SMYRNA, Tenn. —Vanderbilt bombarded the strike zone early and often and, as a result, opened up a 236-pin lead on the 30-team field at the Music City Classic on Friday.
The No. 2 Commodores swept all five of their matches and are followed on the leaderboard by Louisiana Tech, McKendree, Sam Houston and Youngstown State heading into Saturday’s play. Along the way, the Dores blitzed No. 17 Central Missouri, No. 19 Lincoln Memorial, Aurora, Belmont Abbey and Spaulding.
“I thought the shot was tricky if you didn’t stay on top of the moves and weren’t making good shots, but it was playable,” said Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson. “I think we might have made it look a little easier than it actually was.”
Vandy averaged 217.5 over its games and knocked on the 300 door twice without success. The first run at it came in just the third Baker game of the morning when a lineup of Amanda Naujokas, Alyssa Ballard, Caroline Thesier, Victoria Varano and Mabel Cummins strung the opening 11 strikes. Cummins’ final ball missed the pocket’s sweet spot and Vandy “settled” for the explosive 297.
A few hours later, the Dores owned the front 10 against Belmont Abbey, but Cummins’ second shot in the 10thframe left the 10 pins for a 289 effort. There were other long strike strings, such as a 9-bagger to finish Game 4 against Lincoln Memorial.
Vanderbilt played its entire roster. Naujokas had a strong day in the leadoff spot, compiling 48 of 50 clean frames to get her team off on the right foot most games.
“We started out strong seeing the shapes and it helped us to make the moves once we got to different sides of the house,” the Long Island junior Naujokas said. “We tried to keep throwing good shots and keep it simple. If we throw good shots, we can then make good moves.”
Varano was also looking sharp in the 4-hole.
“We were trying to get the team into the right mind space, so it doesn’t matter who you are up against, you are always trying to be at your best,” Varano said while noting the competition of the day was not intense. “Having energy in the settee really helps. That energy makes every match seem the same.”
The Commodores also received a nice boost from sophomore Paige Peters, last year’s national Newcomer of the Year who has been plagued by a variety of illness and aches this season. Peters took the second spot during the third and fourth matches and was a solid striker and sharp on her conversions.
“We wanted to give her an opportunity because she’s been inconsistent in her availability to attend practice,” Williamson said. “When she got in, she took advantage of it.”
Vanderbilt’s Saturday looks formidable with traditional games against top 10 members Youngstown State, Arkansas State, top-ranked McKendree and Stephen F. Austin along with No. 20 Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Play starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Smyrna Bowling Center. Admission is free; action is also livestreamed on the Vanderbilt Athletic YouTube site and some matches on youtube.com/@BowlStreamTV.