LAS VEGAS — Vanderbilt began the spring portion of its schedule Friday on a decidedly upbeat note, winning all five of its games – including a victory over top-ranked McKendree on the first day of the Stormin’ Blue & Gold Vegas Classic.
The fifth-ranked Commodores are in second place in the 14-team field heading into Saturday’s play based upon total pin fall, trailing McKendree by 213 pins and ahead of third-place Tulane and fourth-place Stephen F. Austin.
Vanderbilt looked right at home in the beautiful Southpoint Bowling Plaza which hosts professional as well as amateur events. It enjoyed a consistent day with all five of it’s game totals on the plus side of 1,000.
Vandy’s day began by beating McKendree 1,102-1,052 in a well-played match. The Commodores then proceeded to defeat 14th-ranked Delaware State, Saint Francis University, 15th-ranked Maryville and 25th-rated Prairie View.
“We did a really good job today, especially compared to how our fall went,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “We were much better with our Baker play. I think (Associate Head Coach) Josie (Barnes, who missed much of the fall on maternity leave,) coming back had a lot to do with it, too. She is very good at what she does and the girls have confidence in her. We were in the right part of the lane from the start and made good shots all day.”
Much of the attention fell on the curtain-raiser with McKendree as the two rivals have established themselves among the nation’s elite. Using a rotation of Adel Wahner, Samantha Gainor, Angelique Dalesandro, Mabel Cummins and Maria Bulanova, the Commodores led wire-to-wire over the five Baker games – the last four of which all included scores higher than 215.
There were two Vandy runs of five in a row and a six-bagger midway through the third game that produced a 244.
Showing the unpredictability of the sport, Vanderbilt’s closest scare came against the only unranked opponent it faced. With the Commodores holding a 26-pin lead heading into the fifth game, the Red Flash of Saint Francis crafted a brilliant 245 game, requiring virtually every one of Vandy’s 225 pins to take the win.
Showing little signs of rust after the winter break layoff, Vandy’s spare shooting in the early matches was sharp, in part because there were high quality first balls. Missed makeable spares were rare, as were splits.
Williamson thought all five of his bowlers were on their game, but he made special mention of Gainor.
“Sam had one of her better days,” Williamson said. “She was nearly plus-100 on the day.”
The Commodores never substituted, not wanting to tinker with a winning hand.
Play continues at 11:55 a.m. CT Saturday with five team games. Matches will be live streamed on Flobowling.com.