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Caitlin Mertins, a native of Racine, WI, and graduate of Park High School, will compete for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater bowling team during the 2021 season, which begins this weekend.

Mertins, a junior at UW-Whitewater, is majoring in elementary education.

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater bowling team will begin an unprecedented season in an unprecedented way, hosting the Warhawk Classic to kick off the 2021 campaign this Saturday and Sunday at Rock River Lanes in Fort Atkinson.

The Warhawks claimed the first and only Central Intercollegiate Bowling Conference championship in 2019-20, finishing the year with a 54-47 record playing regularly against the nation’s top college bowling competition.

UW-Whitewater was coming off a 17th-place finish at Vanderbilt’s Columbia 300 Music City Classic when the remainder of the 2019-20 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team finished the year ranked third in the nation among Division II and Division III schools and 17th overall by the National Tenpin Coaches Association.

The 2020-21 Warhawks will compete as an independent and were ranked third among Division II/III institutions and 16th overall by the NTCA in the preseason.

Head coach Leann Sullivan returns for her 10th season at the helm of the program. Sullivan has led UW-W to three NCAA Championship appearances, including third place in 2014 and 2015, and eclipsed the 500-career win plateau early in 2019-20.

Sullivan returns a strong core from last year’s team, headlined by seniors Peyton Attig (Oak Lawn, Ill./Harold L. Richards), Karlee Barton (Joliet, Ill./Joliet West) and Mary Conneely (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West).

Conneely was named CIBC Player of the Year and first team All-CIBC after leading NCAA Division III in Baker double percentage (48.0), strike percentage (44.2) and Baker frame average (19.72). In 819 completed NCAA frames, she led the conference in scoring average (193.3), Baker average (197.2), first-ball scoring average (8.9) and 10th-frame scoring average (200.1).

Attig completed 556 frames in NCAA competition last season, averaging 17.99 pins per frame with a fill percentage of 78.5 percent. She recorded her top performance of last season at the Warhawk Classic, where she finished 12th in the 84-player field.

Barton posted an average of 18.67 pins per frame and a 78.7 fill percentage in 424 completed frames. She finished 22nd overall at the 2020 Columbia 300 Saints Invitational.

Sam Knab (Antioch, Ill./Antioch) leads the Warhawks’ large junior class. She led the CIBC in single-pin conversion rate (96 percent) and finished third in the league in scoring average (186.3). Knab was selected first team All-CIBC and was the conference’s Bowler of the Month in October 2019.

Caitlin Mertins (Racine, Wis./Park) and Taylor Purgett (Marshfield, Wis./Marshfield) garnered CIBC Bowler of the Month accolades for February 2020 and November 2019, respectively. Mertins rolled an average of 18.98 per frame and filled 83.1 percent of her frames over 563 completed. Purgett averaged a 19.91 and tallied an 85.1 percent fill percentage in 2019-20.

Kelsey Jaeger (New London, Wis./Little Wolf) bowled 398 NCAA frames, averaging 18.70 pins per frame and finishing with an 82 percent fill rate. Piper Miles (Inverness, Ill./Fremd), Chloe Van Sistine (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) and Kylie Wright (Dickeyville, Wis./Cuba City) round out the team’s junior class. All three competed exclusively in United States Bowling Congress-sanctioned events a year ago.

Alyssa Lang (Palos Heights, Ill./Marist) and Rachel Pavlik (Edgerton, Wis./Edgerton) comprise UW-W’s sophomore class. Both competed in USBC tournaments last season.

Newcomers to the 2020-21 team include freshmen Jamie Gabrysz (Prescott Valley, Ariz./Fountain-Fort Carson (Colo.)), Bree Gullikson (Custer, Wis./Amherst), Rebecca Howard (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove) and Rachel Nelson (Poplar Grove, Ill./Belvidere North).

This weekend’s tournament, which also includes Maryville, Valparaiso, Upper Iowa and Lewis, begins Saturday at 11:15 a.m. with five traditional team games. Competition concludes Sunday with four Baker total pin fall matches.

UW-Whitewater’s matches will be streamed live on the Warhawk Athletics YouTube channel.

Other tournaments scheduled include Lewis University’s Flyer Classic (Feb. 12-14), the Mid-Winter Classic (Feb. 19-21) and the Columbia 300 Music City Classic (March 5-7).

The NCAA Tournament begins April 3-4 with regional tournaments, followed by the NCAA Championship, which is slated for April 9-10 in North Kansas City, Mo.

For more than 150 years, UW-Whitewater has provided students with the education and training to begin their careers with a solid foundation behind them. The UW-Whitewater is committed to the development of the individual, the growth of personal and professional integrity, and respect for diversity and global perspectives. These are met by providing academic and co-curricular programs that emphasize the pursuit of knowledge and understanding and a commitment to service within a safe and secure environment.


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