After graduating from Portage Central High School in 2012, bowling phenom Tori Ferris – now Tori Lovell – decided she wanted to explore areas outside the Midwest.
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., was such a perfect fit that she remained in the South after graduating with a degree in human and organizational development in 2016, with her current home in Huntsville, Ala.
Although she is no longer living in Michigan, her influence on young bowlers is still strong.
“She’s one of my examples that I use today: That it doesn’t matter if it’s Division I or Division III, you can still go to (college) for bowling,” said Scott Brunner, whose pro shop is located in Continental Lanes in Portage.
“Tori was a big sister to my youngest daughter, Morgan, out on the lanes. Watching her go to a Division I school gives Morgan even more of a drive to go.”
While bowling was her life through high school and college, Lovell took a four-year break once she graduated before trying her hand at league bowling.
“(League bowling) was a great experience and I met a lot of people in the area, but, for me it’s hard to bowl just for fun,” she said. “Having a full-time job, for me, bowling is not sustainable.”
She did return to Michigan two years ago, visiting Brunner for some new equipment and a few tips.
“(In the past Brunner) gave Dad and me advice, small lessons when I was trying out new equipment,” she said.
“I saw him when I came back to town in 2020 and he watched me bowl and gave me tips. It’s nice to have people who know you help you.”
After meeting Jon Lovell when she was a senior at Vanderbilt, the couple married in 2019 and moved to Huntsville, where they have two chihuahua mixes, Gus and Ellie.
“I’m a crazy dog mom,” she laughed.
Lovell works in human resources at Invariant Corporation, a federal contracting company in Huntsville, and her husband is in the Air National Guard.
Lovell is still the same outgoing person she was when she was collecting bowling trophies at Portage Central, including the MHSAA Division 1 Finals singles championship as a junior.
She continued making her mark on the bowling lanes at Vanderbilt, which she chose for several reasons.
“Growing up I loved country music, so the idea of living in Nashville was so exciting,” Lovell said.
“Once I got to visit Vanderbilt and saw how beautiful the campus was and started learning about the program from the coaches, it felt like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
The bonus was going there on a bowling scholarship.
“To be at one of the most prestigious universities in the country and then to be there for bowling, I had a bit of imposter syndrome, like am I good enough for this?” Lovell said.
She was more than good enough.
As a freshman, she and her Commodores teammates made it to the NCAA Division I Finals, eventually losing to Nebraska in the championship match.
“We had an amazing national showing,” Lovell said. “With bowling, it’s like one frame can change the momentum. It was an amazing experience.
“I was one of two freshmen who were playing out of the five. It was a really humbling experience.”
Vanderbilt also placed among the top eight at the NCAA Finals her next three years, with Lovell making her television debut at the Nationals.
“Nothing can compare to it,” Lovell said of bowling on TV. “Our assistant, Josie Earnest Barnes, was a freshman on the team when they won a national title (in 2007).
“She was trying to prepare us as much as she could, giving us tips: ‘All you can do is breathe and throw the ball, give it a chance.’ It was intimidating.”
Looking back at her high school and college bowling careers, Lovell said: “I’m grateful for the opportunities that bowling has given me, even though I’m not bowling right now.”
Lovell credits her Portage Central coaching staff with helping her achieve success.
“Karen Fawley (who died in 2017), assistant Doug Ferris (her dad) and boys coach Bill Huey were really advocates for us,” she said. “They made sure we had every opportunity we needed to be successful, even from a young age.
“We had a really good group of girls while I was there. Not everyone was planning to go to college for bowling, but they wanted to compete and be the best they could for high school bowling. Some really wanted to have a good time and bowl, so it was a really good mix, which made us successful for several years.”
A similar event occurred during both high school and college: an injury which did not interfere with her successes.
“I hurt my back the year I won the (MHSAA) state tournament, and Karen (Fawley) actually had a back brace in the car,” Lovell laughed.
Her freshman year at Vanderbilt, Lovell had a finger injury while competing in the NCAA Tournament.
