North Carolina, Raised Up

Commodores go 5-0 again at Stallings Invitational

by Rod Williamson

GREENSBORO, N.C. — At first glance, Saturday’s second straight unbeaten day, which pushed Vanderbilt’s record at the Stallings Invitational to 10-0, appears to be a carbon copy of the Commodores’ qualifying two weeks ago at the Lady Techsters Classic.

With just one team game left Sunday morning against Tulane, Vanderbilt has already wrapped up the tourney’s No. 1 seed with a 346-pin lead over second-place North Carolina A&T.

For the second tournament in a row, nearly every Vandy win was a blowout as it topped Florida A&M, Howard, Norfolk State, Belmont Abbey and Sam Houston State. Only A&M came reasonably close (944-922) while the only other match closer than 100 pins was the Sam Houston State finale, which Vandy won 982-899.

With those similarities whispering deju vu, there is at least one intangible difference. Whereas the Commodores breezed through qualifying with lofty scores at the Lady Techsters, they have had to grind it out over the complicated AMF All Star Lanes.

“We told the team we’d give it a ‘B’ grade for the day,” Vandy associate head coach Josie Barnes said. “We weren’t at our best but we were pretty consistent over these difficult lanes.”

Vanderbilt began the day with its usual rotation of Paige Peters, Alyssa Ballard, Victoria Varano, Caroline Thesier and Mabel Cummins. Amanda Naujokas came in for Peters after the first match and finished the day.

“Mabel was her consistent self,” Barnes said of Cummins’ 213-224-223-194-191 day. She also heaped praise on Varano after the freshman constructed games of 204-221-181-224 and 188.

“Torie had a really good day, consistent across the board,” Barnes said. “We’ve seen a big improvement in her this weekend and Amanda was once again a bright spot.”

Vandy’s match with fellow Southland power Sam Houston State was expected to be tight but on this day the Bearkats couldn’t keep pace. Ballard closed with a four-bagger and Thesier had four in a row at one point as the lead grew late in the match.

The Tulane match is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. CT Sunday, followed by a best-of-seven baker bracket with the No. 4 seed, which is yet to be determined. The winner advances to the title match.

Barnes expects spare shooting will be the determining factor Sunday.

“The better we can control the pocket and convert spares the better off we will be,” Barnes said. “We also have to trust that what we do will be enough.”

Action is streamed over the Vanderbilt Athletics YouTube site.