ORLANDO, FL — After an exhausting day of struggling to manage the tightening lanes at the Boardwalk Bowl along with emotions stemming from the unexpected death of its former athletic director, Vanderbilt earned the second seed at the Sunshine State Classic with a 7-3 won-loss record.
The Commodores will face top-seeded Nebraska in the first wave of Sunday’s best-of-seven bracket play, with the winner getting an automatic pass into the title game and the loser getting tossed into the mix to earn the right for a rematch. Vanderbilt had topped the Cornhuskers Friday in qualifying Baker play.
The Commodores came within a single pin of winning all five of their traditional matches Saturday with wins over Youngstown State, No. 12 Delaware State, No. 15 Lincoln Memorial and UAB. It was the 997-996 loss to 22nd-ranked Monmouth that caused pulses to quicken.
The Dores were inconsistent to start the match but rallied late to create some tension. Samantha Gainor struck out from her third spot in the rotation and Adel Wahner finished with a flourish to bring the match down to the anchor bowlers, which has been a major Commodore strength of late with the terrific play of Maria Bulanova.
After a first-ball strike from Bulanova, the anchor needed just seven pins to clinch the win but was only able to deliver six – with the four left scattered in a small split. Now needing three of those four to salvage a tie, Bulanova was only able to get two of them, leaving Vandy to ponder the many missed opportunities.
“Our spare shooting struggled primarily because our first shots were often horrendous,” Coach John Williamson said. “We had way too many six- and seven-counts, and we were all over the place.”
Individually, Bulanova and Adel Wahner finished second and fourth, respectively. Bulanova had games of 210-196-214-246 and 212 for a 215.60 average while Wahner was super steady at 221-210-202-207-215, a 211 average. Nebraska’s Allison Morris finished first at 225.80.
Williamson said it was challenging to get “five people together” due to a variety of off-the-lanes matters, including emotions after learning of the sudden passing of former Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams on Friday. Williams, who had retired last month after 15 years in charge of the Commodores, launched Vanderbilt’s bowling program years ago.
Sunday’s three-game bracket format is different than previously reported as there were too many participating teams to conduct the planned two-game bracket. Action begins at 7:25 a.m. CT with live streaming on Vandy Bowling’s YouTube site.