SMYRNA, Tenn. — Very little came easy Saturday for Vanderbilt’s bowling team, but the Commodores were still able to anchor down in third place after qualifying ended and set themselves up for a chance to win the championship at the Music City Classic Sunday.
Vanderbilt will play fourth-seeded Louisiana Tech while top seed McKendree meets two-seeded Sam Houston on the other side of the championship bracket in this 30-team event. The winner of the Vanderbilt versus Louisiana Tech match will then play the loser of the McKendree versus Sam Houston while that winner gets a pass into the title match.
The Commodores had entered Saturday with a big lead in pin fall but dropped a competitive traditional game to sixth ranked Youngstown State, 1,065-1,033. After a big win over No. 20 Wisconsin-Whitewater, Vandy had its poorest output in nearly two months in losing to Arkansas State (1,008-887), followed by a loss to red-hot McKendree (1,157-1,024). The Dores closed the afternoon topping Valparaiso.
“It was disappointing because I felt we were night and day different than we were yesterday,” head coach John Williamson said afterwards. “Our approach was different, the way we handled ourselves in the settee was different, our shot execution was different. We didn’t perform to the level we should. The benefit is that we bowled good enough yesterday that we almost secured our spot in the championship bracket but it wasn’t how we wanted to get there. We need to forget about today and realize tomorrow is a different day.”
Vanderbilt had averaged 217 per game in Friday’s baker play but sagged to just under 200 in the traditional games.
Before a robust home crowd that was bolstered by the weekend’s Senior Day activities, it appeared the Commodores were lacking the spark that had earned them an 18-match winning streak. Gone were the long strike strings, the fast starts and torrid closes to games.
Veteran Caroline Thesier tried to put her finger on why the usually smooth sailing team was missing a beat.
“I thought it was more difficult today,” Thesier said. “It seemed harder to make and repeat shots and we felt behind on some moves. This isn’t normal for us; we lacked some confidence on our first shots. Tomorrow it’s about coming in with the mindset we’ve had in our previous tournaments and knowing what we are capable of doing. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
To further illustrate the rough ride, Vanderbilt’s lineup didn’t produce a single bowler among the tournament’s top 29 individuals. Alyssa Ballard was 30th to lead Vandy with a 204 average while North Carolina A&T’s Lauren Tomaszewski led the field of 180 competitors with a blistering 238.40 average behind games of 227-258-225-228 and 254.
This tournament marks the end of the regular season for most teams, and there is added tension as some struggle to solidify their resumes for NCAA Tournament consideration.
Three rounds of best of seven bracket play begins Sunday at 8:55 with a champion crowned in the early afternoon. When play is complete, an all-tournament team will be announced and Vanderbilt will then honor seniors Amelia Kiefer and Mabel Cummins.
Admission is free and Vanderbilt matches will be livestreamed on its athletic YouTube site.