SMYRNA, Tenn. — Vanderbilt maintained its second place standing on the Columbia 300 Music City Classic leaderboard Saturday and, in the process, earned a chance to repeat as tournament champion when things are settled Sunday.
The Commodores are 8-2 over two long days of competition, averaging 203.4 pins over 10 Baker and traditional games and will get a rematch with top-seeded McKendree, who went 9-1 while averaging 204.
The winner in Sunday’s best-of-seven gets a ticket to the title match while the loser faces the winner of the Arkansas State-Louisiana Tech match on the other side of the bracket.
Vanderbilt won 4 of 5 matches for the second-straight day, beating Kentucky Wesleyan, Spalding, Wisconsin-Whitewater and Drury and losing to McKendree in one of the event’s marquee match-ups.
”There were some high points and some frustrating moments,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “We began OK and made some decent shots, then we got lost mentally in the McKendree match and let them slip off to a big lead. You can’t give away that many pins in the middle.
“It was nice at the end (finale versus Drury with the four seniors in the lineup) because we were trying to hold on to the 2-seed and I’m glad the seniors were able to step up and make some big shots. It’s not the day I hoped it would be in terms of completeness but it was pretty good.”
The biggest moment of the day came in Game 2 against Spalding. Angelique Dalesandro, bowling in the 2 hole, started with three in a row, then four, then six. Fans started to whisper, “look what’s happening” – the same whispers that occur when a pitcher has a no-hitter in the sixth inning.
Dalesandro stepped up in the seventh … strike! There were shouts and applause and a buzz developed. Into the eighth … strike! Fans quietly asked each other if they are superstitious – passerbys stopped and gawked at the perfect scoreboard.
Into the ninth … another strike! Dalesandro’s family is beside themselves.
“Are we going to see the second perfect game in Vanderbilt history?”
Into the 10th … no! The 10 pin is left standing, but then cleaned up and a strike polishes off a sparkling 279, equaling the ninth-best game in program history.
Let’s let “Lique” take it from here:
“Around the sixth or seventh game I started to realize I was stringing them together and had a pretty good look,” she said. “I began getting a little nervous but my teammates were really good; they would talk to me and I threw myself into what they were doing. If they were striking it helped calm me down. They weren’t really talking about bowling – just normal talk to keep me going.
“The 10th frame I really started to feel nerves. (Vanderbilt associate head coach) Josie Barnes said, ‘OK, Lique, just one good shot. Take a deep breath.’ So I took an extra deep breath. It was a good shot. The right lane was a little bit tighter than the left so I got it to the mark and it flat-10’d.”
Senior teammates Adel Wahner saw it this way: “I’m going to do the same thing I always do so it doesn’t rattle her. She’s obviously doing something right. I was shaking for her. That kind of a game also has a calming effect on everyone because when you see her doing that you think it’s not that hard. I play in the same area as she does so I’m thinking I can follow her and know it’s working.”
And Williamson saw Dalesandro’s gem in this light: “You don’t do anything different. There’s a little more energy in the settee when that is happening but we try to keep things normal. We don’t do anything different when someone has three opens in a row. We let the people go through their process and preach that every frame is the same and every shot is the same. She made a good shot in the 10th, it was a wrapped-10. That happens.”
Fans were geared up for the showdown with McKendree – but the shootout didn’t happen. Vandy grabbed a small, early lead but a flurry of splits and resulting opens allowed the talented Bearcats to blow the match open in the middle frames.
Vanderbilt made a modest rally in the late frames but McKendree coasted to an easy 991-938 win.
The Commodores juggled the lineup in the finale versus Drury. The rotation of Emily Rigney, Dalesandro, Bryanna Leyen, Wahner and Maria Bulanova – four seniors and a sophomore – took care of business with a solid 1,004-887 win.
Bulanova finished individual play in a tie for fifth place with a 215.8 average over five games. McKendree’s Breanna Clemmer led the way with a 239.80 average. Dalesandro’s mighty 279 helped push her into 17th place in the huge field of 186.
Bracket play begins at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at the Smyrna Bowling Center. Admission is free, Vandy’s matches are live streamed on its YouTube channel.