Vandy Freshmen Help Dores Climb the Leaderboard

The Dores are in fifth after an unbeaten Day 1

by Rod Williamson

SMYRNA, Tenn. — A pair of freshmen stole a piece of the Senior Weekend spotlight and highlighted Vanderbilt’s fifth-place standing after the first day of qualifying at the Music City Classic.

Haley Lindley and Natalie Kent played key roles in the Commodores’ 4-0 won-loss mark. Vandy downed Central Missouri, Wright State, Marian and McKendree.

Jacksonville State led the 33-team field, followed by Arkansas State, Sam Houston and North Carolina A&T, which edge Vanderbilt by five pins.

History shows that the Commodores have generally gotten off to plodding starts and this year was no exception. The Dores could muster just 932 pins in their first Baker Game (a bye due to a team dropping out of the tournament) that put them in 11th place and over 200 pins behind the leader. They totaled just 958 in a win over Central Missouri.

“We started a little slow and that seems characteristic for our home tournament,” head coach John Williamson said later. “But we settled in and competed well.”

The tournament—one of the nation’s biggest and the 20th annual—featured several special touches, most notably the attendance of Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, who threw the ceremonial first ball to an appreciative reception from the crowd. Sprinkled throughout the crowd during the day was a number of Commodore bowling alumni.

Kent, who had finished third on these lanes a week ago in the U.S. Bowling Comission Intercollegiate Singles sectional, was in the rotation from the git-go for the first time this season and she responded well. Williamson said her strong showing last week was not a big factor in the thinking to start her.

“She’s been throwing it well in practice, and she had a good look on the pattern” he said. “We thought she would strike a lot. Last week was not a major factor, it was more about what she was doing in practice.”

Kent said she had some nerves at the beginning but also a feeling of confidence.

“I felt like I had a good look and was pretty comfortable with where I was playing so I was confident in that,” she said. “I tend to be nervous in the beginning. I think that’s pretty common for bowlers in general but once I saw my ball reaction, I became more confident in it.”

“Last week definitely helped my confidence,” Kent continued. “I saw that I can be comfortable. I started coming out of the nervousness and knew coming back here I could be confident.”

Natalie was also spurred on by a big family turnout of parents, a grandmother and extended family, some she hadn’t seen in seven years.  A contingent drove from Pensacola that she hadn’t seen for a while.

Lindley began the day in the two-hole but as Vanderbilt tinkered with its rotation, she slipped into the anchor spot after two games and started throwing strikes.

“Haley has some fire and a competitive streak,” Williamson noted. “We’ve moved her there before and we thought it was a good time once again.”

Lindley is still a bit cautious about holding the anchor spot but realizes she is growing into the role.

“I anchored about three matches in Vegas, but this was the longest I was there,” she said. “Like coach told me, it’s the same as anything else. It’s not a different game, just keep having fun with it. The main thing I was focusing on was making the best shots I could and trusting my ball reaction. If the pins fell, they fell and if they didn’t, I was going to try to clean them up.”

Williamson was also pleased with the high strike percentage of senior Caroline Thesier, who got into the lineup midway through the day and at one point registered seven strikes in a row.

Play continues Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with five traditional games. Vanderbilt matches are streamed on YouTube and admission at the Smyrna Bowling Center is free.