KENOSHA, Wis. — Vanderbilt’s top-ranked bowling team struggled for consistency most of Friday, managing to win four of its five matches and finishing the day fourth on the tightly grouped Ladyjack Classic leaderboard.
Jacksonville State has the lead, followed closely by Nebraska, Youngstown State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas State.
The Commodores seemed to teeter between impressive strike strings and untimely splits and missed makeable spare conversions much of the day in defeating Tulane, Wisconsin-Whitewater, Maryville and Aurora before ending on a decidedly down note in a loss to host Stephen F. Austin.
“It was an up and down day,” head coach John Williamson summarized. “We had a hard time getting a rhythm and making consistent shots. I would have liked us to have better control of the pocket. We’d make four strikes in a row, then open. Or we’d make spares and not be able to strike. We just didn’t mesh.”
The loss to the Ladyjacks, one in which Vandy could muster just 937 pins in five Baker Games, put a damper on what could have been remembered as one of the program’s most remarkable comeback victories just 90 minutes earlier.
The Commodores were steadily losing pin count to Maryville, ranked No. 9 nationally and No. 1 in Division II. Chances for a win looked bleak when Vanderbilt went down 50 pins after four Baker Games and the Saints were bowling well.
A lineup of Haley Lindley, Kailee Channell, Caroline Thesier, Victoria Varano and Paige Peters began chipping away in the fifth and final game. Lindley began with a spare, Channell struck and Thesier spared, making little headway on the confident Saints.
Varano and Peters struck in the fourth and fifth and the momentum began to shift. Strikes from Lindley, Channell again, and Thesier began to raise hopes. Maryville did not wilt, closing frames with spares and strikes of its own. But Varano struck, opening the door for Peters to strike out to complete a stunning nine in a row. The final tally, 270-215, gave Vandy a memorable 1,043-1,038 victory.
“It’s tough to rally from that far back against a good team,” Williamson noted. “Usually, you have a chance if the other team collapses but Maryville certainly didn’t. It was a good win; they were in the NCAA Lansing Regional last year.”
The Commodores tinkered with different rotations, using Alyssa Ballard to start the day, Natalie Kent in the last two matches and moving Varano from second to fourth early in the day.
The Stephen F. Austin match got off to a positive start on “lucky” lane 13, winning 237-195. However, the right lane was not user friendly for the most part as indicated when the Dores recorded five opens in route to a 247-137 shellacking in Game Two. It was never close after that, ending 1,042-937 for the Jacks.
“That right lane was hard but not as hard as we made it look,” Williamson said. “We had three opens in the first five frames on the right side and it seemed to set the tone for how we felt about the lane.”
While the Commodores 937 in the closing match was by far its lowest of the day, interestingly, tournament leading Jacksonville State and third place Youngstown State also had final match scores in the 930s.
Saturday’s play begins at 9:25 a.m. with a traditional game against Jacksonville State. Action is streamed on the Vanderbilt Athletics YouTube site.