Dores Split Day 1 Matches

Vanderbilt will face No. 5-seeded Louisiana Tech again Saturday in the contender’s bracket

by Rod Williamson

HARAHAN, La. — Vanderbilt opened play in the Conference USA tournament Friday with a grueling 3.5- hour victory over Louisiana Tech before falling to No. 1-seeded Jacksonville State.

The split drops the fourth-seeded Commodores into the contenders’ bracket, and they will square off Saturday at 9:30 a.m. against Louisiana Tech in a quick rematch in this double-elimination event.

“I thought we started both traditional matches strong but didn’t react to the transitions well and were behind the needed moves in frames 4 through 7,” head coach John Williamson said. “We didn’t throw great shots in those frames and the matches got away from us a little there.”

“But we chipped away and chipped away in the Tech match Baker games, and I thought our competitive side was particularly good there. In the best of seven, the left lane was scoring better, and we had lane choice. I give Tech a lot of credit for making excellent shots and hanging in there from the right side.”

Vanderbilt regained the competitive bite that it lacked just a week ago in the Music City Classic but in the luck of the draw, bumped into two hot-shooting opponents. That was not unexpected in this tournament, which features the nation’s top four ranked teams and six of the top 10.

The fifth-seeded and seventh-ranked Bulldogs began the mega-match by scorching the Colonial Lanes with a high morning traditional game score of 1,145. In the face of the withering assault, the Commodores managed to post a solid 1,032 score behind Haley Lindley’s 255 and Kailee Channell’s 234.

The format transitioned to a five-game Baker set that became one of the more competitive matches of the season. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 61-pin lead, but Vandy actually seized the lead after three games. Louisiana Tech took Game 4 and a 31-pin lead into the finale, forcing Vandy to rally once again.

Vandy clung to a narrow advantage at the midway point but an open seventh evened the overall score. Caroline Thesier delivered a key strike in the ninth, giving Vandy a precarious two-pin edge into the 10th but Louisiana Tech anchor Patricia Rosales struck while Lindley had to convert a tricky 6-10 split, which she calmly handled. Rosales could only muster a 6-count while Lindley struck, giving Vanderbilt a narrow 989-987 win to send the match into a best-of-seven.

The two teams traded wins here. Lindley rescued the Dores in Game 4 by striking out for a three-pin victory to avoid a 3-1 deficit. The Bulldogs won Game 5 to go up, 3-2. Vandy inserted Channell into the rotation for Game 6 and won big, setting up a nerve-wracking Game 7.

Tech led early but Vandy closed with seven strikes to pull away, 258-234. Senior Jennifer Loredo struck on the fill ball to cap the exciting finish.

Vanderbilt moved on to face Jacksonville State in the afternoon round and the veteran Gamecocks were near the top of their game. Jacksonville had Round 3’s top score in its 1,075-976 wins although Paige Peters was sharp with a 235.

The Baker set was well played. Vandy’s rotation of Peters, Victoria Varano, Amanda Naujokas, Channell and Lindley managed a 1,042 effort but the Gamecocks were too much with their 1,109.

Williamson pointed to the excellent play of Naujokas in the Jacksonville State match and liked how the freshman Lindley responded under repeated pressure from the anchor spot during the day.

The tournament is being streamed on ESPN+.