ARLINGTON, TX—Vanderbilt came within a whisker of successfully walking the daunting gauntlet of playing five of the nation’s top 10 ranked teams, winning four of the five matches to hold onto the lead heading into the final day of the Prairie View Invitational.
It was yet another demonstration of superb bowling as the Commodores defeated second-ranked Nebraska, seventh-ranked Fairleigh Dickinson, fourth-ranked Arkansas and top-rated McKendree within the span of five hours. It’s only blemish was a narrow loss to No. 10 Stephen F. Austin in the morning’s first match.
Vandy will carry a 9-1 record and total pin fall advantage into one game Sunday with North Carolina A & T before the best of seven brackets are established. This tournament is using a different format in which the 12 teams will be split into three groups of four based on pin fall; the top four teams will be the only ones with a chance to win the title once Baker bracket play begins.
“I thought the story of today was our balance and depth,” Head Coach John Williamson said. “There is little if any drop-off when someone isn’t having their “A” game.”
The Vanderbilt lineup needed some tweaking during the long day. Kristin Quah got the starting nod after sitting out Friday with her sore wrist but it was apparent the talented senior was not able to perform and was quickly replaced by Angelique Dalesandro in the middle of the first game.
So the rotation became Adel Wahner, Dalesandro, Jordan Newham, Sam Gainor and Maria Bulanova and stayed that way through the SFA and Nebraska games. Emily Rigney came in for Dalesandro during the day’s third match against FDU and performed admirably the rest of the day.
The day’s most competitive contest came against the always strong Cornhuskers, which concluded with a 1,085-1,023 Vandy victory. Nebraska’s Estefania Prieto kept the Big Red alive with an eight-frame strike streak, only to be countered by Newham’s eight strikes in the first nine frames. Both bowlers would end with flashy 255’s. But Vandy added a nifty 231 from Gainor and 211 and 210 from Wahner and Bulanova that proved decisive.
Williamson was also pleased that his team shook off the chilly effects of a low-scoring win over Arkansas State on the far right-hand lanes, which were to be the breakdown pair and played differently, and smoothly transitioned to the more “normal” lanes in the middle of the ITRC.
Everyone was looking forward to the day’s finale, a matchup of McKendree and Vanderbilt. Both teams entered with 8-1 tourney records and the Bobcats had a very slim pin fall lead. The drama in this match faded with Wahner notching separate strings of four and five strikes in a row for a 255 and the high performing lineup of Rigney (204), Newham (170), Gainor (210) and Bulanova (207) pushing Vanderbilt well over 1,000 pins.
Bulanova followed up her outstanding Friday with an outstanding Saturday. She contributed efforts of 246-210-234-256-207 and leads all individuals heading into tomorrow’s game with A & T. Wahner is in fifth place. Play begins at 8:25 a.m. and is streamed live by bowl.com.