Vanderbilt was chosen as the No. 1 seed for the 2019 NCAA Bowling Championship, the NCAA Women’s Bowling Committee announced Wednesday afternoon. The Commodores are the current national champions and the berth in the championship field marks the 14th consecutive year Vanderbilt has earned an invitation.
The other seeded teams are No. 2-seed McKendree, No. 3 Sam Houston State and four seeded Nebraska. Vanderbilt will play the winner of the Sacred Heart-Caldwell match; McKendree faces the winner of the Maryland-Eastern Shore-Bowie State play-in; Sam Houston will see the winner of the Stephen F. Austin-Prairie View contest while Nebraska will take on the winner of the Arkansas State-Medaille match.
The national championship will be held April 11-13 at the RollHouse Wickliffe in Wickliffe, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb.
The championship match will be played at 5:30 CT, April 13 and televised by ESPNU.
Sacred Heart made the tournament by winning the Northeast Conference (NEC) last weekend while Caldwell was an upset winner in the East Coast Conference. Their match will be part of a double-header April 6 at the Millsboro Lanes in Millsboro, Del., along with the Maryland-Eastern Shore-Bowie State game.
Stephen F. Austin and Prairie View will square off at the Emerald Bowl in Houston on April 5 while Arkansas State and Medaille will meet April 9 at the RollHouse Wickliffe in Wickliffe.
Vanderbilt has a season record of 97-35, which leads the nation in total wins, won-loss percentage (.740) and RPI. Additionally, it has won a program record tying five regular season tournament championships at events hosted by Maryland-Eastern Shore, Arkansas State, Stephen F. Austin, Monmouth and Vandy’s own Columbia 300 Music City Classic.
It is a balanced and experienced Vanderbilt team with five different Commodores making various all-tournament teams this season. Junior anchor Maria Bulanova was voted the 2019 Southland Bowling League Player of the Year but she got plenty of help from a host of Commodores along the way.
The Commodores heard their name called at a department viewing session and while pleased, the veteran unit seemed more focused on the various components that have to jell to have a successful run in Ohio.
“We have lofty goals and a baseline expectation of what we are trying to accomplish in our program,” said Coach John Williamson, “and our expectation is that we will do enough to get our name called. This is the first time we’ve been the No. 1 seed in the pre-determined bracket format although we’ve been the top seed before.”
Williamson hopes to turn the focus inward.
“We will try to concentrate on what we think and what our internal expectations are,” he says. “We can’t control what the outside world thinks we can or should do.”
Senior Jordan Newham, who will appear in her fourth NCAA Championship, echoed those sentiments and discounted the No.1 seed as having any advantage or stigma.
“I feel like we prepare for this the same way we prepare for any other tournament,” the Aurora, Ill, product says. “Coach always talks about keeping things the same and says the most important tournament is the next one. We will treat this one like we did the other tournaments even if this one might be more difficult. Last year we had an automatic bid to the final eight and this year we do, too, so I don’t see that anything is much different.
Samantha Gainor, a sophomore who saw considerable playing time at last year’s championship, knows what is needed.
“I’m thinking that we need to work hard the next two weeks and give everything we have because the hard work will play off at the nationals. We need to come together as a team and bowl for each other.”