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Women's bowling program wins third national title in five years

Women's bowling program wins third national title in five years
It was a repeat performance for the MVCC women's bowling team as the Hawks once again won the National Junior College Athletic Association's National Championship for the second year in a row and for the third time in five years.

What makes this repeat national championship even more impressive is that it was accomplished with mostly new bowlers as the Hawks won by 310 pins at the Thruway Lanes in Buffalo.

"What makes these girls really special is that they are all strong willed, and it made for a good fit," said head coach George Aylesworth, who was named the NJCAA National Coach of the Year. "Amber (Kotary) is the only girl back from last year's team and she was one of the best captains I could have wished for. She got right into their faces when they needed to get focused on the task at hand."

The other aspect which made this championship even sweeter is that all the bowlers are local. Brittany Macrina is from Mohawk, Kiamesha Philhower is from Hamilton, Chelesa Byrd and Rebecca Hughes are both from New Hartford, Sarah Foley is from Rome and Kotary is from Holland Patent. Acting as the glue for the team was assistant coach Krystal Walters, who was the captain of last year's national championship squad.

"I needed someone like Krystal as the assistant coach, as she is an excellent teacher.  At times we ended up playing good cop, bad cop since I am as strong willed as the girls, and Krystal knows exactly what it takes to win," said Aylesworth. "Sometimes I had to come down hard on them, as a couple of the girls didn't know how good they could be.  As the season went on, they began to realize what we were talking about and together we gained confidence in one another."  They really understood that they could not take games off.

Macrina was crowned the Singles National Champion as she was the top bowler with 605 pins in the three games singles competition. In doubles, she bowled 491 while in the team competition she bowled 502 and 547 for a tournament total of 2,145 pins – placing her sixth overall for individuals. She was also honored with All-American status along with MVCC's Foley. Foley bowled a three-game singles score of 502 and a three-game doubles score of 461. In the team competition, she threw scores of 528 and 588 for a total of 2,079 pins – placing eighth overall.

It has been a long road to the nationals for the Hawks as they worked to remain consistent and peak at the right time. This was difficult as they started off the conference season 4-0 only to stumble along the way to finish 6-6 in the Mountain Valley Conference and second place behind Herkimer County Community College. 

The Hawks regrouped in the NJCAA Region III Tournament which they won by 28 pins over second place Schenectady Community College.

"Our region is the nationals in a nutshell. The top four programs come out of Region III and three of them come out of the Mountain Valley Conference," said Aylesworth.   "The college and I would really like to have all these girls coming back. Winning as a freshman is great, but winning twice is a very nice accomplishment which few can claim to have done."

At the national tournament, the Hawks found themselves in the middle of the pack after the initial round of 3-game doubles.  They stepped up their game in the second round, the three-game singles event, led by Macrina's 605.  It wasn't until the first 3 game set of team five-man where the Lady Hawks grabbed an 80-pin lead over Erie Community College and a 104-pin lead over Herkimer CCC.  Following the second 3 game set of team five-man, the Hawks held a 240-pin lead over the field. They continued to maintain their dominance over the field in the Baker portion of the tournament to their final tally of a 310-pin victory.

Scores for the other MVCC bowlers are: Kotary 496 in singles; 516 in doubles; 467 and 479 in team for a 1,958 total. Philhower, who broke her arm and was bowling with a soft-cast, scored 467 in singles; 436 in doubles; 445 and 480 in team for a 1,828 total. Hughes bowled 442 in singles; 416 in doubles; 124 and 517 in team for a 1,499 total. Byrd bowled 413 in singles; 409 in doubles; 306 in the first three-game team for a 1,128 total.