CROYDON, Pa. — Vanderbilt got its groove back Saturday and seized the No. 2 seed at the Northeast Invitational, winning four of its five matches with star anchor Maria Bulanova winning her seventh career individual championship.
The Commodores will play top-seeded McKendree Sunday at 7:25 a.m. CT with the winner punching its ticket into the title game. Third-seeded Sam Houston and No. 4 Sacred Heart meet on the other side of the title bracket in the 26-team tournament.
“We were calmer today,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson noted. “We had three seniors and a junior in the rotation and they have a really good knack of what the team needs. They did an excellent job of leading us to where we wanted to go.”
Vanderbilt veterans spurred the dramatic turnaround from Friday’s struggles. Bulanova assembled games of 204-203-241-207-224 (215.8) to lead the way, but she got strong support from senior classmates Adel Wahner, who was among the tourney leaders most of the day, Emily Rigney (209 average the last four games) and Samantha Gainor, who was late to the party but finished 205-224.
Those efforts when strung together were enough to defeat Howard, Long Island University, No. 23 Monmouth and Malloy, respectively, after a narrow loss to No. 6 Maryland-Eastern Shore to start the day when nine missed makeable spares spelled doom.
Indeed the Commodores had the second-best pin count of the day, just 23 pins off the pace set by McKendree.
Bulanova’s individual championship added to her school record total and was her second of the season, having also won the Warhawk Classic last fall.
“Maria had a rough day yesterday but she showed today that she has the wonderful ability to forget,” Williamson said. “She had a couple of early missed makeables but she didn’t split once today.”
Said Bulanova: “We made better decisions today. Plus we had shipped some balls from Las Vegas last weekend and they didn’t arrive until late yesterday so I was using a ball I really like. I was executing better – I came to the center with the idea that I had to do it and it worked out.”
Rigney came off the bench once again and was a potent force from the lead-off spot.
“I spent time last night visualizing how to be different,” the left-handed Australian said. “I just had a feeling and knew if my name was called I needed to be ready.”
The Northeast Invitational field has 26 mostly-Eastern teams but the powerful Southland Bowling League once again showed its prowess. In addition to Vanderbilt and Sam Houston in the title bracket, Louisiana Tech (5), Stephen F. Austin (6) and Youngstown State (7) give the top half of the standings a decidedly Midwestern look.