Senior Nebraska bowler finds persistence is key | Sports

Cassidy Ray was already competing in bowling at eight years old. Her parents both bowled when she was little, so she and her sister would get dragged along to league games and tournaments. A year later, the Herrin, Illinois native would get her first personal bowling ball and shoes.

While her shoe size and bowling ball weight would change, the love of the game did not. What’s more, Ray learned some lessons along the way, the most important being the virtue of patience in pursuing success.

The senior attributes a lot of her early success to the owners of Herrin Bowl, the alley where she first learned how to bowl. She said they are who taught her a lot of the basic skills, such as where to stand on approach and the proper throwing technique.

Growing up, she would compete in leagues at Herrin Bowl but never tried to compete at the national level because of another sport that she was passionate for: softball.

“Softball was really my first sport, I think I started at t-ball age and played through high school,” Ray said. “I would travel a lot for softball though, which meant I couldn’t really compete at the national level in bowling.”

Still, Ray continued her bowling career in high school, making a large impact on the program. In her high school career, Ray was a four-time Illinois State Tournament qualifier for Herrin High School, posting a high school career-high score of 277.

Ray knew that she wanted to continue competing at the next level, but she wasn’t sure which one. When she started looking at colleges her sophomore year, Ray initially thought that she could do both softball and bowling. However, she eventually realized that she was given more opportunities to show her skills and be successful in bowling, causing her to decide to solely pursue bowling at the collegiate level.

“Even though I ultimately chose to pursue bowling, being an athlete in other sports helped me a lot with bowling,” Ray said. “Things like leg strength, balance, hand-eye coordination, they all helped me become a better bowler and still help me today.”

When looking at colleges, Nebraska stood out to her from the start. It was immediately after her visit that she knew Nebraska was where she belonged.

“I could tell that the coaches believed in me and saw something they wanted on their team,” Ray said. “That was an amazing feeling, and I could see myself being happy and succeeding.”

Ray’s career as a Husker has been successful, but it has taken a while to get where she is now.

After redshirting her freshman year, Ray worked hard to become a contributing member of the team. The next two years she made a lot of changes to her game. As she made these changes and started to improve, she realized that success comes with time.

“My career was very eye-opening,” Ray said. “I was expecting it to change right away, but I realized it was going to just take time to make the changes my coaches want[ed] from me, and that was going to help me become a successful bowler.”

Nebraska bowling head coach Paul Klempa said he knew Ray had potential from the beginning and admires the patience she showed to get to the level she is at now.

“Her first two years were more about finding her place, waiting her turn and by third year she had arrived. Since then, she’s just grown,” Klempa said. “The last couple seasons she’s been a force.”

The spring semester of her junior year was when Ray’s changes came to fruition. She had made speed changes that she worked on over winter break and then came back in January and practiced even more.

As a team co-captain, these changes and persistent work helped Ray lead the team to a win at the NCAA Championship in April of 2021, which also earned her NTCA All-American Third Team honors. This victory was particularly sweet since her team had very limited opportunities to compete in the Fall of 2020 due to COVID-19.

Klempa said she played a huge role in the team’s success at nationals, and her display of both skill and leadership shined at nationals. With each strike, Ray kept the team’s hopes alive.

“She waited her turn and has now become an invaluable starter,” Klempa said. “She’s the quintessential student athlete.”

Finishing third on her team last season, Ray has high hopes to end her career on the national stage once again. However, she is also focused on having fun and enjoying time with her teammates one last season. A criminology and criminal justice major, Ray plans to pursue law school next fall.

“My teammates have encouraged me to keep working hard and improving my game, and I think that’s an important role in the success I’ve had so far,” Ray said. “We always encourage each other to be better.”

Ray also wants to thank her parents, who have pushed her to keep working and have even come to almost all her competitions for her final season.

“It’s very sad but I’m thankful that I’ve made it this far,” Ray said. ”It’s going to be sad not having that routine of school, practice and just seeing my teammates every day, but I am thankful for all the experiences bowling has given me.”

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