GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The inaugural season for the Tusculum University women's bowling program begins this weekend at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate in Harahan, Louisiana.
TU head coach Shawn Flanary and the Pioneers will participate in nine tournaments starting this weekend and culminating with the East Coast Conference Championship in March.
Flanary has built a women's roster comprised of seven student-athletes including five freshmen and two transfers who bring a wealth of experience to this year's inaugural club.
Flanary was named Tusculum first director of bowling this past December after starting the bowling program four years ago at Lincoln University in Missouri.
The Pioneers inaugural event in Louisiana takes place this weekend (Oct. 18-20) at Colonial Lanes located just outside of New Orleans with Tulane University serving as host.
Sixteen (16) teams are scheduled to play this weekend with nine listed in this year's National Tenpin Coaches Association Preseason Poll (NTCA).
On Friday, the Pioneers will play Baker Format matches against No. 5 Sam Houston State, Grambling, No. 8 North Carolina A&T and seventh-ranked Maryland Eastern Shore.
TU will play five traditional format matches on Saturday against No. 14 Tulane, No. 17 Louisiana Tech, top-ranked Vanderbilt, Jackson State and No. 13 Lincoln Memorial.
Other programs competing this weekend include defending NCAA National Champion Stephen F. Austin, No. 19 UAB, Alabama State, Southern, Texas Southern and Valparaiso.
MEET THE TEAM
The inaugural Tusculum women's bowling roster has representation from six states including Tennessee, Louisiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Former Sam Houston State standout Tacey Ballen possesses the most collegiate experience on the TU roster. The Dayton, Ohio junior was a member of the Bearkats squad that captured the Southland Conference Championship and earned an automatic berth to the NCAA postseason where they were eliminated by eventual national champion Stephen F. Austin.
Ballen, a graduate of Centerville High School in Ohio, posted a 215 average in her conference and high school events in her final two prep campaigns.
It will be a homecoming this weekend for Erin Burkart, a sophomore from Marerro, Louisiana. She comes to Tusculum after playing her collegiate rookie season at Mount St. Mary's in Maryland. She posted a Baker average of 190 and finished the season with 149 total strikes.
Burkart was a four-time All-District selection at The Academy of Our Lady and was the Individual Louisiana State Baker Champion in 2018. She guided her prep team to a 2018 state title and recorded a high score of 279, the best by a Louisiana high school female bowler in her senior season.
Four freshmen will be looking to contribute for the Pioneers this year including Abbygale Hunt (Savannah, Tenn./Hardin County HS), Alexa Tieto (Ocean, N.J./Ocean Township HS), Samantha England (White Bluff, Tenn./Creek Wood HS) and Raycine Mortenson (Las Vegas, Nevada/Las Vegas Academy of the Performing Arts). Also on the roster this year and redshirting the 2019-2020 campaign is Erin Vance (Fogelsville, Pa./Northwestern Lehigh HS).
This weekend's trip to the Allstate Sugar Bowl Invitational begins a stretch of four tournaments in the next five weeks. The Pioneers will be at the Bearcat Open next weekend (Oct. 25-27) in St. Clair, Illinois. TU will be in Madison, Wisconsin for the Warhawk Classic from Nov. 8-10. The Pioneers will close out the pre-holiday schedule with a Nov. 15-17 trip to Greensboro, North Carolina and the Stallings Invitational.
TU kicks off the calendar year Jan. 24-26 as they travel to Chesterfield, Missouri for the Saints Invitational followed by the Wildcat Classic in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 7-9.
The Mid-Winter Classic following Feb. 14-16 in Jonesboro, Arkansas with the regular season coming to a close Mar. 6-8 with the Music City Classic in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Tusculum is competing as an associate member of the East Coast Conference starting this year. The 14-member league includes the Pioneers along with Adelphi University, Bloomfield College, Caldwell University, Chestnut Hill College, Daemen College, Felician University, Kutztown University, Lincoln Memorial, Mercyhurst University, Molloy College, Wilmington University, Roberts Wesleyan College, and St. Thomas Aquinas College.
The ECC Tournament will be held Mar. 20-22 in Limerick, Pennsylvania followed by the NCAA Tournament opening round (Apr. 3-5) and the NCAA National Championship (Apr. 11-13).