LAS VEGAS — Vanderbilt finished second Tuesday at the Stormin’ Blue and White Vegas Classic, an impressive three-day performance, but it was not able to take down No. 1-ranked McKendree and take home the championship trophy it preferred.
The third-ranked Commodores lost a pair of 4-2 matches to the veteran Bearcats in the best-of-seven Baker format, sandwiched around a quality win over No. 4-rated Nebraska in the semifinals. The runner-up finish marks the third consecutive tournament that Vanderbilt has been the bridesmaid and not the bride.
“It seems cliché but we haven’t been able to do in the championship matches what we’ve done the rest of the weekend,” Vandy head coach John Williamson said. “In these top-end matches, if you don’t do that you probably don’t win. We had some untimely miscues today but in general I do think our level of competitiveness has risen in each tournament.”
Vanderbilt bowled very well in its Tuesday bracket opener, the 1 versus 2 seed matchup with McKendree. It might be said the Commodores would probably have beaten any other team in the NCAA except McKendree with their Baker games of 223-216-192-244-234-211. The Bearcats went 247-236 and 247 in their closing games to punch their ticket to the title match.
The Commodores were left to face the Huskers for the right to advance and the Vandy coaches made an interesting alteration with their rotation. The original order was Mabel Cummins, Alyssa Ballard, Victoria Varano, Caroline Thesier and Paige Peters and changed to Ballard, Varano, Peters, Thesier and Cummins. Both orders produced high scores.
“I didn’t think we were necessarily maximizing our scoring potential even though we posted some strong numbers,” Williamson said. “I knew what kind of production we were going to need to win and thought a new order might produce a spark. It’s early in the season and it was helpful to get some people experience in new spots.
“Mabel has been in the anchor before and had some good moments today and I thought Alyssa did a good job leading off – we thought she was ‘Mabel-esque’ in her style and moving around wouldn’t be such an upheaval.”
Vandy began the Nebraska match with a 259, including the final six and Cummins salvaged a dramatic tie in the second game by striking out. The two rivals traded games until Vandy eked out a 215-214 win in the fifth game. The Dores finally prevailed in Game 7 to earn a rematch with McKendree in the title game.
The Commodores once again began with a win but dropped three in a row, including a wrenching 185-183 setback when a late split spelled doom. Vandy stayed alive in winning the fifth game but McKendree’s 244 in Game 6 ended the match.
Peters was named to the all-tournament team based upon her fourth place individual finish Monday. Thesier (eighth) also made the all-tournament team after averaging 218 over five games.
The weary Commodores – six of the team had also competed in the 5-day USA Team Trials that began last Tuesday – head back to campus and are off until the Northeast Classic on Jan. 20-22.