Coming off their second national championship in four seasons, the SFA Ladyjacks bowling team enters the 2019-20 season aiming for a repeat. Entering her ninth season, at the helm, coach Amber Lemke and her team enter the season poised for success.
“Every year, our goal is the same thing: at the end of the year is to win a national championship,” Lemke said. “It’s just kind of the route that we take to get there. The goals that we set along the way may change a little bit. But, every year, our goal is to be at the end and have the chance to be able to hoist that trophy.”
SFA captured its second national championship after defeating Vanderbilt University 4-1 in the NCAA Women’s Bowling Title Match in Wickliffe, Ohio, last April. Because of their accomplishment, the offseason was a busy one.
“This was probably the busiest offseason that we had,” Lemke said. “We graduated two seniors, so the majority of the student athletes on the team, with the exception of our incoming freshmen, had been part of a championship year. And, then the year that we didn’t make the final, they saw the difference [between] what we were lacking the year that we didn’t make it and what it took to get there the year that we did. I think that propelled them to work harder in the offseason and that translated into a busier offseason for us once they got to campus.”
The Ladyjacks begin their title defense Friday, Oct. 18, at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Invite in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite losing All-Americans Paige Beeney and Dakotah Hazlewood to graduation, the Ladyjacks return seven players and added three newcomers.
SFA ranked No.3 in the NTCA preseason poll. The Ladyjacks picked up a nation-leading 20 of a possible 46 first-place votes in the poll, amassing 1,557 total points. They are one of six programs from the Southland Bowling League who were ranked among the NTCA's Preseason Top 25. Although the ranking is nice, Lemke said it does not mean much to them.
“We tell the girls that the work ethic, winning matches and the statistics show who deserves to win at that time,” Lemke said. “I do think that something like that kind of pushes us to be better because we want to be in that one spot. We want to be the team that everybody’s out trying to get—especially after last year. Looking back on it, it’s not something that’s taken to heart really because it’s an opinion, and it’s based off submitted information.”
Throughout the season, the team’s goal remains the same both on and off the bowling lanes.
“Our big thing every year is that we’re big believers in taking care of business, having good experiences and being good people produces winning,” Lemke said. “We always have high standards as far as classroom goals and just little goals along the way for practice or even events as we go on. Our end goals are still the same. But, setting up how to be successful to get there is important and the makeup of the team decides that every year.”