The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Empire State of Mind: Vanderbilt bowling takes home first at Dezy Strong Classic

Between a historic weekend for Angelica Anthony, an excruciatingly tense tiebreaker and an epic comeback, the Commodores returned from New York as champions.
Vanderbilt+bowling+at+Dezy+Strong+Classic
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt bowling holding up their trophies after a victory at last weekend’s Dezy Strong Classic. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Under the bright lights and heavy pressure of the weekend’s slate of play, the Vanderbilt Commodores proved why they’re ranked No. 4 in the country. The team battled significant adversity as it overcame an injury to one of its players, fought down to the wire against Tulane and trailed by two games in the final match against Youngstown State. In the end, the team proved to itself and the country that it’s right where it belongs—the upper echelon of collegiate bowling.

The competition began Friday morning with a match against St. Francis College of Brooklyn that was effectively over before it even began. As the Commodores tallied a first-day tournament record 1,048 points to St. Francis’ 881, there was nothing the Terriers could do to escape the dog pound. 

The Commodores came back down to earth in the second matchup of the day. Against No. 13 Mount St. Mary’s, the team declined to a 893-point total as it was just narrowly edged out by the Mountaineers.

Having gone 5-0 in the first day at the prior tournament, the Commodores knew they could do better. In fact, they would have to if they wanted to reach their goal of bringing home a title. The team did just that against Bloomfield College—winning 977 to 721. 

There’s a blessing and a curse to the sport of bowling—the lack of a defensive element. No matter how well a team shoots, unless it shoots a perfect game, there’s always the chance it will be defeated. The Commodores were reminded of this the hard way in their fourth match on Friday, as the team scored 970 points but still fell prey to No. 8 Fairleigh Dickinson’s white-hot shooting.

The team wrapped up its Friday games with a match against No. 25 Adelphi University, the tournament’s host team. Despite the home lane advantage, the Panthers stood no chance against a Vanderbilt team desperate to close out its opening day with a record above .500.

Friday’s biggest loss wasn’t the game against Mount St. Mary’s or the one against Fairleigh Dickinson; rather, it was an injury to sophomore Amanda Naujokas. A native of Long Island who used to bowl at the site of the competition, Naujokas had expressed before the start of the season that she was looking forward to bowling in front of a home crowd. Unfortunately, due to unpredictable circumstances, the Commodores were left without one of their best heading into the next two days of the competition.

Whether from the hours of training, years of preparation or motivation from the loss of a teammate, the Commodores came out with guns blazing on Saturday. The day began with back-to-back overwhelming victories against No. 19 Monmouth and No. 23 Long Island in which Vanderbilt outscored its two opponents by a combined 404 pins.

Much of that margin of victory came from the game-two performance of senior Angelica Anthony, who bowled only the second perfect game in program history.

“For me, it’s a mindset thing,” Anthony said when asked about her ability to perform at such a high level. “I’m not really thinking much when I bowl well. Getting into that groove, keeping my mind pretty clear—I’ve been working on this since the beginning of last season.”

The Commodores continued to bowl lights-out in their third game of the day, this time against St. Francis. Like before, there was just nothing the team could do to prevent its opponent from scoring even higher—and the team out of Pennsylvania walked out with a 1,019-1,001 victory.

Sitting at a 5-3 record, with more losses already than in the entire last tournament, the Commodores knew they had to step up their game; otherwise, they would be going home empty-handed. And that’s exactly what they did.

In the final two matches of the day, Vanderbilt edged out a narrow victory against No. 7 Youngstown State and cruised to a much more cushiony win against Felician University.

With a 7-3 record and a lead in the tournament pin count, the Commodores headed into bracket play as the No. 1 seed. In a rematch from the week prior, the team faced No. 2-seeded Tulane in a battle for a bid to the championship round. By the end of the final frame, the Commodores had earned every bit of that automatic berth.

The first game of the best-of-seven series concluded in the most unlikely of outcomes—a tie, at 202 pins apiece. After decisive victories for both squads in the next two games, match four was decided by a single pin—204 to 203—for the Commodores. That one point would keep Vanderbilt in contention as it lost the next two games, leading to a must-win round seven. Like every great team, that’s what Vanderbilt did—win, and send the series to a tiebreaker. With everything on the line, the Commodores stepped up and delivered by narrowly defeating the Green Wave 107-105 in a shortened, five-frame format and advancing to the title game.

The final round featured a rematch against No. 4 seed Youngstown State, who the Commodores defeated the day prior in a close 969-929 matchup. In the best-of-seven series, Vanderbilt instantly found itself with its back against the wall, as the Penguins made their way to two straight victories to open it up. Whether from fear, adrenaline or pure grit, the Commodores pulled themselves together in game three and never looked back, ending the series in six games and earning a hard-fought championship trophy.

The aforementioned Anthony, junior Mabel Cummins and freshman Paige Peters also took home their own personal pieces of hardware, as they finished second, fourth and sixth, respectively. 

Vanderbilt bowling will have a week off before it heads to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to compete in the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack Classic.

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About the Contributor
Jayce Pollard
Jayce Pollard, Non-revenue Sports Specialist
Jayce Pollard (‘25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy and economics and minoring in data science and Spanish. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can catch Jayce trying to learn the rules of soccer, hating on the Arkansas Razorbacks and being chronically on Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected]
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