JONESBORO, AR—Vanderbilt launched the spring portion of its schedule Friday and after some brief turbulence and a couple of scares, the Commodores cruised into a smooth orbit resulting in a perfect 5-0 start at the Mid-Winter Classic.
In the process, Vandy notched key victories over sixth-ranked Tulane, tenth-rated Stephen F. Austin, No. 23 Maryville and second-ranked Nebraska before finishing the afternoon downing Kentucky Wesleyan. Vanderbilt leads the field of 21, which includes seven Top 10 ranked teams and a dozen Top 25 programs. It has a 124 pin lead over second place McKendree.
“We’ve been coming to this tournament for a long time and today we won some games that we have tended to lose in the past,” Head Coach John Williamson said. “Those early wins gave us a level of confidence. We didn’t show much, if any, drop-off from the end of the fall season, which is good. And we did this without shooting spares good, we need to be a lot cleaner.”
The unbeaten day was part excellent play with a side order of good bowling fortune. The win over Tulane was a one pin nail-biter, 925-924. The Green Wave could have won with a strike on the last ball of the match while Vandy could only watch. Just eight pins fell, however…the difference between relief and disappointment.
The SFA match was nearly as tight although the lineup of Jordan Newham, Adel Wahner, Samantha Gainor, Kristin Quah and Maria Bulanova gained momentum and picked up their scoring, much needed in a 997-989 tussle.
Maryville had the misfortune of poor timing as the Commodores exploded in the third match. Vandy’s 1,165 tied the program’s third best score for a 5-game Baker set with two games 255 or over and four games better than 222.
Those wins gave Vanderbilt a boost heading into the match with Nebraska. The Commodores jumped up 56 pins after the first game and at one point had stretched the lead to 74 pins before winning by 29, 950-921.
Vandy’s lineup stayed steady once a successful rotation was established during the stretch against ranked teams. Bryanna Leyen came in for Kristin Quah in the Kentucky Wesleyan match and Emily Rigney was in the mix until Wahner was inserted in the second match.
“I thought Maria and Sam were our two most consistent bowlers today,” Williamson said. “Everyone had some good moments. I also liked how Adel, Bryanna (Leyen) and Angelique (Dalesandro) came in and performed well.”
Saturday’s five traditional team games begin at 9:15 a.m. CST.
The five wins improve Vanderbilt’s season record to 30-12 and these wins didn’t hurt the team’s strength of schedule, which leads the nation.