SMYRNA, Tenn. — The coach called the day, “a grind,” and several of Vanderbilt’s opening opponents were dialed-in, but the Commodores kept a steady focus and cool head to finish the first day of the Columbia 300 Music City Classic in third place in the enormous field of 33.
McKendree leads after the five Baker matches with 5,300 pins. Stephen F. Austin is in second place, 129 pins back, followed by Vanderbilt (5,129) and Arkansas State (5,110). The field is the NCAA’s largest of the year with the top nine ranked teams and 19 of the Top 25 in action.
The day had an odd rhythm to it from the Vanderbilt perspective, if indeed it had any rhythm to it at all. The Commodores opened with a bye match and then ran into an absolute buzz saw as 12th-ranked Maryville set a school record with a 1,184 pin count in the five Bakers.
Vanderbilt then dropped a tight, 1,049-1,023 match to Maryland-Eastern Shore as a couple costly spare misses and some late Hawk strikes made the difference. The Dores closed the day with wins over Emmanuel and Spalding.
Vandy head coach John Williamson said his charges never felt the wind behind their backs.
“We didn’t do anything exceptional and nothing really poor but for having decent scores it felt as though we grinded through the day,” he said. “To our credit we didn’t let that Maryville match get us down. We had some missed makeable spares against UMES. It was a grind, nobody was really dialed in. Our scores made it look easier than it was — we didn’t have many long strings or even doubles. It felt like we were grinding.”
Vandy used several lineups and everyone on the team was used before the large contingent of Vanderbilt fans in the capacity crowd. The original lineup was Mabel Cummins, Angelica Anthony, Samantha Gainor, Caroline Thesier and Paige Peters.
Seeking bigger scores, the order was switched against UMES to Anthony, Thesier, Gainor, Cummins and Peters and later on every Commodore was in the mix.
Anthony and Gainor, the two seniors in Vanderbilt’s rotation (the third, Angelique Dalesandro, is out an estimated two more weeks with a broken foot) said the superb games bowled by Maryville and UMES didn’t fluster the team.
Anthony said the team likes the longer pattern in play at the Smyrna Bowling Center and for her it was a matter of getting comfortable.
“Maryville was stringing strikes and we don’t carry like that,” the Texan noted, so she worked on shedding her early tournament nerves and staying focused. We have somewhat of a home court advantage because we have gotten to practice here a couple of times.
“I’m a little more comfortable because of that. The pattern is very controllable. It’s longer than what we’ve been seeing in some of these other tournaments.”
Gainor agreed that nobody in the lineup brought their A-game today but that the team’s steady results were essential.
“We obviously want to win every match but especially that first match they just out-bowled us,” Gainor said.