“I had torn a tendon in my ring finger, and it was wrapped up in a lidocaine patch,” she said. “My coach would help me change it every hour.
“I kept competing, and I was having one of the best tournaments.”
Lovell had some extra support at Vanderbilt.
“I don’t know if people I grew up with know, but when I went to Vanderbilt, both my parents moved to Nashville,” Lovell said. “My parents (Andrea Struijk and Doug Ferris) divorced when I was real young, then remarried and had kids and they all moved to Nashville.
“That also made the decision a lot easier because I knew I wasn’t going to be totally alone. I was living on campus, but my parents were 20 minutes away instead of 10 hours away.”
Now that her competitive years are over, at least for a while, Lovell offers the following advice to high school bowlers:
“I would say, listen to your coaches,” she said. “Enjoy the time you have, because it does not last long. Even though you think the next four years are going to take forever, it flies by.
“High school bowling is competitive, but not as hard core as collegiate bowling. You can still enjoy it and have that camaraderie. It’s your last chance to be a kid and compete.”
2021-22 Made in Michigan
PHOTOS (Top) Tori (Ferris) Lovell, as a high school senior (left) and currently with her dogs Gus and Ellie. (Middle) Lovell was an immediate standout bowling for Vanderbilt. (Below) Lovell and husband Jon were married in 2019. (Photos courtesy of Tori Lovell; college bowling photo also courtesy of the Vanderbilt athletic department.) VIDEO Vanderbilt and Nebraska face off for the 2013 NCAA Division I title.
With a season to go, Gobles senior Morgan Brunner finds herself already in elite company as one of only three bowlers in MHSAA history to win two Finals girls singles titles – and with an opportunity this winter to become the first to win three girls championships.
Brunner is coming off her second-straight Division 4 Finals triumph, won in March. She and her mother Karrie – who coaches Gobles’ teams – helped start the school's bowling program, and over these first few seasons Morgan also has bowled during the regular season as part of the boys team before joining the girls bracket for the MHSAA Tournament.
"Being on the boys team, and people thinking I’m going to bowl with the boys, it was nice to be able to bowl with the girls and it felt more normal. I bowl so many outside tournaments, obviously all on the girls side, and there’s just as much competition on the girls side as there is on the boys side.
"I feel like I am (a role model). I’ve definitely had people tell my parents that their kids are watching. I haven’t personally had anyone come up to me, but I do see people watching me sometimes."
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights
Aug. 16: Ava Brizard's Story - Read
Aug. 16: Paige Miller's Story - Read
Aug. 9: Gracie Olsen's Story - Read
Aug. 2: Maddy Stern's Story - Read
July 26: Reese Miller's Story - Read
July 19: Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12: Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5: Ella Boose's Story - Read
June 28: Kaila Jackson's Story - Read
June 23: We Celebrate Our Past, We Look Forward to Our Future - Read
June 21: Assistant Directors Have Been Difference Makers - Read
June 14: Girls Lacrosse Finals Officials Set Empowering Example - Read
June 7: From Gymnastics to Wrestling, Girls Opportunities Continue to Grow - Read
May 31: Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read
May 24: Scane, Whiteside Alone on 400-Goal, 500-Point Girls Lacrosse Lists - Read
May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
May 10: Portage Central's Tarpley Scores as State's Superstar, U.S. Soccer Hero - Read
May 3: Prychitko 'Legend In Her Own Time,' Legend for All Time - Read
April 26: Braddock vs. Verdun Still Striding Among All-Time Sprint Matchups - Read
April 19: Holmes' Strikeout Record Rarely Approached, May Be Unbreakable - Read
April 12: Anticipation High as 45,000 Girls Return to Spring Sports - Read
April 5: Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: Edison's Whitehorn named 2022 Miss Basketball - Read
March 22: Carney-Nadeau Sets Girls Hoops Standard with 78-Win Streak - Read
March 15: Binder Among Voices Telling Our Story on MHSAA Network - Read
March 8: 29 Years, Thousands of Cheers - Read
March 1: Kearsley Rolls On Among Girls Bowling's Early Successes - Read
Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read