NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - They are one of the most successful, if not the most successful athletic program at Stephen F. Austin, and it's about time they earn more respect.
The Ladyjack bowling team is about to embark on their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships. They're just one of eight teams across the country to qualify for the 2016 Championships.
The bowling alley is not just fun and games for the SFA Ladyjacks. It's a sport for these Division I athletes.
"It's a lot more intense than people realize. It's very competitive," said head coach Amber Lemke.
Bowling is a competitive sport that also demands a lot of time and willpower. Being a collegiate bowler has its own demands for training.
"We have to train just like every other athlete. We go to the gym and we stand on our feet for 8-10 hours a day for tournaments," said sophomore bowler Stephanie Schwartz.
"We are at the bowling centers from 8 o'clock in the morning to 5 o'clock at night," said senior Danielle Lynn. "We train five or six days a week. We're constantly on the road."
Despite being just a seven-year old program, SFA Bowling made their first trip to the NCAA Championships last year taking a second place finish. Now that they're going in back-to-back fashion things have changed.
"Every year the teams get better and better that we're competing against. There are no 'gimmes.' Success is not going to be given to you. You have to earn it. Every year you have to earn it no matter how bad you want it," said Lemke.
"Bowling is a huge mental game. You have to make sure you are mentally strong the entire week," said Lynn. "The team that's most mentally strong is the one who will end up on top."
While bowling may not be the first sport that comes to mind, the competitive fire burns just as deep within these athletes. Being national champion runner-ups last year isn't cutting it for this group.
"We really want to win. We want it really bad," said Schwartz. "Taking runner-up last year kind of sucked. I mean it was good, but we really wanted to win. It was so close so we're out to get them this year."
"I feel like we're really prepared going in and they're very hungry to get back to that and prove we deserve a national title," said Lemke.
With the mindset of leaving no pin behind it's now their second frame to possibly bring SFA it's first team program Division I national title.
"We know that we can go out there and beat anyone," said Lynn.
The NCAA Bowling Championships are in New Jersey this year. The team leaves at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. The games begin this Thursday, April 14th and the championship game will be nationally televised on ESPNU Saturday, April 16th.
For more details on the tournament and teams that qualified, click here.