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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

Disappointment in Dallas: No. 4 Vanderbilt bowling finishes seventh at Lady Techsters Classic

Despite a strong start, the Commodores left Dallas, Texas, with their lowest tournament standing of the season.
Vanderbilt+bowling+huddles+during+a+tournament+in+the+2021-22+school+year.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt bowling huddles during a tournament in the 2021-22 school year. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

The highs and lows of collegiate bowling—one week, the Commodores are rolling into their second consecutive championship match; two weeks later, they’re dropping back-to-back Sunday matches on the way to a seventh-place finish.

“They’re a group of 18- to 22-year-old kids,” associate head coach Josie Barnes said of the team’s struggles. “They’re still learning how to communicate and have conversations that aren’t necessarily comfortable, like holding teammates accountable and trying to encourage them.”

After arriving a day early to get in some practice games, the team got started on Friday with a match against No. 17 Long Island University. The Sharks got the better of the Commodores in their last clash at the Northeast Classic, but the latter made up for it this time by stretching a strong first game into a wire-to-wire victory. The season series with LIU is now tied 2-2.

When Vanderbilt moved on to play No. 15 Tulane, the desire for revenge flowed in the opposite direction: the Green Wave sought payback for a 118-pin defeat two weekends earlier at the Prairie View A&M Invitational. The Commodores certainly didn’t deliver their strongest performance of the season, but Tulane seemed unready for prime time as they tallied only 870 pins in a loss. 

Because this is bowling and the best teams consistently play the best teams, there was no reprieve for Vanderbilt after beating consecutive National Tenpin Coaches Association Top 25 squads. Instead, they moved right along to play No. 8 Stephen F. Austin.

The Lumberjacks are a veteran-laden team: seniors Isabel Hughes and Carlene Beyer create quite the one-two punch, while junior Chloe Skurzynski is also no one to scoff at after a top-15 finish at the aforementioned Northeast Classic. With that level of talent and experience comes a competitive edge and an ability to adapt to unique circumstances.

Given the unusual oil patterns and odd topography of the lanes in Dallas, one could have naturally presumed Stephen F. Austin would have the advantage.

That was not the case.

Vanderbilt tallied its highest pin total of the weekend with 1,014, besting the Lumberjacks and getting even for a high-scoring loss at the Vegas Classic

Fresh off their first 1,000-pin game and riding a three-game winning streak, the Commodores were prepared to deal serious damage against unranked Grambling State. 

And then they sputtered.

Coming into the tournament, Vanderbilt had only scored below 900 pins in a match one time on the season. That number doubled after playing Grambling State. 

Despite a pitiful 827-pin count—far worse than their prior worst single-match performance—the Commodores managed to secure a victory against the lowly Tigers. But, in bowling, where bracket seeding is determined by total pin count rather than win-loss record, the game represented more of a step back than a step forward.

With plenty to think about, Vanderbilt entered its last match of the day with a bye round, allowing the team to bowl without an opponent. The Commodores took advantage of the low-key affair and bowled loose, finishing with 1,009 pins and in third place heading into Saturday.

Unfortunately, Saturday was much, much rougher.

The day began with a faceoff against No. 2 Sam Houston State, one of the Commodores’ biggest boogeymen of the year. Prior to the tournament, the Bearkats were 3-0 against Vanderbilt on the season—including multiple victories just two weeks ago. 

Things were close this time around, but they weren’t any different. Despite a 242-pin performance from junior Mabel Cummins, the Commodores fell to 0-4 in the season series with a 959-947 nailbiter of a loss.

In the next two games, Vanderbilt got a look at one familiar opponent—unranked Prairie View A&M—and one new opponent—No. 25 Central Missouri—in rather unremarkable affairs. The results of both were victories that brought the Commodores up to 6-1 on the weekend.

Then, the action resumed in full force.

Tournament host Louisiana Tech was the next foe, as the No. 5 Bulldogs looked for a chance at retribution for a high-scoring Sunday loss two weeks earlier. Vanderbilt found itself playing catch-up for most of the match, chipping away at the score until quite literally the very end. 

With the game on the line in the 10th frame of the fifth game, junior Amelia Kiefer walked up to the lane and delivered the winning strike for the Commodores. 

The final match of the day came against No. 7 Arkansas State. Despite their high ranking, the Red Wolves had failed in all four matches against Vanderbilt coming into Saturday. Be it from mean reversion, vengeance or destiny, Arkansas State found a way to buck the trend and knock off the Commodores 1,050-945. 

With several frustrating performances and very few to write home about, Vanderbilt found itself in fifth place going into the final day of action. One more game against No. 21 Lincoln Memorial would determine the team’s placement once bracket play began.

A high-scoring performance and a little outside help could have allowed the Commodores to fight for the tournament championship; alas, it was not to be. 

Vanderbilt handled most of its necessary scoring load by bringing in 996 pins, its second-highest count on the weekend. However, it seemed as if the other teams also managed to find their footing on the awkward lanes, and the Commodores both lost and remained in fifth heading into bracket play.

The best case scenario at that point: winning back-to-back games and finishing fifth. That would mean tying their worst finish of the year; albeit, ending in the same spot as the first tournament of the year wouldn’t be taken lightly by the coaching staff.

With an instant rematch against Lincoln Memorial and a chance to hold onto some pride, the Commodores suited back up for their best-of-seven series.

Game 1 went well—five consecutive strikes in frames 4 through 8 paved the way for a 232-181 Vanderbilt victory.

Games 2 through 4 did not go well—totals of 187, 180 and 156 pins were not going to get the job done in a semifinals match. 

Staring down the barrel of a loss with a 3-1 deficit, the Commodores entered Game 5 with a serious chip on their shoulder. Not since the first game of the match had they crossed the 200-pin threshold. With four straight strikes in frames 5 through 8, Vanderbilt took advantage of a low-scoring Railsplitter performance and brought the series to 3-2.

Then, the music stopped. Abruptly. 

“I’d like to say they lost steam, but I don’t even know if we had it to begin with,” Barnes said. “We’re still a really young team and we’re trying to figure out that vibe and what it actually is.”

Game 6 of the series was inarguably the worst game the Commodores have bowled all year. The final pin count: 119. 

Just like that, Vanderbilt went from a perfect Friday record to playing for seventh place Sunday afternoon.

The tournament’s final series came against prior-defeated Long Island, an inferior team onto which the Commodores unleashed the totality of their frustration. Games 1 and 2 marked the team’s return to scoring above 200, while consecutive strikes in the eighth and ninth frames of Game 3 gave Vanderbilt a 3-0 advantage.

With a final resounding victory in Game 4, the Commodores finished the tournament in seventh place.

“One thing these girls have seemed to do really well this year is rebound,” Barnes said. “I think every team hits a spot in their season where everything doesn’t go their way, but it gives us an opportunity to learn and evaluate.”

Vanderbilt will have a weekend off for learning and evaluation before picking back up in Greensboro, NC, for the Stallings Invitational from Feb. 25-27.

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About the Contributor
Jayce Pollard, Assistant 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.
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