TOWSON, Md. — Momma said there’d be days like this. Unfortunately, Momma knows best.
Vanderbilt came out on the short end of two nail-biting semi-final battles and as a result, lost its opportunity to win the Morgan State Invitational. After slipping from the high-wire of championship play, it landed with a thud in the consolation game and finished its weekend in fourth place, equaling its poorest tournament finish of the season.
The Commodores fell, 4 games to 2, in a quality semi-final to Nebraska and then misplaced their mojo in the consolation finals, losing without so much as a single 200 game, 4-1, to sixth-rated Central Missouri.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Coach John Williamson. “I feared we were in trouble early when we started out-thinking ourselves. We seemed to believe we needed to make changes from the prior days when in reality we didn’t. We got a bit flustered and we had way too many 6 or 7 counts. Over time that amounts to an open frame.”
Just two weeks ago at the USBC’s Training and Research Center in Texas, Vanderbilt and Nebraska squared off in the Prairie View Invitational semi-finals. That was settled, 4-0, in favor of the Commodores but this was a new day.
Vanderbilt came out strong in Game 1, rolling five straight strikes and going clean to win comfortably. The Huskers returned the favor in Game 2 in what was a mirror image contest. Nebraska stayed steady in Game 3, its third straight game without an open, while Vandy experienced some trouble and was easy pickins.
Down 2-1, the `Dores came roaring back in the fourth game with a rousing 268 to set up two classic games. In the fifth game of a nip and tuck affair, Nebraska eked out an important 202-199 victory to squeeze ahead 3 games to 2.
In what would become the final match, it was again razor close. Vanderbilt trailed by seven pins heading into the ninth and got a big strike from Jessica Earnest. Anchor Samantha Hesley, whose heroics have pulled out many a Vandy win over the past two seasons, could have pushed the contest into a seventh game with a strike on her first ball in the tenth. However, the senior All-American went 9-spare and then needed a strike on her last ball to salvage a tie but it was not to be. Six pins over three games proved to be the critical difference.
Vanderbilt faced Central Missouri for third place and Black and Gold highlights were few and far between. The `Dores won the first game with a modest 190 score and then faded way, allowing the Jennies to enjoy the next four games with little or no stress.
Vanderbilt’s Brittni Hamilton made the first-team all-tournament team with a 217 average, compiled Saturday during team play. Fairleigh Dickinson won the tournament, defeating Nebraska in the championship match.
The Commodores will hope to regroup next weekend, traveling south to Bessemer, Ala., for their annual trip to Alabama A&M’s Holiday Classic.
Nebraska 4 VU 2
Central Missouri 4 VU 1
CM (score not available)