KENOSHA, Wis. — Vanderbilt ground out four wins in its five matches Saturday for the second-consecutive day and punched its ticket for Sunday’s Ladyjack Classic championship bracket on an extremely competitive leaderboard.
The 18-team tournament features the NCAA’s top seven ranked teams. After the dust cleared Saturday, Vanderbilt claimed the No. 4 seed and will have a quick rematch with three-seed Arkansas State, while No. 1 seed Jacksonville State and two-seed Nebraska meet on the other side of the bracket. Seeds are based on total pinfall for the two days and just 42 pins separated the fourth and fifth teams.
“Today’s play was much like yesterday’s,” head coach John Williamson said. “It was definitely a grind; the lanes didn’t get easier as the day went on as they sometimes will do.”
Williamson was concerned that his charges didn’t finish the two key games strong, especially the loss to Jacksonville State in which Vandy went from leading by about 50 pins in the ninth frame to losing by that much in the 10th.
“We shot 1,050 in that game and had just three strikes in 15 opportunities in the 10th,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job throwing our first shots and need to learn to handle our emotions a little better. We had people with chances to bowl 220 that ended up around 210. That’s how you get beat in tough matches.”
“In both the Jacksonville State and Arkansas State matches, we played the first nine frames pretty well and were mediocre in the 10th,” Williamson continued. “Fortunately, we were far enough ahead of Arkansas State to still get the win.”
The Commodores defeated Lewis, Valparaiso, Marian and No. 2 ranked Arkansas State while losing a tense dual with Jacksonville State to run their tournament record to 8-2 and season record to 29-8.
Vanderbilt began Saturday with Jacksonville State, using a rotation of Haley Lindley, Alyssa Ballard, Victoria Varano, Caroline Thesier and Paige Peters. The match was close all the way; the Gamecocks were up eight pins midway through and Vandy led by three after seven frames.
The deciding separation occurred in the final frame as Jacksonville State edged ahead and won, 1,095-1,056. Varano led the way for Vandy with a glossy 256, aided by a string of five strikes in a row, while Lindley and Thesier had matching 221s.
After a win over Lewis, Natalie Kent entered for Thesier and thus began a most entertaining scrap with Arkansas State that quickly became a contest to see which team could string the most strikes. On this afternoon, that would be Vanderbilt.
Lindley had a torrid 255, aided by six late strikes in succession while Varano began her line with the front six in route to another 256. Ballard had four in a row at one point and ended with a 223 while Peters contributed a 195 and Kent a 190. Vanderbilt took the match, 1,119-1,086, in what was a typical Conference USA encounter.
The Commodores ended by topping Valparaiso and Marian, with a close eye on the total pin count which set Sunday’s seeds. Teams have to be among the top four seeds to have a chance to win the tournament; the best a fifth seed can place in a tournament is third.
Sunday’s play is the standard best of seven Baker format. Livestreaming on the Vanderbilt Athletics YouTube site begins at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.