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McKendree women, Webber men hoist Helmer Cup


The McKendree women and Webber International men were victorious at the 2017 Intercollegiate Team Championships. Both championship rounds went the maximum five games, as a best-of-five Baker format determined the winners Saturday at the Raising Cane’s River Center in Baton Rouge, La.

The McKendree women defeated defending champion Webber International, 3-2, while the Webber International men knocked off 2016 ITC winner, McKendree, 3-2. The last time a school claimed both the men’s and women’s titles at the ITC was 2012, when Webber completed the sweep.

Both shows were taped for broadcast and will air on CBS Sports Network in May. The women’s final will air May 15 at 8 p.m. Eastern, while the men’s championship round will be May 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The McKendree women (pictured above) already captured a title at the River Center prior to their ITC run, winning their first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Women’s Bowling Championship last Saturday with a 4-0 win over Nebraska.

The Bearcats got out to another quick start Saturday, winning their first two games against Webber, 206-157 and 212-191. Webber bounced back in Games 3 and 4 to tie the match at 2-2 and force a deciding game.

Both teams ran into trouble throughout Game 5, but the score remained close heading into the final frame. McKendree took a one-pin advantage into the 10th, and freshman Breanna Clemmer delivered a strike to start and filled 20 pins for the frame to force Webber freshman Caitlyn Johnson to double for the victory.

Johnson’s first effort went left of target and left the 3-6-10 standing, giving McKendree its first Helmer Cup for the women’s program, 159-147.

“I was obviously very nervous but knew my girls would have my back regardless of the outcome,” Clemmer said. “Whether I struck or split, we would still leave as champions, and that’s what we wanted to come here and do. This run has been unbelievable. It feels great, and I don’t think this feeling will ever go away.”

With wins at the NCAA Women’s Bowling Championship and ITC at the River Center, the Bearcats became just the second team to win both titles in the same year. Maryland Eastern Shore was the first to accomplish the feat in 2011.

Webber’s run to the title match also had record implications as the Warriors were looking to become the first team in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a women’s title. West Texas A&M was the last team to achieve the feat, winning in 1987 and 1988.

The McKendree team, which features no seniors, includes Breanna Clemmer, Taylor Bailey, Christie Draper, Ashley Dunn, Ashley Hathaway, Jessica Mellott, Lauren Pate and Sarah Wille.

“There’s definitely something special about this team, especially with them being so young,” said McKendree women’s coach Shannon O’Keefe.

“Bryan (O’Keefe, Shannon’s husband and McKendree headcoach) and I had multiple discussions about how we could still be a year away, but about halfway through the season, they decided they weren’t going to wait. This doesn’t even feel like real life. As a parent of my girls, because that’s how I feel, I don’t think I could be more proud. To see their dreams come true and know we had a little piece of that is an incredible feeling.”

The men’s final saw McKendree put Webber to the brink of elimination after Game 3, securing a 2-1 lead. After altering its lineup for a fourth consecutive game, Webber was able to tie the match in Game 4 with a 215-153 win.

Throughout the course of the championship round, Webber (pictured above) used every player on its roster for at least one game.

“That’s something we’ve worked on all year,” said Webber head coach Del Warren. “Ball reaction changes so fast, momentum changes so fast and guys can get locked for no reason at all. We believe that ball reaction is king, ball reaction gives you confidence and you have to have guys who can come in and out of the lineup in a moment’s notice. This team really embraced that concept, and it gave us an advantage.”

In the finale, Webber took the momentum by rolling five consecutive strikes after an open in the fourth frame on its way to a 222-154 win and the program’s second men’s ITC win.

“Before we came here today, we had a meeting about who the hero was going to be,” said sophomore Matt Russo. “Our team as a whole was the hero. We moved around very well and made some clutch shots down the stretch. This team is the most versatile group I’ve ever seen, and I wouldn’t want to win this with anyone else. I love these guys more than anything, and I’m so glad we got it done.”

Webber’s team includes Matt Russo, Giorgio Clinaz, Gabriel Garcia, Ramon Hilferink, David Lance, Cory Lenz, Anthony Veney and Aaron Yuratovich.

Wichita State’s Wesley Low and Midland’s Haley Hall were the tournament’s most valuable players.

Joining Low on the men’s all-tournament team were Lindenwood-Belleville’s Scott Hill, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Zach Woelfel and Chris Wiley and Midland’s Nick Pate.

Joining Hall on the women’s all-tournament team were McKendree’s Taylor Bailey, Webber’s Caitlyn Johnson, Stephen F. Austin’s Stephanie Schwartz and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Amanda Van Duyn.

A total of 16 men’s and 16 women’s teams earned their spots in the ITC field by finishing in the top four at one of four sectional events held throughout the country in March.

All teams bowled 24 Baker qualifying games Thursday to determine seeding for the double-elimination bracket, which featured best-of-seven Baker matches leading up to the finals.

BOWL.com’s BowlTV provided live coverage of the event leading up to the televised finals. For more information on the Intercollegiate Team Championships, click here.

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2017 Intercollegiate Team Championships

Raising Cane’s River Center in Baton Rouge, La., USA (April 19-22, 2017)

Women’s Championship:
McKendree def. Webber International, 3-2
(206-157, 212-191, 178-211, 194-196, 159-147)

Men’s Championship:
Webber International def. McKendree, 3-2
(209-194, 158-246, 197-199, 215-153, 222-154).

Herbert Bickel

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