LAS VEGAS, Nevada — What happens in Vegas stays inbetween the gutters.
In its first year as programs, the Ottawa University men’s and women’s bowling teams competed over the weekend in two Las Vegas, Nevada, tournaments, finding success in each.
Rachel Barber, junior, and Casey Holmes, freshman, bowled their way to all-tournament selections in the Tier 1 Rebel Classic Sunday, capping off a weekend of both bowling and sight-seeing in Sin City.
“I don’t think they realized the magnitude of what was going on,” Geoff Poston, OU head men’s and women’s bowling coach, said. “I had to tell them that Las Vegas is world destination. People come to the United States from other countries just to go to Las Vegas. You’re gonna see all different kinds of people. We had kids who had never been on a plane before. It was a really good trip. The kids were great, they did exactly what we asked of them and then they had a pretty good weekend out on the lanes.”
The Braves arrived in Vegas Thursday by plane, and spent that time seeing the city, including time spent on The Strip, Caeser’s Palace and the Bellagio.
“They got to see all different kinds of people that are in Las Vegas,” Poston said with a laugh.
But it wasn’t all play and no work. Both OU teams competed in the Tier 2 Sin City Open Friday, and the Tier 1 Rebel Classic Saturday and Sunday. It was the team’s second Tier 1 tournament this season, which gets teams more points for the postseason, Poston noted.
Barber and Holmes had stellar individual performances, helping the Lady Braves to a third-place finish out of five teams. Barber won the Rebel Classic with a pin total of 1,314, marking her third tournament win this season. Holmes finished fifth with a pin total 1,107.
The men’s team didn’t have its best performance, but improved from its Friday tournament (12th out of 13 teams in the Sin City Open). The men finished 10th out of 14 teams in the Rebel Classic, with Brady Brunson, freshman leading the way with a 1,136 pin total (28th place).
For first-year programs, the Braves are quickly making their names known across collegiate bowling.
“It has been awesome,” Poston said. “We’ve bowled against teams that are in their first year, and some of those teams weren’t really competitive. We’ve gone out and been competitive in our first year, which is awesome. We had No. 6 Hastings on the ropes over the weekend for 46 of the 54 games we had to bowl. It’s been good. With the kids we have now gelling with the kids we have coming in, I think it is going to be good for next year on the men’s and women’s side as well.”
And with two tournaments left on the schedule in February — including trips to Fairview Heights, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana — Ottawa is looking to make a postseason run.
Poston noted the OU athletic department has been supportive from the beginning in building the program.
“They let me pick and choose the tournaments that I felt would give us the most bang for our buck, so to speak, as far as trying to qualify for the postseason,” he said. “Las Vegas was one of the tournaments in January that I felt programs were going to go to, and we were going to have a chance to be successful and pick up some points. It is really a credit to [the athletic department] for giving me the power to look at the schedule and not hold me back just because we are a first-year program. We are in there in all the tournaments just like all the other schools are.”
And while that has helped OU be competitive all season, Poston said he isn’t sure if his teams will return to Las Vegas in the coming years or not. Competing in tournaments earns teams points in the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) standings, with Tier 1 tournaments worth the most points.
“We would probably want a bigger field of teams,” Poston said. “There are only 10 Tier 1 tournaments in the country, and you can only bowl five. The USBC looks and figures out the best spots geographically to put these tournaments. If it is not a Tier 1 next year, we probably won’t go to it. We’ll go somewhere where we could get the most for our trip. It all kind of depends on how it shapes out in May and what USBC does.
“It is trial and error your first year. You have to see which tournaments are good. We’ve had a few tournaments that didn’t have the turnout that we wanted, so we’ll be able to change that up next year. That is why next year is going to be even more competitive because we will be in more tournaments with bigger teams, and we’ll be able to maximize our points with USBC to try to get into the postseason.”
The women’s team is currently ranked 64th out of 145 teams, and the men 94th out of 177 teams in the USBC rankings, which can be viewed at www.collegebowling.com/rankings
Ottawa resumes its schedule Saturday at the McKendree Baker Challenge in Fairview Heights, Illinois.
Rebel Classic results
WOMEN (third out of five)
1 - Rachel Barber 1,314 (pin total)
5 - Casey Holmes 1,107
9 - Sasha Bengston 1,026
15 - Hannah Middaugh 933
22 - Cearstyn McGhee 819
31 - Angely Morgan 118
MEN (10th out of 14)
28 - Brady Brunson 1,136
31 - Jeffery Gump 1,124
36 - Cody Swartz 1,104
38 - Brandon Kraus 1,082
39 - Colton Swartz 1,079
Sin City Open results
WOMEN (third out of five)
2 - Bengston 828
6 - Barber 730
8 - Middaugh 704
22 - McGhee 452
24 - Holmes 411
26 - Morgan 334
MEN (12th out of 13)
39 - Kraus 694
50 - Gump 645
54 - Colton Swartz 638
59 - Brunson 607
79 - Cody Swartz 252
87 - Tanner Wichman 149
90 - William Tanner 136
POSTON EARNS COACH OF THE YEAR
Poston was named the 2016-17 Midwest Sectional Coach of the Year for girls bowling this past January. He was nominated by the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) after previously being named the 2016-2017 Kansas Bowling Coach of the Year and the 2016-2017 Kansas 5A Coach of the Year as the head bowling coach at Topeka Seaman High School (2009-2017).
Receiving the honor was, “a pleasant surprise,” Poston said.
The Section includes the states of Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.