CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- A year after losing the MEAC title to Maryland Eastern Shore, North Carolina A&T downed the MDES Hawks 4-1 in a best out of seven Bakers format series to win the program's fifth MEAC title overall and the first since 2004. Bowling's win also adds to the collection of MEAC titles N.C. A&T Athletics has won during the 2017-18 school year. N.C. A&T's haul now includes MEAC regular-season titles in football, women's basketball and bowling (Southern Division Champions). Bowling also joins women's basketball, women's indoor track and field and men's indoor track as other Aggie programs who have won MEAC postseason titles in 2017-18.
Because they won the MEAC title on Sunday, the Aggies will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Bowling Championship. The field will be announced via live stream on NCAA.com 4 p.m., Wednesday, March 28. The automatic bid guarantees Boze another opportunity to win a national title.
"I'm so excited that we won my senior year," said Brianna Boze . "Since the day I joined the team the goal was always to win a MEAC championship. Last year we made it to the finals and lost. We promised this year we would walk out of this building with a trophy, and we fought hard this weekend and accomplished that goal."
Boze was anything but an innocent bystander. She earned all-tournament honors along with teammate and MEAC Rookie of the Year Ana Olaya. Olaya was also named Most Outstanding Performer of the tournament.
Boze had key strikes in Games 3 and 5, and she was a part of a team that left only four frames open all day. Olaya left no frames open against the Hawks, hitting difficult spare after difficult spare to lead the Aggies to victory. Fellow freshman Cameron Strombeck was terrific as the Aggies anchor. In fact, she was one 9-pin away from leading the Aggies to a sweep of MDES. Strombeck needed a strike on the ninth frame of Game 1. Instead, she left the ninth-pin standing which led to the Hawks only victory of the day, 189-173.
Strombeck as the anchor and the Aggies as a team were dominant from there. Strombeck opened Game 2 with a strike and closed the game with a spare and a strike to lead the Aggies to a 181-157 Game 2 win.
"It feels amazing to win the MEAC championship with my team as a freshman, and I could not be any prouder of each of these ladies," said Strombeck. "We all threw the ball so amazing and played with so much heart. I am proud to be an Aggie."
Sophomore Tyra Merritt also caught fire. She fired off four spares and six strikes including five straight. In Game 3, her hot streak helped the Aggies win Game 3, 202-188.
"Today was tough. It was a fight," said Merritt. "Not all of our shots were perfect but I think we had more fight within us. Sometimes the will has to be greater than the skill, and we impeccably displayed that this weekend. I am so proud of myself and the team."
The Aggies took advantage of multiple open frames by MDES in Game 4 to win 182-152. The Aggies, who had one of the most dominating performances in MEAC history on the first day of the tournament, closed the tournament in a similar fashion. N.C. A&T went on a strike binge in Game 5 to clinch the title 256-219. Sophomores Mia Pope and Kayli Christ made the championship sweeter by closing out the fifth game with back-to-back strikes.