KENOSHA, Wisc. — Vanderbilt finished second at the MOTIV Ladyjack Classic on Sunday as its opportunity to beat McKendree in the championship math slipped away with untimely miscues in the closing games.
The final score was 4.5-2.5 as the Bearcats won the final four Baker games.
The match featured the nation’s top two rated teams and both squads had distanced themselves from the field of 14 over nearly three days of competition. Vanderbilt had earned the No. 1 seed but was unable to take advantage of it in the final match.
The Commodores won two of the first three games and tied the other as they jumped out to a 2.5-.5 advantage. But they lapsed into an uncharacteristic mode of suffering a split or a missed makeable spare in each subsequent game while McKendree mostly avoided trouble.
McKendree’s advantage in experience was evident as the match wore on. The Bearcats used a rotation of two graduate students, two seniors and a junior while the Commodores unit consisted of a senior, a junior, a sophomore and two freshmen who were competing in just their second collegiate tournament.
“We learned a lot this weekend,” Vandy head coach John Williamson said. “At the end we weren’t doing what we had done the entire tournament. You can’t give good teams those kinds of openings and expect to win. It showed how quickly things can go south in this sport, almost for no particular rhyme or reason.”
In spite of the disappointing finish, it was an otherwise excellent tournament for Vanderbilt which went 11-3, beat three teams ranked inside the top nine, had a 300 Baker game and got an all-tournament and individual championship performance from the freshman Ballard. Four of the program’s 10 best 5-game Baker sets occurred during the qualifying rounds as the lineup sizzled at times.
“We were light years better than we were two weeks ago,” Williamson said. “We had many bright spots. I thought Victoria’s strike-out in the second McKendree game to earn a tie was impressive. And for several of our kids they experienced a competitive pressure for the first time that can’t be created anywhere but in a tournament like this. Many of the best teams in the country were here.”
Vanderbilt concludes the fall portion of its schedule next week at Maryland-Eastern Shore’s Hawk Classic.