Commodores Sitting in Fourth

Vanderbilt concluded the first day of the tournament

by Rod Williamson

ARLINGTON, Texas  — Vanderbilt muddled through the first day of the Prairie View A&M Invitational with two wins in five matches, but its pin count pushed the Commodores into fourth place – one pin out of third – heading into Saturday’s play.

Vandy began the afternoon with a rousing win over Sam Houston State, who ironically ended the day in first place, but the glow didn’t last long. With its difficult first ball leaves and occasional erratic spare shooting, the Dores dropped back-to-back games to Arkansas State and North Carolina A&T before beating host Prairie View.

A loss to Stephen F. Austin ended the day.

“We weren’t clicking at the top of the rotation like we have been and that pressures the bottom half,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “Maria (Bulanova) can’t do it all. We want to give her a chance to win matches, not keep us in them.

“I thought we started today OK. But we bowled Arkansas State on lanes 1-2 and they can be a little squirrely. We seemed to let that unease dictate our shot making the rest of the afternoon. We didn’t double – we had just two doubles in the front three of our lineup in 25 games and one of those was a 290 game.”

Vanderbilt has had slow starts in most of its Fridays, starting two weeks ago in sixth before winning the Northeast Invitational for instance.

“We have lost 23 matches this season and 12 of them have been on Friday,” Williamson said. “We have got to get this Friday thing figured out and play the same way we do the rest of the weekends.”

The Commodores were outstanding here last year and the day began on a similar upbeat note against Sam Houston. Just four Baker games in, Vandy crafted a brilliant 290 game – an opening spare and 11 following strikes – en route to a 1,098-951 rout of the Kats.

The 290 equaled the sixth best Baker game in school history (there have been five 300 Bakers).

But things slipped in the second match and never completely recovered.

Vanderbilt tried five different lineup combinations, searching for a steady fifth bowler and a scoring spark in the rotation. Other than Bulanova’s outstanding play – especially in the first 18 Baker games – no other Commodore seemed zeroed in.

Redshirt freshman Liz Ross got into the mix in the third game of the North Carolina A&T match and did an admirable job, especially considering her lack of collegiate tournament experience.

“Liz did a good job, especially considering it was her first significant time in the lineup,” Williamson said. “What I liked was I thought she brought a sense of competitiveness to the lineup and that was good to see from someone without a lot of experience.”

The Prairie View field is one of the smallest (12 teams) on Vandy’s schedule, but it also is one of the deepest with nearly all of the NCAA’s top 10 are competing.

Saturday’s five team games begin at 9:25 CT and are being live streamed on BowlTV.