DALLAS — Vanderbilt could never find smooth air and the result was a turbulent Saturday at the Lady Techsters Classic, winning 3 of 5 matches and landing in fifth place after two days of qualifying.
The Commodores face Lincoln Memorial at 8:25 a.m. Sunday to complete the round-robin before the seeds for the Baker bracket are established.
The top of the leaderboard sees Arkansas State – the only team in the field that went over 1,000 average for the day – followed by Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston State, respectively.
“The shot remains difficult and the pins in this center don’t carry well so teams are finding tough leaves for spares,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “There are more chances to miss but we think that if we can somehow get comfortable there are opportunities to score.”
The complicated oil pattern bothered the Commodores – and nearly every other team – throughout the day as they dropped matches to No. 2 ranked Sam Houston State and No. 7 Arkansas State while beating host Louisiana Tech, Prairie View and Central Missouri.
Nowhere was the struggle felt more keenly than at Vanderbilt’s anchor spot where the Dores tried four different bowlers before getting relief help from seldom-used Amelia Kiefer. The Indiana junior provided one of the day’s highlights in the win over fifth-ranked Louisiana Tech.
The Commodores had trailed the Bulldogs the entire traditional game but kept it close enough that the outcome boiled down to the 10th frame. Mabel Cummins got things off to a great start by striking out and Angelica Anthony followed by converting a difficult 2-4-10 spare, then striking.
That didn’t seem like a turning point at the time but that conversion turned out to be huge. Amanda Naujokas and Caroline Thesier followed with spare-strikes, bringing it down to a dual between Kiefer and Tech All-American Allie Leiendecker. If both struck out, Vandy could snatch a one-pin victory from the jaws of defeat.
Leiendecker, however, left herself a difficult split, setting the stage for Kiefer if she could mark and get big count on the fill ball. Mel calmly tossed a strike and a frustrated Leiendecker couldn’t make the tricky spare so Kiefer’s 9-count fill ball iced the Commodores hard-fought, if low-scoring, 871-857 win.
Williamson said the primary reason he put relative anchor newcomers in the fifth slot was straight-forward.
“We thought our first four bowlers were settling in fairly well and didn’t want to disrupt that order. In a traditional game every bowler throws the same number of shots – unlike Baker – so I didn’t think the order mattered that much,” he said. “We were trying to generate pin count. And hats off to Mel for coming through in the clutch against La. Tech.”
Cummins had begun the day with an outstanding 242 game that included a 7-bagger but she was unable to sustain that plus pace. Naujokas had a nifty 226 against Central Missouri and Thesier’s best effort was a 216 versus Sam Houston. Otherwise, Vandy’s scoring was roughly 15-20 pins per game under individual averages with team scoring reflecting the struggle.
Sunday’s play is being streamed live on bowltv.com.