Dores Take Seventh at Lady Techsters Classic

Erratic Vandy falters on final day in Dallas

by Rod Williamson

DALLAS — A rough tournament ended with a thud for the Vanderbilt Commodores who just missed qualifying for the championship bracket Sunday, then dropped their first Baker bracket match and ended up with a disappointing seventh place finish at the Bulldog Classic.

Arkansas State topped Louisiana Tech to win the championship with Stephen F. Austin beating Sam Houston State in the consolation match.

A 4-0 victory in the seventh place match, in which Vandy paired Mabel Cummins and Paige Peters with Kaylee Hitt, Kailee Channel and Amelia Kiefer, ended the tournament on an upbeat note but was of little consolation to a team that had its sights set much higher.

“The weekend exposed some things we need to work on as a group,” Vandy head coach John Williamson said. “We need to be better with our execution.”

Vanderbilt entered the day in fifth place, 55 pins behind Sam Houston State, and it’s only chance of reaching the championship bracket was to shoot 1,000 or higher in the last round-robin match with Lincoln Memorial and hope the powerful Bearkats might struggle in their last qualifying match.

The Commodores came close to hitting that goal despite losing to over-achieving Railsplitters 1,019-996. Vandy fell 13 pins shy of catching Sam Houston State and with the two-match Baker bracket format in place, was doomed to a finish no higher than fifth.

Of note in this game, Peters rebounded in style from her ragged Saturday with an excellent 227 to lead the Dores and Cummins added a 213.

With an adjusted, and new ceiling to pursue, Vanderbilt regrouped with a rotation of Cummins, Samantha Gainor, Amanda Naujokas, Caroline Thesier and Peters. That unit looked strong in an opening 232-181 win over the same Lincoln Memorial team – but things went south quickly.

Vandy lost the next three games, unable to score more than 187 in any game, and that allowed the Railsplitters to win with modest scores of 200, 186 and 181. With its back to the wall, Vandy changed its order to Cummins, Thesier, Kiefer, Gainor and Peters and won Game 5 with a 222 effort before completely falling apart in Game 6 and filling just three frames in a 166-119 defeat.

It was hard for onlookers to pinpoint what was Vandy’s biggest problem – erratic first shots that left difficult spare situations or missed-makeable conversions when the odds of converting were good. The lifeless Commodores looked nothing like the team that entered the tournament off a big win at last month’s Northeast Classic and narrow loss two weeks ago in the title match of the Prairie View Invitational.

With a fresh look lineup, Vanderbilt dusted off Long Island University in four games, winning the first and fourth matches relatively easily and getting close wins in the second and third games. It ended the tournament with an 8-4 won-loss mark.

The Commodores will get a needed two-week break before heading to North Carolina A&T’s Stallings Invitational on Feb. 25.