SMYRNA, Tenn. — Vanderbilt brought home a third-place finish in its own Music City Classic and then celebrated Senior Day with salutes to the graduating Amelia Kiefer and Mabel Cummins during an emotion-packed Sunday at the Smyrna Bowling Center.
Sam Houston State defeated McKendree, 4-0, to win the championship in the 30-team field that was brimming with nationally ranked teams.
The Commodores were markedly sharper than they appeared Saturday and needed to be in facing strong units from Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston. Vandy topped the Lady Techsters in the day’s opener, 4-1, in best of seven baker play before losing a tense, highly competitive match to the eventual champion Bearkats, 4-3. In a quick rematch in the consolation final, Vanderbilt rallied after dropping the first two games to defeat Tech, 4-3.
“It’s the time of year when you are playing good teams,” head coach John Williamson said. “In the Louisiana Tech match, we were able to capitalize and take advantage on some mistakes they made, and I felt Sam Houston took advantage of a mistake we made in Game 1 that was the difference in that match. You can’t give people outs; you will end up paying for it more times than not and our mistake cost us a chance to bowl for a championship.
“Overall, we bowled well and competed well,” Williamson continued. “Our goal is always to compete at a level that will win a championship, and this is the time of year you need to do that. To me it’s good for next week and the future.”
Vanderbilt used its usual lineup of late – Amanda Naujokas, Alyssa Ballard, Caroline Thesier, Victoria Varano and Mabel Cummins, substituting Paige Peters for Thesier in the second Louisiana Tech match.
Senior Day is typically filled with emotion and today was no exception. With the conference and national tournaments coming up fast, the Commodores celebrated their two seniors after play concluded.
Director of Athletics Candice Lee was on hand to watch (for the second day) and present the special awards. Kiefer was remembered as one of the program’s best leaders and Cummins’ incredible resume of bowling, academics and service was cited in detail.
Afterwards, Cummins brushed away the tears as she summarized what her collegiate career has meant to her.
“Senior Day is the culmination of hard work for the past four years,” the All-American honor student said. “It’s a big deal, maybe not as much to the underclassmen because I don’t expect them to understand that Mel and my time is coming to an end. It’s emotional; Mel and I are very close. Bowling-wise it’s just another day of bowling but when the bowling finishes its senior presentation time.
“It’s what I’ve dedicated my life to for the last four years,” Cummins continued. “Day in and day out we’ve put our hearts and souls in this for four years and that’s where all the emotion comes from. Something you have put your time, your energy and your love into, that’s emotional. Mel would say the same thing.”
Williamson is keenly aware of what Kiefer and Cummins have invested.
“It means something to them,” Williamson said. “It means their experience here was invaluable to them. Hopefully it’s something that springboards them to a career or an opportunity that may not have been available at other places. They have been valuable to this program; they have been very consistent, and you never had to wonder what you were going to get from either one of them. That’s the kind of leadership we hope will rub off on the other girls.”
The weekend’s nine victories pushed Williamson’s career coaching record past the 1,500-win total over his 19 years as head coach.
Sam Houston’s Bea Hernandez was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player with an all-tournament team consisting of Emma Stull of Arkansas State, Patricia Rosales of Louisiana Tech, Elise Chambers of Sam Houston, Rebecca Hagerman of McKendree and Louren Tomaszewski of North Carolina A&T.
Next week the Commodores travel to Rowlett, Texas, for the Southland Bowling League championship, where they are the two-time defending champions.