RUSTON, La. — Vanderbilt earned the No. 3 seed and will face host Louisiana Tech on Sunday in the semifinals of the LA Tech Invite.
Top seed Sam Houston State will square off with in-state rival Stephen F. Austin on the other side of the title bracket.
The Commodores defeated Prairie View in a thrilling, modified tiebreaker and got revenge on Louisiana Tech in the position round after dropping the opening traditional game of the day to the Bulldogs. They also defeated the Louisiana Tech B-team in a match necessitated when Arkansas State was forced to withdraw due to a COVID-19 issue.
The championship bracket is expected to start warming up Sunday at 10:15 CT.
“We competed hard, I thought our competitive was encouraging,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “We got down in the La Tech match and instead of throwing in the towel we stayed and fought. We were behind Prairie View most of the match and rallied in the last two frames.”
Vanderbilt’s day brightened significantly after the loss to Tech, in which Vandy fell into an early deficit and could never recover.
The Commodores were locked in a tight battle with Prairie View, one of those early-season matches that didn’t appear was going to become memorable until the sparks began to fly in the 10th frame. Vanderbilt seemed to lack energy until freshman Amanda Naujokas perked things up from her second spot in the rotation with a key double, suddenly giving the Dores a shot at rallying.
Mabel Cummins, who finished fifth individually in the field, came through by striking out – each strike setting off a thunderous Black-Gold chant from the charging Commodores. The match fell to Samantha Gainor in the anchor spot and the Michigan senior’s first ball was a washout that amped up the tension.
But Gainor has converted some of the biggest spares in program history calmly worked her magic and the resulting spare-9 gave Vandy a 949-949 tie. In the modified Baker, in which each bowler gets one frame, Jennifer Loredo spared, Naujokas struck again and spares by Caroline Thesier, Cummins and Gainor were enough for a 95-85 advantage and match win.
“We had some big shots to get into the modified Baker,” Williamson noted. “Amanda’s double was nice, especially coming from a freshman. Mabel was able to focused and stay calm with a lot going on around her and Sam converted that 1-2-10 washout.
“Normally we spend a decent amount of time on modified Bakers in our practices, but this year working with threesomes in practice we hadn’t even talked about them. We had three freshmen in the lineup and I jumped in to just remind them what the format was and they did a good job handling the playoff.”
Cummins was impressive and steady all afternoon, crafting games of 194-214-202 and 225 on lanes that gave Vanderbilt some trouble in Friday’s Baker play. Sam Houston State’s Denise Blankenzee had the wood figured out, averaging 226.25 to take individual honors.
Gainor was 11th, Thesier 19th and Loredo 20th for Vandy.
Williamson noted that Cummins, “was able to execute and score on tough lanes,” and was proud of Gainor’s play – she had just one open frame the entire day.
The tournament, being played in Tech’s Lambright Sports and Wellness Center, has a smaller field due to COVID-19 protocols and concerns.
Action is being livestreamed on the VandyBowling YouTube channel.