Vandy Falls in Elimination Match

Vanderbilt will now wait for its NCAA Regional assignment

by Rod Williamson

ROWLETT, Texas — Vanderbilt was eliminated from the Southland Bowling League Championship Saturday by Youngstown State in a grueling, topsy-turvy mega match decided after four hours by a spectacular spare conversion in the 10th frame.

The two bowling powers traded shots and momentum all morning and into the afternoon. Vanderbilt won the first point, taking the traditional game 1,050-982.

The sixth-ranked Penguins fought back to win the 5-game baker point, 964-935, to set up a thrilling best of four tiebreaker that surely exhausted partisan fans of both teams.

Vanderbilt seized a commanding 3-1 lead after taking the fourth game, 205-204, that was as close as the score indicates. However YSU returned the favor in Game 5 with a 215-214 squeaker, thanks to a 10th frame double by Jade Cote. It would not be the last of her heroics.

Youngstown evened the tiebreaker in Game 6, rallying with six straight closing strikes after trailing at the midpoint. Game 7 should be remembered in tournament history for its intensity.

Vanderbilt used a rotation of Caroline Thesier, Victoria Varano, Alyssa Ballard, Paige Peters and Mabel Cummins. Youngstown had moved Cote to anchor from the leadoff spot two games earlier, which proved decisive in the end.

Vandy got early strikes from Thesier, Peters and Cummins and looked poised to advance. A split-open in the sixth and three spares gave the Penguins the slight edge but Cote’s opening ball in the 10th left a very difficult 6-7-10 conversion, one rarely made. An open would probably result in a Vanderbilt victory with the Commodores only needing a filled frame by the league’s Bowler of the Year but shockingly, Cote’s shot nicked the side of the 6 perfectly and sent it rocketing into the 7 pin for the win. A big-time, winning shot.

“We were better today than we were yesterday,” said Head Coach John Williamson. “This is a very difficult tournament to win and the No. 1 seed has seldom won and the winner of this championship hasn’t ever gone on and won the NCAA. It’s much like the SEC Baseball Tournament.”

“Our girls competed hard and give credit to Youngstown State for making a few more shots than we did. We had some chances once again to put the match away and weren’t able to capitalize. It wasn’t necessary a pretty match but if you were a bowling fan I’m sure it was tremendously interesting to watch.”

Indeed it was. Some might say Vanderbilt didn’t lose, Youngstown State won.

The lanes were difficult to navigate for both squads but the spare shooting was, for the most part, very good. Vanderbilt, which suffered through 20 missed-makeables a day earlier, went through the entire traditional match clean with the exception of two split-opens.

The Commodores found strength in the top of their order in the traditional game. Amanda Naujokas, who got the start, checked in with a 209 while Varano had a 237 and Peters added a 238.

As the battle ground on, Vanderbilt subbed Thesier for Naujokas late in the 5-game baker and the Dores also changed their order several times looking for a hot combination. Youngstown closed the last five frames of the finishing baker games stronger than Vandy, in large part to stringing key strikes and strong anchor play.

Vanderbilt will now await its NCAA Regional assignment and despite this loss expects to be one of the No. 1 seeds when the championship bracket is announced.