SMYRNA, Tenn. — Vanderbilt won two of its three best-of-seven Baker matches Sunday to finish ninth at the 17th annual Columbia 300 Music City Classic.
Top-ranked McKendree defeated Nebraska, 4.5-1.5 in the championship match.
The Commodores defeated Lincoln Memorial 4-2 in the day’s opening contest setting up an interesting match with conference rival Sam Houston State. That pairing would battle it out to the last ball before the Bearkats prevailed. The day ended with a 4.5-1.5 victory over Maryville.
Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson saw some good in Sunday’s play even if the final placing was not to anyone’s liking.
“This COVID-19 season basically eliminated the best-of-seven format so these games today were a good taste for the girls because we only had four or five best of seven games the entire year,” Williamson said. “It accentuates the points we talk about a lot – closing spares and making quality shots – because in a best of seven your mistakes are exposed pretty quickly.
“In the Sam Houston match we opened the door and gave them the opportunity and good teams take advantage of it. Our girls saw how quickly momentum can shift and a lot of time in those instances you contribute to the other team’s momentum.”
The match with the sixth-ranked Sam Houston team merits a closer look.
Vanderbilt appeared to be its old, potent self, posting opening scores of 201-250 and 223 to seize a commanding 3-0 lead. The gritty Bearkats came back with a 255 in Game 4 to win and the tension grew as the rest of the games were tight.
An ill-timed 7-10 split in the ninth frame cracked the door for Sam Houston to eke out a 197-187 win making it 3-2. Vandy had the lead in the sixth game until splits leading to opens popped up in the eighth and ninth frames, resulting in a 221-192 Sam Houston win.
It was now tied and, while it stayed close, Game 7 included a split/open in the sixth while the Kats closed with five in a row powered by their All-American anchor Bea Hernandez’s strikeout for a 201-194 win.
Open frames in the last four games cost the Dores the chance to score above 200 and every one of the sub-200 games resulted in a loss.
One of the day’s bright spots was the opportunity at times to get Lauren Potechin into the game. She closed out a number of 10th frames to the enthusiastic cheers of her teammates.
Potechin would later be presented the Harry Stoddard Award, the program’s only postseason award given after a vote of the entire team to the bowler exemplifying loyalty, hard work and enthusiasm.
“I’m here for the girls,” said Potechin, an academic star with a 3.75 grade in mechanical engineering and mathematics. “They are the most important thing to me and they are what keeps me going so for them to vote for me for an award like this, it meant a lot.”
Samantha Gainor, the team’s other senior, said she didn’t feel Senior Day jitters because the ceremony is held after competition ends. A veteran of many post-season triumphs, she knows what needs to happen for Vanderbilt to get its groove back.
“We will put in the hard work over the next few weeks,” Gainor said. “We have shown we can be super successful and today we showed a lot of fight even if it didn’t always go in our favor.”
Williamson gave a hint of what is in store over the next two weeks.
“We have a routine of what we do when we get close to post-season, which includes a lot of Baker work, which we need. We’ll also try to do some things that create anxiety.”
The Southland Bowling League championship will be held in two weeks in New Orleans.