A Good Start

Commodores take three of first four matches on opening day at LA Tech Invite

by Rod Williamson

RUSTON, La. — Opening days usually includes predictable ups and downs – and Vanderbilt’s second-ranked Commodores experienced much of each in winning three of its four matches at the LaTech Invite on Friday afternoon.

Vanderbilt defeated three top 25 teams in Tulane, Sam Houston State and UAB before ending the day losing to Stephen F. Austin. It was a grind-it-out sort of day for everyone with Baker games reaching the desired 200+ few and far between.

Splits were much more commonplace than Vandy’s traditional Black-Gold strike chants.

“Overall I thought it was a pretty good day,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “The pattern was pretty hard and today marked the first time all fall we have the entire team together (the Commodores had practiced in threesomes all fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic). We could not simulate the tournament conditions in practice so I thought the team did a good job pulling it together.”

It is an unusually small field of just seven teams that accepted and passed the event’s COVID-19 protocols being played in Louisiana Tech’s six-lane Lambright Sports and Wellness Center without spectators. Those factors and having each bowler sporting a protective face mask gave the tournament an unusual feel, but the Commodores were just happy and grateful for the chance to compete.

“The girls had fun out there, they enjoyed themselves,” Williamson said. “It was a different atmosphere to be sure but we were just glad to get out there.”

The Commodores got off to a successful if not picturesque start in the morning, beating Tulane and Sam Houston State.

The curtain-raiser against the Green Wave was ragged much of the time as both teams battled opening jitters and lane conditions that were called, “challenging,” by some and, “screwy,” by others.

Vandy’s opening rotation, which is often internally less considered a, “starting lineup,” and more a case of which bowlers appear to have the best line, was Angelique Dalesandro, Amanda Naujokas, Caroline Thesier, Samantha Gainor and Mabel Cummins.

That was quickly modified by moving Cummins into the lead spot. After holding just a four-pin edge after two games of the 5-game Baker set, Vandy pulled away with a 202-166 win in the fourth game on the strength of five straight strikes and won the match by a comfortable ,869-817 margin.

The Sam Houston game got off in a 27-pin deficit and saw it get four pins worse before rallying in the fourth game, 214-172 and taking the finale, 203-181 for a 937-904 win. The lineup included newcomers Angelica Anthony, Jennifer Loredo, Naujokas and anchored by Cummins and Gainor.

Vandy’s winning ways continued with a convincing win over struggling UAB and midway through the day’s finale with SFA it appeared the Commodores would end the day with a clean slate – wrong!

Holding a 31-pin lead and coming off encouraging 227 and 192 efforts in the second and third games, Vandy crashed and burned in Game 4, the victim of a pandemic of splits that resulted in an anemic 132 game and allowed the Lady Jacks to scamper away to victory.

The Commodores relied on a rotation of its four roster newcomers and veteran Gainer against SFA and was able to get the new Dores plenty of playing time throughout the afternoon.

During the course of the day, all nine roster members saw action and, “all of them had their good moments,” Willamson added.

“We might have liked to get more time for some people but with just four matches there were just 20 Baker games to work with in distributing time,” Williamson said.

Saturday’s play for Vanderbilt starts at 1:05 p.m. and will include four traditional team games. Vanderbilt is using its VandyBowling YouTube site.