other to pick up the team in the event that someone isn’t performing their best.”
Increased productivity throughout the lineup has enabled the Warriors to make a push against elite competition this year.
“The team has become more consistent in performance and qualifying higher than previous seasons,” Squires said. “We don’t have the numbers as many of the higher-ranked teams, so we must rely on the versatility of each of the bowlers and the great level of effort they have put into practice to raise their averages high enough to compete with the greatest teams in the nation.”
Squires, who’s in his second season as Waldorf’s head coach, said the close-knit makeup of this year’s team has helped set the tone for successful showings.
“It has been a blast to coach this team,” Squires said. “They truly are a family and bowl for each other, not just for personal pride. They mesh together very well on and off the lanes.”
Embarking on their second consecutive postseason appearance this weekend, the Warriors are looking to follow up last year’s performance with an even stronger finish while taking aim at nationals.
“Our goal with our second appearance will be the same as every other team there – to finish in the top four and earn a trip to nationals,” Squires said. “It is a goal and not an expectation. I only expect that we, as a team, will give our best effort and will not quit on any shot.”