But the Hawks (77-45) responded in a big way averaging 216.6 in a 4-1 victory that propelled them to the semifinals for the third time in head coach Kayla Bandy’s six seasons as head coach. They will face off with Stephen F. Austin next at 3 p.m.
“They did extremely well,” coach Bandy said. “We finished the second match on such a low and they came back in and win. The run of strikes that each one went on was tremendously important for us getting through the match successfully. I am just really proud of how all eight of them are working together to get the job done.
“They’ve all been close matches, but they have all been fun matches.”
It was a big morning for all the Hawks, but freshmen Chloe Skurzynski (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) and Isabel Hughes (Raleigh, North Carolina) both came through with big shots despite their unfamiliarity to this stage.
“A lot of times, I just need to be more confident in myself,” Hughes said. “That is what happened today. I just trusted that I could actually do something and that I am capable of great things.
Great things are what she provided posting a 215 in traditional play and the coming through with 18 fills — including 12 strikes — in 20 Baker frames.
“It was definitely easier today,” Hughes said. “Everyone was making great shots, so it made it easier for me to make great shots. I felt like the team chemistry today was better than it was yesterday and we were able to give better eye contact and were able to cheer for each other more and make better shots together.”
Skurzynski had a 180 in Traditional play and then marked in 18 of 20 Baker frames — including 11 strikes and a clean third match.
“I think that the freshmen are really stepping up,” Bandy said. “They have really embraced the idea that their physical games are pretty awesome and they have embraced the hard work they have put in to get to this point, but it also is a statement to the upper classmen for kind of showing them the way and they have got really good upper classmen to follow the lead.”
Those leaders did their job on the lanes as well.
Senior Danielle August (Mililani, Hawaii) started the day off with five straight strikes and posted a team-high 221 in traditional play. She marked in 18 of 20 Baker games and posted 13 strikes and finished the day in the anchor role.
Junior Cayla Hicks (Salem, Virginia) matched August’s 221 in traditional play and marked in 18 of 20 Baker frames and picked up five strikes.
Classmate Brigitte Jacobs (Freeport, Illinois) shot a 177 to open the day but rebounded nicely to mark 18 of 20 Baker frames — which included a clean third match and nine strikes.
The team put up five consecutive strikes multiple times during the deciding match.
While the freshmen shouldered the pressure with the ease of veterans, they also know that they can in part thank them for that.
“We had a little team meeting the day before competition for me Chloe and Paulina Torres (Ponce, Puerto Rico) because we hadn’t been here before,” Isabel said. “The others talked about the stuff to expect and asking if we had any questions or nerves. It made it easier for us because they wanted to make sure that we are all on the same page and we are all level-headed together.”
Particularly important has been the leadership of Hicks and Jacobs who had an overwhelming run to the NCAA semifinals as freshmen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“All throughout this year, those two have been great telling me what to expect of myself and how my freshman year will go,” Hughes said. “Especially, this tournament they have just been reassuring. Letting us know we have made it this far and we are capable of doing this. We can all to this together.”