DEPTFORD, NJ—Vanderbilt’s sprint through the field at the Northeast Classic came to a disappointing conclusion when the Commodores fell to Nebraska, 4-2, in the championship match Sunday.
Vanderbilt, the tournament’s defending champion, had rattled off a dozen wins without a defeat in earning the No. 1 seed but that was of no matter in the finale as the Huskers seemed to make at least one more quality shot in several of the well-played Baker games.
“We bowled well today and once again put ourselves in a position to win,” head coach John Williamson said. “There is a Catch-22 in winning the first game because I thought we lost our edge during that bye game and weren’t as sharp in Match 3. And when you dig yourself into an 0-2 hole against a good team it makes things difficult.”
“But there were 23 of the top 25 ranked teams in the country here,” he continued, “and we need to keep our overall weekend in perspective. We played well and one of these times we’ll break through.”
Vanderbilt had actually gotten off on a good foot Sunday, defeating nemesis McKendree, 4-2, in the opening bracket match that pitted the top two seeds from this 33 team event. While Nebraska was battling McKendree in the semifinal for the right to play Vandy – a tight match the Huskers won in a modified tie-breaker – the Commodores were in a stress free match with New Jersey City College, biding their time until getting their opponent in the title bout. (NCAA bowling protocol pits the team advancing into the finals against the field’s last place team, an intended mismatch, in the second round.)
The Commodores started against McKendree with its customary rotation of late – Alyssa Ballard, Victoria Varano, Paige Peters, Caroline Thesier and Mabel Cummins. Leading 2-1, Vandy inserted Saturday star Amanda Naujokas for Varano and won two of the next three games.
Vandy kept that order against Nebraska but swapped Varano for Naujokas in the third game after dropping the first two games. The Huskers edged Vanderbilt, 228-225, in the opener and had won handily in Game 2.
Varano responded with three strikes in her first four attempts to help the Dores win the next two games and even the match but Vandy would lose a tense Game 5, suffering an open in the fourth frame. A combination of a Vandy missed-makeable and a Husker 5-bagger ended the match in Game 6.
The runner-up finish was Vanderbilt’s fourth straight close-but-no-cigar effort, a streak that speaks well of its consistency and talent but is, at the same time, disappointing for a program thirsty for titles.
Cummins was named to the all-tournament team based upon her Saturday fifth place individual finish. The senior All-American, who began the tournament playing with a sore throat after testing negative for ailments and being cleared to play, was outstanding every day.
Vanderbilt bowled everyone on the trip; Kaylee Hitt and Amelia Kiefer were in the rotation during the win over New Jersey City. Jennifer Loredo did not make the trip, recovering from a bout with Covid.
The Commodores travel to Arlington, Tex., next weekend for the Prairie View Invitational, a smaller field but also packed with quality teams.