HARAHAN, La. — Vanderbilt punched its ticket into the championship bracket at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Invitational Saturday, finishing second to Sam Houston after the qualifying games.
The two Southland Bowling League powers will square off again Sunday morning in the best-of-seven Baker play with third-seeded UAB and No. 4 Louisiana Tech on the other side of the bracket.
The Commodores were steady if not spectacular through Saturday’s five traditional team games, easily winning the first three before coming up short against Sam Houston and Maryland-Eastern Shore, each of whom received massive individual efforts. Competition resumes at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
The fifth-ranked Kats beat Vandy, 1,046-965, paced by a brilliant 266 from Haley Connelly, the second bowler in their rotation. Vanderbilt’s Angelique Dalesandro shined with a 227, which included six in a row, and freshman Amelia Kiefer added a 201 – but it was not enough.
In the afternoon’s finale, the Commodores dropped a thrilling 985-982 match to UMES in a contest up in the air until the very end. The Hawks’ anchor Chloe Skurzynski sizzled, starting with eight straight strikes and notching a 268 while Vandy battled with a balanced attack.
“I thought the pattern might have played a little harder today than yesterday,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “We had a decent look but we turned some 1,000 games into 950’s with some mistakes. It is nice to be consistent, but we need to learn that the ninth and 10th frames set things up.”
Vanderbilt began the day with wins over Texas Southern, Jackson State and Tusculum with nearly identical 952-953-953 winning pin counts. The rotation began with Adel Wahner, Mabel Cummins, Dalesandro, Samantha Gainor and Bulanova.
With All-Americans Wahner and Gainor missing their A-games, Rigney and Kiefer were inserted into the lineup about midway through the day.
“I wanted to get Amelia into the game and for Mabel to get a longer run,” Williamson said in explaining his lineup shuffle. “That’s the big reason for taking Adel out – it wasn’t that she was bowling poorly. I thought Amelia showed a lot of competitiveness and made some big shots although she may have out-thought herself in the 10th frame of the UMES game.”
Dalesandro had her career-high individual finish, placing fifth with a five-game average of 207.20. Lincoln Memorial’s Mary-Kate Kersting was first at 226.40.
Watching the live stream with interest was Vanderbilt associate head coach Josie Barnes who was in Vanderbilt’s maternity ward after delivering daughter Lisa Ruth Cecelia Barnes (six pounds, 11 ounces) late Thursday night – two weeks ahead of schedule.
Sunday’s bracket is the standard NCAA format with three best-of-seven games for each team. The winner of the Vandy-Sam Houston match goes into the title game while the loser plays the winner of the UAB-Louisiana Tech game for the right to advance.