Liz Kuhlkin doesn’t get to wear her national championship ring very often.
She’s afraid the 10-carat bauble with diamonds and a red “N” on top will get dirty. Or she’ll nick it during bowling practice — since that’s three hours a day nearly every day, that doesn’t leave much time to enjoy it. Instead, it sits in a special spot in her room where no one can touch it.
“We need to win one more so it won’t hurt if something happens to it,” Kuhlkin said.
The Huskers begin their quest for a second straight national title this weekend at the Crusader Classic in Valparaiso, Ind., before hosting the Big Red Invitational at Lincoln’s Sun Valley Lanes on Nov. 21 to 23. Then they’ll have a break before competition heats up in January.
Kuhlkin, the most valuable bowler at last year’s national tournament, will be a big part of the repeat effort.
“She is a solid individual and a terrific player, proven again this past summer as she earned a spot on the junior U.S. national team,” coach Bill Straub said. “We are most fortunate to have Liz as the anchor on the team.”
Other returners with NCAA championship experience are senior Yan Ling, junior Andrea Ruiz and sophomore Bethany Hedley.
Kuhlkin, a junior from Schenectady, N.Y., said she’s learned a lot at NU, especially in her mental game and leadership skills.
“When things go wrong or things aren’t going well for the team, every team needs a person, people who are there to remind everyone it’s going to be OK, not to get down, forget the frame you just bowled and keep going,” Kuhlkin said.
It’s a grueling process to win a title, with the work during the season then the presssure-packed days at the tournament, but Kuhlkin said it’s all worth it.
It’s what she’s dreamed about since watching Nebraska win its third title in 2009 on TV. She liked the Huskers’ chemistry and the way they carried themselves, and decided then that she wanted to be a part of the program. And she wanted a championship ring on her finger every day.
Now, one is not enough.
“It made me realize if you really want to do something, if you put your heart into it, it really can happen,” she said.