If “two out of three ain’t bad,” then what would Meatloaf say about the Northeast Conference’s presence in the latest edition of the National Tenpin Coaches Association Top 20 Poll?
Even the burly 70s pop singer has to admit that eight out of 10 is pretty darn good.
With six of the conference’s 10 bowling members having earned a spot in the preseason edition of the national rankings, the NEC saw its presence increase in the first survey taken since the start of the 2012-13 regular season.
With eight teams included in the December edition of the NTCA Top 20, the NEC has a greater presence that that of any other collegiate bowling conference.
In fact, while 80 percent of the NEC’s membership base is ranked amongst the nation’s elite, no other conference is home to more than three Top 20 teams.
A pair of Brooklyn-based rivals are responsible for adding to the NEC’s list of Top 20 occupants. Both LIU Brooklyn (16th) and St. Francis Brooklyn (18th), who didn’t make the cut when the preseason results were released, cracked the December rankings as a result of solid season starts. The Blackbirds (5-4) and the Terriers (6-3) both teams posted winning records at November’s NEC Fall Meet, the first of three regular season conference competitions.
The highest rank attained by a NEC team belongs to Fairleigh Dickinson, which sits in fifth. The Knights, who were forced to cancel their annual Jersey Jamboree Invitational due to Hurricane Sandy, dropped two spots down from their preseason ranking.
FDU, which is one of three league members to boast “Top 10” status, has finished first, second and fourth at the three meets it has contested thus far.
“It’s an honor to be considered as one of the top teams in the nation,” said FDU head coach Mike LoPresti after learning of his team’s No. 3 preseason ranking. “Never before has the level of competition for NCAA bowling been so strong and deep. [Our team] lacks experience. It will take a lot of hard work and growth for us to achieve the ranking by the NTCA membership.”
While the Knights incurred a modest drop-off in the latest national rankings, Adelphi enjoyed a seven-spot surge into the Top 10. Having won 34 of the season’s first 45 matches, the Panthers jumped from No. 15 up to No. 8 (the highest rank in program history).
Surprisingly, Adelphi is not responsible for the biggest leap by a NEC team. That distinction belongs to Saint Francis (PA). Tom Falbo’s Red Flash held the No. 19 ranking heading into the season, but find themselves on the brink of the Top 10, in 11th, following a 24-8 season start.
Meanwhile, Kutztown is one spot ahead of the Keystone State rival Red Flash. The Golden Bears, who have started 34-12, jumped up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10. Although Kutztown is not the NEC’s highest-ranked team in the poll, Joe Ambrose’s club sits atop the NEC regular season standings following a 7-2 showing at the first conference competition.
Sacred Heart (12th) and New Jersey City (17th), who have combined to account for 12 NCAA Championship appearances since 2004, suffered slides, but remained in the Top 20. In fact, both Becky Kregling’s Pioneers and Frank Parisi’s Gothic Knights have been ranked amongst the NTCA Top 20 for their entire Northeast Conference tenures.
Sacred Heart’s drop out of the Top 10 is likely less of an indictment of the Pioneers’ early-season performance and more of a testament to the strengthening of the sport on a national scale.
Non-NEC members Stephen F. Austin and Valparaiso also fell out of the Top 10. The top-five vote-getters from the preseason poll were not immune to shuffling either. In addition to FDU going from third to fifth, Nebraska and Arkansas State both lost their “Top 5” status. Meanwhile, Central Missouri went from its No. 6 preseason ranking to becoming National No. 1 for the first time ever.
“This [latest] poll reflects what NCAA bowling coaches have known, that the depth and parity in college bowling is the best it has ever been,” said SHU head coach Becky Kregling, who doubles as NTCA President. “Youth programs and high schools are developing outstanding talent, while more universities are expending resources and coaches are recruiting this talent like never before in our 10-year history.”
Even with dramatic shifts in the NTCA rankings and the strengthening of collegiate bowling across the board, one constant has remained. The Northeast Conference STILL has more Top 20 programs than any other league in America.
NTCA Top 20 (December 2012) – Official Press Release