McKendree women win first Intercollegiate Team Championships title

BATON ROUGE, La. - The McKendree women hoisted the Helmer Cup for the first time as they won the 2017 Intercollegiate Team Championships.

The Bearcats defeated defending champion Webber International in the best-of-five Baker finals, 3-2, to claim their second national title of 2017 at the Raising Cane's River Center.

McKendree also won the 2017 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Women's Bowling Championship at the 44-lane venue, defeating Nebraska, 4-0, in April.

The finals of the women's ITC aired nationally Monday on CBS Sports Network. The men's ITC finals will air on CBS Sports Network on May 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

McKendree got out to a quick start in the championship round, winning their first two games against Webber, 206-157 and 212-191. Webber bounced back in Games 3 and 4 to tie the match at 2-2 and force a deciding game.

Both teams ran into trouble throughout Game 5, but the score remained close heading into the final frame. McKendree took a one-pin advantage into the 10th, and freshman Breanna Clemmer delivered a strike to start and filled 20 pins for the frame to force Webber freshman Caitlyn Johnson to double for the victory.

Johnson's first effort went left of target and left the 3-6-10 standing, giving McKendree the win, 159-147.

"I was obviously very nervous but knew my girls would have my back regardless of the outcome," Clemmer said. "Whether I struck or split, we would still leave as champions, and that's what we wanted to come here and do. This run has been unbelievable. It feels great, and I don't think this feeling will ever go away."

With wins at the NCAA Women's Bowling Championship and ITC at the River Center, the Bearcats became just the second team to win both titles in the same year. Maryland Eastern Shore was the first to accomplish the feat in 2011.

Webber's run to the title match also had record implications as the Warriors were looking to become the first team in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a women's title. West Texas A&M was the last team to achieve the feat, winning in 1987 and 1988.

The McKendree team, which features no seniors, includes Clemmer, Taylor Bailey, Christie Draper, Ashley Dunn, Ashley Hathaway, Jessica Mellott, Lauren Pate and Sarah Wille.

"There's definitely something special about this team, especially with them being so young," said McKendree head coach Shannon O'Keefe. "Bryan (O'Keefe) and I had multiple discussions about how we could still be a year away, but about halfway through the season, they decided they weren't going to wait. This doesn't even feel like real life. As a parent of my girls, because that's how I feel, I don't think I could be more proud. To see their dreams come true and know we had a little piece of that is an incredible feeling."

Midland's Haley Hall was named the tournament's most valuable player.

Joining Hall on the women's all-tournament team were McKendree's Bailey, Webber's Johnson, Stephen F. Austin's Stephanie Schwartz and Wisconsin-Whitewater's Amanda Van Duyn.

The 2017 ITC featured 16 men's and 16 women's teams who earned their spots in the field by qualifying through one of four sectional events held throughout the country in March.

Competition at the River Center consisted of 24 Baker qualifying games to determine seeding for the double-elimination match-play bracket. Bracket matches were contested in a best-of-seven Baker format leading up to the finals.'s BowlTV provided live coverage of the event leading up to the televised finals.