Megan Buja (Rockford, Ill.) had one of her best individual finishes of her career recently at the 2012 North Pointe Junior Gold Championships.  Buja tied for fifth place overall, tying Fairleigh Dickinson’s Danielle McEwan in a field of 569 women bowlers in the under 20 division.

Buja qualified 10th to make the finals, which took the top 16 bowlers after 25 games. She posted a pin fall of 5,019, for an average of 200.76.  Her high game was a 269 for the event.  Buja was ranked second after just five games and was fourth after 10, 15 and 20 games.  Her final block was the toughest as she posted the lowest score of the top 16
bowlers, dropping her to tenth.

At stake was not just bragging rights, but a chance to earn a spot on Junior Team USA.
The squad took the top two qualifiers heading into bracket play and then would take the final two bowlers.  Two more would be selected at large.

The first two spots went to McEwan, who qualified second and is the reigning National Tenpins Coaches Association (NTCA) Player of the Year and Natalie Goodman of Vanderbilt who was the top qualifier with a pin fall of 5,287 and an average of 211.48.

Bracket play featured a collegiate star-studded lineup, including MEAC standout Thea Aspiras of Norfolk State, who qualified 16th.  In the first round Buja got an opening win over 7th seeded Liz Kuhlkin of Nebraska, 417-358.  Buja would then topple McEwan in
the second round 398-367, sending her to the ‘contenders’ bracket.’

Buja would then run into 14th seeded Miranda Panas from Canada in round three.  Panas was carrying the momentum, topping third seed Holly Harris of Wichita State in the opening round and Sarah Lokker of Arkansas State in the second.  Panas would again
knock off another college bowling star, defeating Buja 388-385.

With Buja in the ‘Contenders Bracket,’ Panas would fall to eventual winner Robin Renslow, who will be a freshman at Vanderbilt this coming season.  Renslow, who was undefeated heading to the final match, fell to Jackie Carbonetto of Sacred Heart in the
finals, forcing a second showdown, which Renslow would win.

Buja would make a go of it though, falling to Carbonetto in the bracket semi-finals, 431- 376.  This would give Buja a tie for fifth place with Goodman who fell to Lokker in the other bracket semi-finals.

With Renslow and Carbonetto making Team USA for their finals placing that left two spots to be selected at large.  Panas, who took third, was ineligible since she is Canadian so Lokker, who was fourth, got a nod.  With one spot left Buja was skipped over by the National Selection Committee for Harris of Wichita State, who tied with McEwan for seventh.

“Megan bowled as well as I have seen her bowl,” said head coach Kristina Frahm. “She had such confidence and was sure of her bowling.  She will be a big part of our program this year and we hope she will keep it going this season.”

Other Hawks also performed well at the event.  Rising sophomore Valerie Riggin (Vista, Calif.) took 43rd overall while signee and incoming freshman Kristie Lopez of Ponce, Puerto Rico took 47th.

“While the average fan might not think finishing in the 40s is great, they should take a closer look at the field,” added Frahm.  “They both were in the top eight percent of the event, beating players from some of the top NCAA and USBC schools.  Not only did the NCAA schools have a great showing, I think UMES had a great showing as well.”

The Hawks hope to ride the great bowling of Buja, Riggin and Lopez into the 2012-13 season when it kicks off in November in New Jersey.