Battle Between the Best

Commodores come up just short in Prairie View Invitational finals against top-ranked Sam Houston State

ARLINGTON, Texas — Vanderbilt gave it the old college try but it came up a few pins shy, losing a 4-3 Baker match to Sam Houston State and settling for second place at the Prairie View Invitational Sunday.

The Commodores, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, bowled well all weekend, defeating McKendree in the semifinals and winning 8 of 11 head-to-head matches throughout the qualifying in a field that contained the top eight ranked teams in the country.

“We were the most consistent team in the tournament,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “We played at a high level the entire time and that’s difficult over 13 competitive matches. We made quality first shots with good execution and that left us very manageable spare chances when we didn’t strike. That’s the recipe for success. Credit Sam Houston in the last game, they made a few less mistakes than we did.”

Both Vandy and Sam Houston entered the title match on the heels of 4-3 victories, the Commodores taking down McKendree and the Bearkats beating Nebraska.

Vanderbilt was using a rotation of Mabel Cummins, Angelica Anthony, Amanda Naujokas, Caroline Thesier and Paige Peters, a unit that had knocked down 1,103 pins in an opening traditional game against Louisiana Tech and had pushed back two-time defending tournament champion McKendree.

The Commodores cooled off, losing the first two games to Sam Houston as previous strike strings evolved into spares mixed with a few missed-makeable spare chances. Vandy coaches, looking for the spark that helped win last week’s Northeast Classic, inserted Angelique Dalesandro for Anthony and Jennifer Loredo for Naujokas.

“We had people with decent looks,” Williamson explained, “but as we were moving left (with the lanes transitioning), we were losing a bit of ball reaction and that’s when we thought changing our lineup could help us.”

Vandy immediately won games with 239 and 236 scores to tie the match before losing a small lead and going down 3 games to 2. The Commodores fought back in Game 6, closing with a four-bagger to win 224-203 to send the match into a dramatic seventh game.

Sam Houston appeared poised to run away with things, getting the front three before settling in with a long spare string. Vandy, which stumbled with an opening split, clawed its way back and had a chance in the 10th. Peters, who was absolutely brilliant all day, struck with her first ball but settled for a spare to close the game, allowing the Bearkats to prevail 202-195.

The semifinal, paring the 1 and 4 seeds, had several momentum swings. Vanderbilt won the first two games and led 3-1 at one point. However, the Mckendree Bearcats got their groove back about the time Vandy went south with games of 161 and 180 to knot things at 3-3.

A string of four strikes from the third frame through the sixth pushed Vandy out front in the deciding seventh game and Thesier and Peters finished things off with four in a row to win 234-193.

Cummins made the all-tournament team with her third place individual finish and was once again a strong leader up front. Peters was a cool-handed, strike machine, throwing 15 in the McKendree match and 16 more against Sam Houston.

Vandy was trying to win the Prairie View Invitational for the second time, having captured the first event in 2012. And it was also vying for its second straight tournament win and third of the season, having won last week in New Jersey and last fall at the Dezy Strong.

Long after the bowling concluded and while passing time before its nonstop flight home, the Commodores took a tour of AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. It has been a long-standing Vanderbilt practice to try to take the team to interesting and historical places if time permits.

Vandy is now off until Feb. 11 when it returns to Dallas, this time at the USA Bowl, for the Lady Techsters Classic.