Commodore Notebook: LA Tech Invite

Vanderbilt begins fall season with trip to Louisiana Tech

by Rod Williamson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Second-ranked Vanderbilt opens its season Friday at the LA Tech Invite in a field of eight teams at the Lambright Sports and Wellness Center on the Louisiana Tech campus in Ruston, Louisiana.

The event is the first of two scheduled tournaments for the Commodores this fall. Vandy hasn’t been on the lanes since March 8 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s more on this weekend’s event as well as what to expect from Vanderbilt’s 2020-21 team:

New look Dores

The Commodores have a new look with four newcomers on the roster that are expected to make significant contributions. That is a marked difference from a year ago when four seniors carrying considerable experience and success dominated the lineup. Samantha Gainor, a two-time All-America honoree, is one of two seniors and is the team’s most battle-tested competitor.

The view from 10,000 feet

Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson, heading into his 17th season, usually takes the cautious road knowing inexperience on the college level can sometimes be hazardous. But he is also upbeat, very pleased with his new additions and confident that he has a deep and talented squad with interchangeable parts.

A different run up to the opener

Vandy’s practice sessions have been decidedly different than past years due to COVID-19 precautions. The nine-woman team has practiced and trained in threesomes and some of the standard preseason measuring tools were modified since most of the women were unable to practice as they desired during the summer.

Tournament format

The seven teams will be divided into one threesome and one foursome to limit social interaction. Vandy will compete at 11:40 a.m. Friday with two rounds of 5-game Bakers, then come back at 3:10 p.m. for another two Baker rounds. Saturday will consist of four traditional games starting at 1:30 p.m.

Sunday’s competition is a two-round Baker bracket with game times depending upon placement in the standings after two days. The top foursome will pit seed 1 vs seed 4 and seed 2 against seed 3. The bottom of the bracket aligns the same way.

Competing teams (ranking)

UAB (21), Louisiana Tech (9), Prairie View, Sam Houston (5), Stephen F. Austin (7), Tulane (19) and Vanderbilt (2). Arkansas State (3) dropped from the field due to COVID-19-related circumstances.

About this tournament

This is the first tournament Louisiana Tech has ever hosted. It has attracted a strong field of mostly Southland Bowling League programs.

COVID-19 protocols

The protocols will begin before Vandy leaves campus with testing for all team members and coaches 72 hours before departure. Policy during the pandemic requires non-stop, direct airline flights only so the team will spread out in a sleeper bus to Ruston while stopping several times along the way.

The key parts of the tourney COVID-19 policy include no spectators, a mask mandate, teams not competing warming up in an adjacent gymnasium and daily, required COVID-19 checks.

Following the tournament

Vanderbilt will have its YouTube channel in action for each Commodore match and  host Louisiana Tech will livestream every match of the tournament on its YouTube page using campus tech staff and resources.

Travel squad

Vanderbilt will take its entire nine-woman roster to Ruston.