KENOSHA, Wisc. — Vanderbilt fell to a fifth-place finish Sunday at the SFA Ladyjack Hammer Classic after losing close matches to Nebraska and Stephen F. Austin before beating Arkansas State in the finale.
“We had our chances, but Nebraska and SFA bowled well,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “And when quality opponents are on-target, any miscues are amplified and often the difference between winning and losing.
“We have a veteran base but we are still a team in search of its identity. We are a work in progress and looking for leaders to emerge. This is just our second tournament in a 10-tournament season.”
The day began against the Huskers in a 3-4 seed matchup, the winner keeping its title hopes alive and the loser settling to play for at best a third-place finish.
Nebraska started on fire with games of 246-248-222 to seize a comfortable 3-0 Baker lead in the best of seven. The Commodores gamely fought back, taking the next two games as the tension mounted.
Just as it appeared that momentum had shifted to the Black and Gold, a pair of Vandy splits resulted in opens and ultimately proved fatal. Despite anchor Maria Bulanova striking out, Nebraska’s All-American Raquel Orozco did the same to preserve a 191-183 Husker win and end the match 4-2.
Nebraska would go on to win the tournament championship by beating McKendree 4-2 in the title bout.
The Commodores then faced host Stephen F. Austin and jumped out to a 2-1 lead which could have been a 3-0 edge with a first-ball strike in the 10th. The two teams – finalists in April’s national championship match – traded bowling punches as SFA enjoyed games of 252 and 231.
With the match knotted at three games each, SFA finished Game 7 with five strikes in succession to win 218-199.
Vanderbilt had used a rotation of Adel Wahner, Angelique Dalesandro, Mabel Cummins, Samantha Gainor and Bulanova the first two games before switching Dalesandro and Wahner in the order for the third match.
The SFA setback dropped Vanderbilt into the fifth place match against another Southland Bowling League rival Arkansas State. The Commodores won three of the first four games with scores over 214 before dropping the fifth game.
About the time fans wondered if the match would go seven, Vanderbilt withstood a late Red Wolves rally to win 236-207.
Bulanova was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player based primarily upon her performance in Saturday’s team games. The reigning NCAA Player of the Year set a school record with her 243.8 average over five games, breaking the mark of 240.8 set by Giselle Poss in 2017.
Vanderbilt, 17-8 in the young season, heads to Millsboro, Del., next weekend for Maryland-Eastern Shore’s Hawk Classic. That event will end the fall portion of the season.