CORUM, N.Y. — A revitalized Vanderbilt got its groove back and captured third place on the strength of a pair of victories over Stephen F. Austin Sunday at the Dezy Strong Invitational.
The Commodores had looked like anything but one of the NCAA’s elite teams during the first two days of play but it quickly became apparent that they wouldn’t go quietly into the Big Apple’s Halloween night.
“This was a better representation of what this team can be,” said head coach John Williamson. “The first two days we didn’t have a sense of urgency, we seemed to be going through the motions and today we executed and competed well.”
Vanderbilt’s upgrade began by taking down SFA in the opening bracket round. The Lady Jacks were 10-0 over the first two days but Vandy began bunching strikes and soon the Coram Country Lanes were hearing the familiar “Black-Gold” strike chants that had been missing.
The Commodores broke open a 2-2 Baker deadlock with strong games of 232 and 234 to advance into the semifinals with a 4-2 win.
Louisiana Tech would temporarily cool the resurgence, topping Vanderbilt by a 4-2 score when spare-filled, clean bowling gave way to Bulldog striking. Vandy did file a 258 game that contained an 8-bagger as a highlight in the match.
The defeat dropped Vandy into the consolation final and a quick rematch with SFA, a team that returns everyone from last year’s national runner-up. This match was topsy-turvy with each team grabbing a lead at one time. It appeared the Commodores had botched a golden chance to win the match when three split/opens allowed SFA to escape with a 172-168 win in the sixth game, knotting the match at three games each.
However, Victoria Varano, Mabel Cummins, Caroline Thesier and Paige Peters combined for strikes and Varano added another in the 10th frame to complete the win.
There were several tangible reasons for the stronger team performance. In general, the Commodores began putting strikes together and bowled clean for the most part.
Individually, it was impossible not to notice the play of Peters after Vandy coaches moved her from anchor into the 3-hole.
“Paige had one open today,” Williamson noted. “She had been sick a week ago and didn’t bowl so she didn’t come into this tournament with a head of steam. But she was Paige today. It is nice that we have the depth to move people around in the order to get comfortable, that’s a real luxury.”
Cummins continued her stellar play in the leadoff spot, nearly always getting games off on the right foot. And while the senior was leading the way, freshmen Alyssa Ballard and Varano were successfully filling frames at the end of the order.
“Alyssa and Victoria held their own out there,” Williamson said. “Despite being their first collegiate tournament they were able to keep their emotions in check and made some quality shots, filled frames and they afforded us the flexibility to shift our order to our advantage.”
Vanderbilt continues its fall campaign at SFA’s MOTIV Ladyjack Classic in Kenosha, Wis., Nov. 11.