GREENSBORO, N.C. — Vanderbilt methodically worked its way through five lopsided victories Saturday and easily captured the No. 1 seed at the Stallings Invitational.
The Commodores will square off with second-seeded North Carolina A&T in best-of-seven bracket play beginning at 7:25 a.m. CT Sunday with Delaware State meeting Sam Houston State in the 3-4 match.
With nearly all systems clicking, there was not a lot of drama to the day. The closest match Vandy played was a 40-pin win over Maryland-Eastern Shore and all five of its scores were near carbon copies of each other.
“We were very consistent,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “Three of our bowlers didn’t miss a makeable spare all day and Caroline (Thesier) closed 49 of her 50 frames. Our biggest challenge was trying to throw strikes on both the left and right hand lanes. We’d strike on one side, spare on the other and that kept us from posting some very big numbers.”
Vanderbilt defeated Texas Southern, Sam Houston State, Norfolk State, UMES and Howard in running its event record to 8-1.
For four matches the Commodores used a rotation of Mabel Cummins, Jennifer Loredo, Angelica Anthony, Thesier and Paige Peters. In the finale, Kaylee Hitt went in for Loredo and produced a flashy 219 that started with the front four.
“We wanted to give Jenn some playing time,” Williamson said. “She hasn’t played very much lately and it is usually very helpful to have a left-hander in the NCAA Tournament. I thought Kaylee was very impressive when she got in there.”
Perhaps it speaks to the kind of seasons that Peters, Cummins, Anthony and Thesier are enjoying that this far in the recap their individual results haven’t been noted.
Peters was third individually after games of 238-247-212-207 and 185 behind Erica Quesada of North Carolina A&T’s pace-setting 226.6 average. Cummins had four games north of 200 and placed eighth, Anthony was ninth and Thesier’s frame-filled sheet put her 11th.
“We were tempted to substitute and from a won-loss standpoint, we could have,” Williamson said. “But we also felt that at the moment subbing someone could cost them a legitimate shot at making the all-tournament team and while we were comfortably in first place, you usually have total pin fall in the back of your mind during qualifying matches.”
The most entertaining match of the day was against Sam Houston State, the nation’s No. 2 ranked team and one of the tough rivals from the Southland Bowling League.
Although it ended up looking like a comfortable win (1,065-997), the match felt closer as the Bearkats had an early slight edge. That was before Peters was finished drilling seven straight strikes, Cummins closing strong and Loredo making two eye-opening spare conversions.
Sunday’s play will be live streamed on the Vanderbilt Athletics YouTube site.