Dores to the Flower City

Vanderbilt earned an at-large bid to the Rochester Regional

by Rod Williamson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt was chosen to participate in the NCAA Championship field for the 18th consecutive year Wednesday, entering the 18-team field as the No. 2 seed in the Rochester, New York, Regional.

The Commodores will play Northeast Conference champion Merrimack on April 5. On the other side of the bracket, the region’s top seed and No. 2 national seed Arkansas State will play the winner of the William Smith-Fayetteville State play-in match.

Conference USA dominated the field as was to be expected having six of the nation’s top 10 teams in the latest NTCA rankings. League champion Jacksonville State is the tournament’s overall top seed while Youngstown State, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston also had their tickets punched.

Youngstown State is the top seed in the Lansing region and North Carolina A&T is top seeded in the Arlington region, which contains Conference USA’s Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston.

Vanderbilt has fared well since the NCAA went to a regional format two years ago. The Commodores have twice won the Lansing Regional and last year moved on to win the national championship in Las Vegas.

Seniors Caroline Thesier and Amanda Naujokas, veterans of three prior NCAA tournaments, gave some insight into the team’s mindset upon hearing the news.

“The most important thing to know is to never count another team out,” Thesier said. “In tournaments like this you must focus on what’s going on at that moment; every team is good, and you can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to show up for each and every match.”

Naujokas says the team has no thoughts over trying to defend last year’s accomplishment.

“This is a new team, a new season,” she said. “We have to go out there and be ourselves. If we think we are defending something, it’s going to cloud our vision.”

The field has 10 automatic qualifiers—teams winning their conference championships—and eight at-large teams. Those leagues with automatic qualifiers include the Allegheny Mountain, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, Conference Carolinas, Conference USA, East Coast, Great Lakes, Mid-Eastern, Northeast and the Southwestern Athletic.

Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson is a member of the NCAA Bowling Committee. The three coaches on the committee—Jody Fetterhoff of Duquesne and Ian Parisi of Molloy—did not participate in discussions or placements of their own teams, leaving that to the administrators on the committee. Those administrators are Glen Brittich of Elmhurst, Donna Ledwin of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and Jana Woodson of Tulane.

The regionals are double elimination using the now standard mega-match format. The national championship will be decided April 12-13 at the Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. ESPNU will televise the title match at 8 p.m. CT.