DALLAS, TX—A quick glance at the scoreboard in the USA Bowl and a Vanderbilt partisan might wince as the Commodores were in sixth place after the first day of the LadyJack Classic Friday.
But a closer inspection shows that in a tightly bunched pack of six of the nation’s top seven rated teams, only 29 pins separates Vandy from third place heading into Saturday’s traditional games. Vanderbilt won three of five games on a day when only Sam Houston State, which won four times, could do better. SHSU’s leading pin count was in negative territory (4,961), a good illustration of the degree of difficulty in a field of 12 ranked teams.
“I’d grade our play at about a C today,” said Coach John Williamson. “It was playing tough for everyone and the difference between success and failure is very slim. Your mistakes get exposed quickly. The four teams that can figure out the pocket tomorrow will advance and in this good field, every team is capable.”
The Commodores, using almost as many lineups as possible over the five Baker games, began the day with wins over Central Missouri and McKendree before losing to Sam Houston and Wisconsin-Whitewater. They ended the day edging out Louisiana Tech in a thriller that came down to the wire.
The 21st ranked Techsters had begun the match with a 230-156 win, a big hole to try to escape. But Vandy did it the same way one eats a whale – one bite at a time. The Commodores cut the 74 pin deficit to 56 after two games, then to 33 and finally 26 heading into the last game.
The fifth game was full of suspense. With the score tightening, Vandy needed some magic and some of that was provided with a big-time spare conversion in the ninth frame by Adel Wahner. With winning and losing in the balance, it came down to Maria Bulanova, who had struggled much of the day and entered the match as a substitute. Bulanova calmly threw three straight strikes for a 218-184 win, which completed the escape, 936-928.
The original rotation in the Louisiana Tech game was one not used by Vanderbilt all season – Jordan Newham, Bryanna Leyen, Angelique Dalesandro (who gave way to Bulanova for a game before Maria moved to anchor), Adel Wahner and Emily Rigney, who moved up when Bulanova entered the match.
“I thought Emily was pretty good today,” Williamson said. “She got into the groove and threw good shots.”
Kristin Quah bowled for the first three games, the first competition for the Vanderbilt senior in two weeks as she tries to bounce back from a wrist ailment.
The Commodores begin Saturday against North Carolina A & T at 9:30 a.m. CT.