PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. – The seven "founding" seniors of the Felician University women's bowling program were a part of one more milestone before concluding their careers when the Golden Falcons were eliminated from the East Coast Conference (ECC) Championship tournament on Saturday morning at Port Jeff Bowl. The event is being hosted by Adelphi University.
Felician ended its fourth year of varsity intercollegiate competition with a dual-match won-lost record of 52-58. Of the Golden Falcons' 12-player roster, seven members were four-year seniors who helped establish the program – right-handers Heather Androvich (Carteret, N.J./Carteret), Michelle Gulino (Howell, N.J./Howell), Kristen Keller (Reading, Pa./Schuylkill Valley), Alex Laurenzano (Brick, N.J./Brick Township), Kristin Natoli (Freehold, N.J./Howell), Kaitlyn Stapleton (Washington Township, N.J./Westwood Regional) and Jessica Zalewski (Barnegat, N.J./Barnegat).
The ECC Championship is being held in an all-Baker format. The 12 teams were grouped by NCAA RPI into two pools of six. On Friday, each team competed in a five-game Baker match against each of the other five teams in its pool. The schools were then brought back into one group of 12 and seeded according to pinfall in the five pool play matches for a double-elimination bracket. All bracket matches are being contested in the Baker best-of-seven format.
Friday's competition began auspiciously for Felician, with an 833-792 victory over event host and No. 11-nationally-ranked Adelphi. Another ranked opponent awaited, No. 23 Lincoln Memorial University, and LMU prevailed 963-901. Golden Falcon victories over LIU Post and Daemen College followed, leading to a matchup with Roberts Wesleyan College to conclude pool play.
Felician earned an emphatic 988-694 triumph over the Red Hawks. It was the 200th victory in program history, with all of them coming under the guidance of fourth-year head coach Andrew Toriello.
Along with the 4-1 record, the Golden Falcons felled 4,575 pins in the round-robin portion of the tournament, a 183.0 average. The total put them in fourth place. While Felician was two pins back of third-place Adelphi, the No. 4 seed for the double-elimination bracket meant a first-round bye and the rest of Friday off.
No. 5 seed Daemen swept No. 12 St. Thomas Aquinas College on Friday evening to earn a re-match with the Golden Falcons on Saturday morning. After the teams split the first four games, the Wildcats edged Felician, 202-200, in Game 5. The Golden Falcons recovered for a 188-156 win to set up a deciding game, but Daemen prevailed, 222-171, to relegate Felician to the losers' bracket.
The Golden Falcons had to come right back and face waiting No. 6 seed Molloy College, and the Lions were hot, shooting more than 200 three times in earning a 4-0 victory. Felician exited the tournament in a tie for ninth place.
Four teams advanced to Sunday's competition. Lincoln Memorial and Franklin Pierce University are in the winners' bracket final. The loser of their match will drop to meet the winner of Adelphi and Daemen in the losers' bracket final, and the two survivors will bowl for the 2018 ECC title and an automatic qualifier to NCAA nationals.
Prior to the tournament, the final 2017-18 ECC regular-season advanced statistics were released. Zalewski was the top Golden Falcon on the league's Player Composite Performance Index (PCPI) list, ranking 13th in the ECC. Her top category was traditional format makeable spare conversion percentage, in which she was fifth.