As the Penn State Altoona women's bowling team prepares for its 10th season as an NCAA program, the Lady Lions are ready to show improvement within a conference that is bolstering its support for the sport.
With eight schools sponsoring women's bowling teams this year, the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference has become the first Division III conference in the country to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Collegiate Bowling Championship tournament, which is inclusive of all three NCAA divisions. AMCC full-time members Penn State Altoona, Mount Aloysius College, Medaille College, Pitt-Bradford, Hilbert College, and Penn State Behrend comprise the core of the league's women's bowling institutions, with recent affiliate members New Jersey City University and Saint Vincent College rounding out the pack.
With the added prize of an NCAA postseason bid now at stake, the Penn State Altoona women's bowling team is ready to take a step forward and compete for their first-ever AMCC title and to become the first conference team to advance to the national postseason tournament.
The 2018-19 edition of the Lady Lions will be guided by first-year head coach John Carey, as well as first-year assistant coach Clair Banks. Carey is optimistic that his team has what it takes to open some eyes around the conference.
"I think we will improve overall from last year," he said. "We have shown a lot of progress during our practices, and I hope that can carry over to our competitions. If everything can come together, we might surprise a few people in the AMCC."
Penn State Altoona returns two bowlers from last year's squad. Senior Nicole Watt (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle) is back to cap off an excellent four-year career with the Lady Lions. In 2017-18, she competed in every event for the team while being named the Lady Lions' Most Valuable Bowler. Sophomore Sierra Snigier (Seaford, DE/Seaford) also returns after winning the team's Coach's Award last year.
"Nicole is our top performer from last year, and as a senior, will be the leader for the team. She will more than likely be the anchor for our team this year," Carey explained. "Sierra brings experience. As a two-sport athlete at Penn State Altoona, she is no stranger to competition and knows what to expect this year."
The Lady Lions also welcome seven first-year bowlers to the program this season: senior Kelsey Bristol (Troy, PA/Troy), junior Lucia Perez (Altoona, PA/CCS), sophomore Lauren Moran (Johnstown, PA/Westmont Hilltop), and freshmen Mya Alford (Pittsburgh, PA/George Westinghouse), Allyson Givler (East Petersburg, PA/Hempfield), Amanda Ickes (Altoona, PA/Altoona), and Eden Taddei (Duncansville, PA/Hollidaysburg).
Carey points to Ickes, a recruit by former head coach Toni Watt, as being one newcomer to watch in particular. He is also encouraged by the performances of Givler and Perez during team practices, and he looks forward to seeing what all of the newcomers will bring to the table this year.
"We have a lot of newcomers who I'm excited to watch throughout the season. Coach Watt's recruit, Amanda Ickes, throws a beautiful ball and will be in the mix this year. Allyson Givler and Lucia Perez have shown a lot of progress thus far at practice, and Coach Banks and I are optimistic about their potential," Carey said. "Lauren Moran, Eden Taddei, Kelsey Bristol, and Mya Alford will also contribute throughout the year."
Penn State Altoona's 2018-19 schedule currently consists of six events. The Lady Lions open their season on Sunday, November 11 at 12:00 p.m., hosting fellow AMCC team Pitt-Bradford in a dual match at Holiday Bowl in Altoona. After that, the team will compete in a pair of non-conference tournaments, the Wilmington University Wildcat Invitational (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) and the Saint Francis University Red Flash Invitational (Jan. 25-27), before heading into its conference schedule.
The AMCC schedule consists of two weekends of conference-wide, round robin competition. AMCC Round Robin Weekend #1 is Saturday, February 2 and Sunday, February 3 at Hilbert, and Round Robin Weekend #2 is Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3 at New Jersey City. Using seeding determined by those two weekends, the teams will then compete for the AMCC championship on Saturday, March 23 at Sim's Lanes in Beaver Falls.
While there is cause for optimism this season, Carey hopes to keep things in perspective for his players.
"Our team goal is simple: to get better throughout the season," he stated. "We want to improve after each practice and match and enjoy the experience of being an NCAA bowler."