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Australian Emily Rigney Wins Historic US College NCAA Title & Voted MVP

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Australia’s Emily Rigney has played a starring role and created history in Vanderbilt University’s victory at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in St Louis, Missouri. The win saw the college break an 11 year drought at the premier US Collegiate tournament and saw the Australian named in the All-Tournament Team and as co MVP.

On the way to becoming the first Australian to hold the prestigious US college trophy aloft, Rigney played a pivotal role in getting the Commodores through to the championship but the former Victorian representative saved her best for last.

With the bright lights of a national ESPN TV broadcast shining, the girl who grew up in Newcastle and Melbourne stepped onto the approach in the 7th and final baker game against the defending champions McKendree University with a lifetime of work going into this exact moment and the memories of an up and down year floating around in her head. With that, Rigney nailed a strike and on her final shot and the last of the championship produced a masterful spare off a split to see the team hoist the prestigious NCAA title above their heads moments later.

Asked how she was feeling moments after the 20-year-old still didn’t think it was real. 

Vanderbilt’s head coach John Williamson knew it was, having been at the college since the Commodores last victory at the event in 2007 he knows it takes special athletes to win a national title.

"We wouldn't have made it here if they hadn't done what they did, plain and simple.  They carried us when, frankly, we weren't very good.  They kept us in matches," added Williamson who was reflecting on Rigney and teammate Katie Stark’s efforts across the weekend.

With celebrations still continuing from the historic moment, Rigney became the athlete everyone wants a piece of with appearances on TV, interviews with media and being presented to the crowd at a college baseball game.  It’s definitely been a whirlwind time for the sophomore who reflected on the last twelve months when she caught up with TBA.

“I didn’t really bowl a lot this season, and the second semester I didn’t travel to most of the tournaments that we participated in.  I also made some rather drastic changes to my game and had to trust that the coaches’ visions were going to pay off in the long run, and I’m glad that they did.”

“It was tough being left behind, but whatever setback that came at me, my first response was, ‘Ok, this leaves me some more time to get better’.  I used that to my advantage and made sure when the girls were at a tournament putting work in, I was doing the same thing,” Rigney said.

Since joining the Commodore’s in August 2016, the Asian Youth Masters silver medallist had to adjust to workouts in the gym, hours of practice, whilst studying for a degree and all for that moment of glory.

“I’ve never been this physically, emotionally, and mentally strong before.  We practice as a team four times a week, and then we also have some one on one time with the coaches, leaving me practicing five times a week.  We also workout with our strength coach, Darren…we work our butts off for what we get.”

“It was our ultimate goal all year, and we knew that if we believed we could be national champions, nothing would hold us back.”

Having bowling in her blood, with mother Sharon representing Australia and winning gold at the World Championships in 1995 and father Dennis coaching Victorian and Australian teams, the family reflected on the journey after the tournament.

“There were tears as we thought about the sacrifices we all made, our son Matthew included.  We thought about the many years in Australia being part of President Shield, and Youth, and the crucial experiences that assisted Emily when she bowled under the bright television lights at the NCAA's,” Dennis said.

With the achievements still sinking in, Rigney now has her eyes on performing at the upcoming World Youth Championships in the US in July after being named as part of the Australian Youth team in the announcement this week. 
To read more about Vanderbilt’s historic victory click here.