GREENSBORO, N.C. — Vanderbilt sailed into the lead at the Stallings Invitational ON Friday on the strength of five lop-sided victories.
The Commodores came within a whisker of averaging 1,000 pins (199.8) over the slick and tricky AMF All Star Lanes in notching wins over Tusculum, 10th-ranked Maryland-Eastern Shore, Lincoln Memorial, Coppin State and North Carolina A&T.
Vanderbilt leads second place Sam Houston State by 230 pins with host Aggies third. Vandy and Tulane were the only teams to go 5-0 on the day.
There was a somber overtone to the day’s bowling, the result of a tragic bus accident Thursday involving the Delaware State team that injured many, several seriously. In the close-knit bowling community, many of the competitors had friends involved.
If there was any good news, it appears that some of the injuries are not as threatening as first feared.
Vanderbilt’s featured match was the day’s finale against the sixth-ranked NCAT Aggies, who jumped out to a quick 8-pin lead. That deficit would quickly vanish as the steady Commodores won the second baker game by 37 pins.
Vandy’s lead would swell to 65 pins after the third game, aided by Victoria Varano’s two strikes and another of many 10th frame strikeouts by All-American Mabel Cummins.
The margin ballooned over the last two bakers as the Commodores zeroed in on their line and put up their best two scores of the day —228 and 237—for a closing 1,067-916 win.
“It was tough sledding today,” Vandy head coach John Williamson said. “It was a grind. We (associate head coach Josie Barnes) talked about wanting to try to control the pocket, not necessarily try to strike. They bought into that.”
It seems redundant to report that Cummins was outstanding, but the senior neuroscience major was exactly that from her anchor position. Time and again she registered strikes in the final frame, often making an otherwise competitive game appear to have been a blowout.
“Mabel was 100 pins over (a 200 pace) today,” Williamson said, “and on these lanes that is impressive. When you are doubling or striking out in the 10th you can really pour it on.”
Freshman Alyssa Ballard was a steady and consistent contributor from her second spot in the rotation, which was Paige Peters, Ballard, Varano, Caroline Thesier and Cummins all day.
“I thought as a group we did a good job of working together,” Willamson added. “We sprinkled in some nice strike runs and seemed to get what we needed when we needed it for the most part.”
The lanes were challenging as evidenced by the field’s modest scoring pace. Vandy was by far the most consistent team and hovered at or near the 200 mark the entire day with just a couple exceptions.
The tournament continues at 8:30 a.m. CT Saturday with five team games.
With the withdrawal of the Delaware State team, the competitive agenda has been altered to include a complete round-robin of the 12-team field. That means Sunday will have one team game and a two-game baker bracket to decide the final standings.
The Commodore matches are streamed live on the Vanderbilt Athletics YouTube site.