LAS VEGAS – A consistent scoring Vanderbilt team won three matches while dropping a pair to open the Stormin’ Blue and White Vegas Classic on Saturday at the South Point Casino.
The Commodores (5,090 pins) ended the day in third place among the 13 teams, trailing first-place Stephen F. Austin (5,519) and McKendree (5,470).
Vanderbilt defeated two top-10 teams in Maryville and host Mount St. Mary’s along with unranked Prairie View while losing a tie-breaker to second-ranked McKendree and a high-scoring tussle with Stephen F. Austin.
Vandy’s two setbacks were, somewhat ironically, the two matches that will garner the most interest on the national level. The McKendree match was another in a long line of white-knuckle finishes between the two bowling powers while the SFA match was fun to watch as the two Southland teams got into a strikeathon that produced monster scores in the 5-Game Baker pin fall format..
The McKendree match appeared to come down to the All-American anchors – Vandy’s Mabel Cummins and the Bearcats Hope Gramley – in the 10th frame of the fifth game as the Commodores were successfully rallying from a 15-pin deficit. Cummins bowled first, notching a strike while Gramley spared, giving the Dores hope. Cummins spared and Gramley needed nine pins for the win but got just eight, producing a 966-966 tie.
Ties in NCAA bowling are settled by a modified tie-breaker of five frames. The Commodores rotation was Angelica Anthony, Amelia Kiefer, Caroline Thesier, Jennifer Loredo and Cummins. A Vandy open in the second proved to be decisive with the Bearcats prevailing 97-92.
The SFA match was wild. How wild? After four games the Commodores were averaging 228 and getting walloped as the Ladyjacks were tossing games of 245-247-238 and 278.
Credit Vandy for hanging in there, winning Game 5, 257-172, to draw within nine pins. It was one of those matches where the Dores didn’t lose, they just got beat: 1,180-1,171.
“I thought we bowled a gusty match,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “We were down 40, 70 and then 90 pins and could have folded the tent. But we just kept plugging and actually had a chance at winning at the end.”
Vandy closed the afternoon with a steady effort against Prairie View, pulling away from a two-pin lead after four to win going away with a closing 226.
The day saw Vandy junior Kiefer see considerably more playing time than during the fall portion of the schedule and freshman Kailee Channell also get plenty of time in the rotation.
“We like to play the people that seem to have the best look and we thought the shot played to Mel’s (Kiefer) strength,” Williamson said. “Later on it looked to us that the scoring was going to those with the most direct shot and lower ball speed, which played to Kailee’s game.”
Williamson was left to wonder if the grueling USA Team Trials had taken a bit out of his forces. Nine Commodores competed over five days in those trials and he thought his team had moments of looking “lethargic”.
“We were up and down all day,” he said. “It was a long day yesterday for those at the trials and today we just weren’t executing enough. Every three or four shots we’d throw an errant ball.”
Competition continues at noon CT Sunday with five traditional team games in store.