In the beginning, there was Kayla Jones.
The Keystone State product starred as a freshman for Kutztown during the 2008-09 season, the year that the NEC began sponsoring bowling as a championship sport.
Jones won the inaugural NEC Rookie of the Year award and went on to enjoy a decorated collegiate career that also included multiple All-America selections and a 2011 NCAA Championship berth.
Now, with the 2017-18 collegiate bowling season slated to start this month, Jones hasn’t left the NEC. The former student-athlete has spent the last five years as LIU Brooklyn’s head coach.
Under her leadership, the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds have emerged as a conference title contender and have seen their national profile rise to new heights.
As a rookie head coach, Jones earned the 2013 NEC Coach of the Year award after guiding the Blackbirds to a 17-10 record in conference match play. In the four seasons prior to her arrival, LIU accounted for a combined .244 win percentage in NEC contests.
During the 2015-16 campaign, LIU Brooklyn attained its highest-ever ranking (10th) in the NTCA Top 25 Poll for the first time ever and went on to advance to the NEC Championship Match for the first time.
As the NEC and Jones begin their tenth season of collegiate bowling, LIU Brooklyn is again ranked amongst the top teams in America. The Blackbirds came in at No. 16 when the NTCA released the preseason edition of its monthly top-25 rankings.
The Blackbirds have also fared well in the classroom with Jones at the helm. The team owned the third-highest grade-point average amongst all NCAA bowling programs at the conclusion of the 2016-17 academic year.
Academic success is something that has followed Jones since her days as a student-athlete. At Kutztown, she earned multiple selections to the NTCA All-Academic Team, which requires of its members a minimum 3.40 GPA.
The Blackbirds will begin the 2017-18 season at the place where their head coach’s college career began.
LIU Brooklyn will contest the two-day Bud Whitman Memorial, which is hosted by Kutztown, Jones’ alma mater. The Blackbirds will be one of five NEC teams competing at Berks Lanes in Reading, PA on October 14-15.