Bowlers 'left' with second

Feb. 26, 2012

BESSEMER, Ala. — Bowling is a peculiar sport. Football fields are the same, basketball and tennis courts are identical but bowling lanes, despite having the same dimensions, are not all the same. Just ask the Vanderbilt and Arkansas State bowlers, who battled it out in the championship game of the Holiday Classic.

In the best-of-seven Baker format, the right-hand lane became a Maserati while the left lane was a Ford Focus. Because Arkansas State earned the No. 1 seed over its first two day’s performance, when the title match boiled down to a 3-3 deadlock, it got to choose which lane it wanted for the decisive seventh game. The Red Wolves picked the Maserati and won the championship, 4-3.

Vanderbilt had pushed its way into the championship match earlier in the day with a comfortable 4-1 win over third-rated Valparaiso while Arkansas State had topped Central Missouri.

How much a difference did that left-right lane make in the final match? Arkansas State had games of 190-156-162 for a 169 average on the left side while amassing scores of 232-211-268-223 (a 233 average) on the right. It became apparent about midway through the contest that barring a surprise, the team getting to use the right side four times would have a huge advantage.

“Give Arkansas State credit,” said Vanderbilt Coach John Williamson. “They won it, I don’t think we lost it. They didn’t let their left side problem affect their right side production, the sign of a mature team. If we had done a better job Saturday and kept the top seed we’d have won the lane choice. We won the national championship (2007) benefiting from the lane choice; this is part of bowling.”

Williamson said his team tried to use simulate a potential NCAA Tournament scenario heading into today’s play.

“We talked about how today’s situation was similar to an NCAA elimination game where you face elimination with a loss,” Williamson said. “I thought we responded very well and bowled well, just not quite well enough. I don’t feel that we’ve put three strong days together yet this year but we are getting closer to doing just that. I think our best days are yet to come.”

The Commodores were actually steadier throughout all seven games with no Baker lower than 187 but that left lane seemed akin to swimming with a lead weight. The Wolves, with their frequent strikes, set a quick tempo and were often several frames ahead of the Commodores.

For much of this day, Vanderbilt competed at a high level. In the semi-final win, the `Dores bowled much more crisply and in tune with their opening day effort. With hindsight, their Saturday lapse in losing the No. 1 seed was too much to overcome.

Vanderbilt used a rotation of Brittni Hamilton, Rebeca Reguero, Natalie Goodman (Game 1)/Kim Carper (Game 2), Jessica Earnest and Samantha Hesley. The team left this Birmingham suburb with a 10-2 won-loss worksheet and continued its impressive season streak of making the championship bracket in every tournament, winning three times and placing second twice in eight outings.

The Commodores will now have a couple of off weeks before hosting their Columbia 300 Music City Classic March 16-18. That tournament is the last of the regular season.

VU 4 Valparaiso 1
Val 228-193
VU 184-168
VU 244-181
VU 214-191
VU 228-184

Arkansas State 4 VU 3
VU 211-190
AS 232-191
VU 188-156
AS 211-187
VU 214-162
AS 268-200
AS 223-200