KENOSHA, Wis. — Vanderbilt came up one pin short of winning the Ladyjack Classic, losing 118-117 in a modified Baker to Jacksonville State Sunday afternoon.
The two collegiate powers had a most unusual finale, splitting four previous Baker Games and tying three others to force the tense roll-off. Vanderbilt suffered a missed makeable spare in the first frame of the tiebreaker, spared in the second and then rattled off four strikes while the Gamecocks had a spare sandwiched by a pair of doubles.
It came down to the two All-American anchors; Jacksonville State’s Crystal Elliott went strike-spare while Vandy’s Paige Peters went strike-strike and could have tied it again with a third. But a stubborn 10-pin remained standing and that was the difference.
The second-place finish took some of the luster off what was otherwise a splendid day for the Commodores, who defeated No. 2 rated Arkansas State and No. 3 ranked Nebraska in reaching the championship match.
It didn’t take a bowling expert to pinpoint where the Commodores fell short. After bowling solidly in earlier rounds, Vanderbilt struggled with makeable-spare shooting, missing countless one and two-pin conversion attempts.
“I thought on the whole we competed at a very elite level but we executed at a very average level,” head coach John Williamson said. “Our spare shooting was just not good enough to win a quality tournament such as this and it wasn’t adequate the entire weekend. That hurt us the first two days trying to amass pin count towards a seed. I don’t think how we executed is indicative of who we are as a team.”
“We beat two very good teams today, and we weren’t sparing well against them either,” Williamson continued. “I thought Paige was really good today, and we’ll improve our spare shooting soon. In some ways I’m almost glad we didn’t win the tournament because I don’t want anyone thinking you can win executing like this.”
Vanderbilt used a starting rotation of Haley Lindley, Alyssa Ballard, Natalie Kent, Victoria Varano and Peters for nearly the entire day, substituting Kailee Channell for Lindley late in the title match.
That unit took out Arkansas State, 4-2, in the opening match behind timely strike strings and clutch anchor play by Peters. Much the same could be said to summarize the Nebraska victory, which included a sizzling 290 that contained 11 strikes after an opening frame spare.
But there were signs midway through the Husker match that the Black and Gold spare machine was starting to sputter. After jumping out to a quick, 3-0, game lead in the best of seven, missed-makeables (conversions that are defined as being makeable as opposed to difficult splits) began rearing their ugly heads. These opens are not only momentum busters, they can be demoralizing and get into a team’s psyche. With the match score deadlocked at 3-3, Vandy was able to regroup and take Game Seven, 228-184, to advance.
Vanderbilt will conclude its fall campaign Nov. 17-19 at the Hawk Classic, hosted by Maryland-Eastern Shore.