DALLAS, Texas — A good support system has been key for Rachel Barber in her first season in a Braves uniform.

The junior from Topeka has been the catalyst for a first-year program that is vying for a trip to nationals. The Ottawa University women’s bowling team competes this weekend in Dallas, Texas at the ISC/ITC (Internationals Singles Championships/International Team Championships) Sectionals.

Barber is the top ranked player in the nation by average in tier one tournaments. She is averaging a 208.471 pin total in tier one tournaments this season. Tier one tournaments have the biggest fields and toughest lane patterns in collegiate bowling, Geoff Poston, OU head bowling coach, noted.

“I have good teammates to back me up and support me, and positive coaches,” Barber said of her success.

If Ottawa places in the top four as a team at the sectional competition, it will advance to the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) Intercollegiate Team Championships’ 32-team field of 16 men’s and 16 women’s teams. The OU women’s team qualified for sectionals by finishing the regular season ranked in the top 64 schools in the nation. The Braves are ranked 58th, according to www.collegebowl.com

Barber has been a huge component for one of Ottawa’s newest athletic programs, not only on the scoreboard, but as a leader as well. She is the lone upperclassman on a roster that sports seven freshmen.

“I was a little nervous at the beginning being the older one on the team, but I’ve made some great friends and I’ve got to help them grow,” Barber said. “I’ve got to be there for them because some of them are far away from home for the first time. I look at it as being their older sister, so when I have to leave next year it will be sad, but it will be okay.”

And keeping focused on consistency this season has been big in becoming a top collegiate bowler, she said.

“I have focused more on picking up my spares because spares are important,” Barber said. “I’ve really worked on target shooting this year to make sure I hit my mark. Everything is the same. I throw the ball the same way at the same speed every time. Accuracy is a big thing in bowling.”

The Braves finish sectionals Sunday at USA Bowl, 10920 Composite Dr., Dallas, Texas.