WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Vanderbilt scooted through its five team games unbeaten Saturday at the Hawk Classic and resides in third place after two days of qualifying. Vanderbilt will play North Carolina A&T in another qualifying round game Sunday before two rounds of best of seven Baker Games settle the final standings. Jacksonville State and Youngstown State finished Saturday in the top two spots.
Scores remained high across the board—as expected—with the Commodores getting big efforts from everyone in the rotation at one time or another but seldom all at once. In fact, the norm for the day was three hefty scores leading the way as the Dores beat 25th-ranked Merrimack, 11th-rated Duquesne, 18th-ranked Mount St. Mary’s, 12th-ranked Maryland-Eastern Shore and No. 15 Fairleigh Dickinson. Three of Vandy’s five games were north of 1,100.
“It was another good day,” head coach John Williamson said. “We knew coming in with the lane conditions as they are that all our matches would likely be close, and we were right. It is hard to separate yourself in these situations, but we threw quality shots when they mattered. I was really pleased that we finally had a decent 10th frame (against Farleigh Dickinson). We had been talking about finishing strong and it was good to see it happen; it made a close match look much easier than it was.”
The day’s most interesting matches were nip and tuck encounters with Mount St. Mary’s and Farleigh Dickinson. In both games, scores soared as the teams traded strikes as though they were on video boards.
Vandy’s rotation against Mount St. Mary’s began with Haley Lindley, Alyssa Ballard, Amanda Naujokas, Victoria Varano and Paige Peters. Caroline Thesier entered in the sixth for Ballard. The Commodores was essentially tied through the middle frames with Vandy managing to get ever so slight breathing room in the ninth behind a steady drumbeat of strikes. Naujokas—who ended with a 247—and Lindley, who added a 242, were the keys but Peters contributed a 219 and Varano a 216. It wasn’t settled until midway in the 10th, ending up 1,103-1,083.
The day’s finale was against Farleigh Dickinson, and it was another entertaining high-flyer with a historical note. Never before have two Commodores enjoyed scores of 279 and 278 in the same match but that was exactly what Varano and Thesier did in leading Vanderbilt to a 1,162-1,081 win. The only difference in their totals is that Varano struck on her fill ball and Thesier knocked down nine pins. Otherwise, both had one spare against a wall of strikes.
As far as the high scoring trios…in the Merrimack match Lindley and Ballard had matching 236s and Naujokas contributed 211. In the Duquesne match, Lindley had the front nine in heading toward a 267 with Peters coming in at 250 and Naujokas at 223. In the Maryland-Eastern Shore match, it was Naujokas with a flashy 245, Thesier at 238 and Varano at 224.
When the bracket play begins, it will feature the No. 1 seed versus the No. 4 seed with the two and three seeds meeting. That foreshadows a Vanderbilt-Youngstown State matchup barring something extraordinary happening in the final team game as both teams have total pin counts that would make it improbable to change position.
Play begins Sunday at 7:30 a.m. CT at Bowl America and is streamed on BowlTV.