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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.

Greensboro Greatness: Vanderbilt bowling wins Stallings Invitational

The No. 4 team in the country left its mark in North Carolina with a nearly flawless weekend.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt bowling won the Stallings Invitational on Feb. 27, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

A weekend of rest proved to be just what the Commodores needed as Vanderbilt bowling rebounded from one of its most disappointing finishes of the season with a resounding victory at the Stallings Invitational.

“We spent the last two weeks talking about handling the challenge in front of you and learning how to respond,” head coach John Williamson said. “Hats off to them because they did everything they were supposed to.”

The Commodores got started in Greensboro, NC with a match against unranked Coppin State. Although it took until the third game for Vanderbilt to score above 200 pins, the team led wire to wire over the Eagles in a 924-841 romp.

No. 10 Mount Saint Mary’s, a repeat nemesis of the Commodores, was the next foe in line. Game 1 saw a streak of seven consecutive strikes in frames 3 through 9, resulting in a high-scoring 229-224 finish. The matchup didn’t disappoint all the way to the end, as Vanderbilt managed to total above 200 pins in each game yet finished with a sub-100 pin victory.

Freshman Paige Peters was sensational through the first two matches. When asked about her opening scores of 238 and 247, she had a simple response:

“I think I was just comfortable with the pattern,” Peters said.

Vanderbilt was then presented with a bye round, something many bowlers decry for its lack of a motivating factor. However, in bowling, where seeding is determined by pin count instead of win-loss record, bye rounds count just the same as regular ones.

So the Commodores responded with their most prolific performance of the weekend. Behind 200-pin performances from Caroline Thesier, Mabel Cummins, Angelica Anthony and Peters, Vanderbilt finished with an astounding 1,169 pins.

“We all were just motivated to keep doing what we were doing,” Peters said. “We’ve got to bowl our best and stay competitive.”

Vanderbilt continued its strong performance with a match against No. 12 Fairleigh Dickinson. Through the first four games, the Commodores led by a nigh-insurmountable 92 pins. With all the momentum and a nearly 100-pin lead, the match should have been secured.

But, if this season has proven anything, it’s that anything can happen in collegiate bowling.

The Knights fought back with a nearly-perfect 258 pins while the Commodores had perhaps their worst performance of the weekend, registering just 156 pins. The result: a 953-943 loss.

“I think you can get complacent and you can sort of be okay with what you’re doing,” Williamson said. “We started backpedaling and we threw three or four of the worst shots of the tournament in a five-frame span. They threw nine [strikes] in a row.”

Despite the disappointment of the prior match, Vanderbilt got right back to business with a closing match against No. 21 Lincoln Memorial. The Commodores simply proved to be too much for the Railsplitters to handle thanks to a Friday-best 235-pin performance from Anthony.

Heading into Saturday, Vanderbilt held a 3-1 record and an 11-pin-per-game advantage over the next-best team. The first matchup of the day was rather uneventful, as the Commodores bested lowly Texas Southern by a 188-pin margin.

Vanderbilt then moved on to face the highest-ranked team at the tournament: No. 2 Sam Houston State. The Bearkats have proven to be a consistent thorn in the Commodores’ side this season as they carried a 4-0 record against Vanderbilt into the weekend.

This time, however. the Commodores were up to the challenge. Spearheaded by Peters’ 247-pin performance—the true anchor of the team throughout the tournament—Vanderbilt emerged with a 1,065-997 victory over the second-best team in the nation.

That strong performance continued into the next match with a dominant performance against unranked Norfolk State. From there, Vanderbilt moved on to an ostensibly tougher opponent in No. 16 University of Maryland Eastern Shore, but even the Hawks were no match for a blistering Commodore shooting streak. 

From there, Vanderbilt moved into its final seeding match against first-time opponent Howard. There was no beginner’s luck to go around for the Bison, as they fell in monstrously large fashion 1,046-798. That result locked up the No. 1 seed for the Commodores heading into Sunday.

Vanderbilt began bracket play with a best-of-seven series against No. 6 North Carolina A&T, the only other team to average above 200 pins per game. At stake: an automatic bid to the championship match.

Games 1 and 2 were secure victories for the Aggies, as the Commodores failed to cross the 200-pin mark in the first game and barely did so in the second; however, Vanderbilt responded in quick fashion with an almost flawless 279-pin performance. Unfortunately, that momentum quickly fizzled out, and the Commodores found themselves back in a deep hole after a pitiful showing in Game 4.

Down 3-1, Vanderbilt knocked down five straight strikes in frames 3 through 7 to keep the series alive. Almost the same events played out in the following game, as four straight strikes in the middle frames brought the matchup to a winner-take-all seventh game. 

The Commodores are no strangers to high stakes at this point in the season; neither are the Aggies. With one game remaining to decide a spot in the championship match, both squads looked to bring their A-game. Alas, Vanderbilt committed one too many errors between misses in frames 1 and 4, and the Aggies took the final round 217-214. 

Vanderbilt then moved on to a rematch with Sam Houston State and another spot in the championship series on the line. Games 1, 2 and 3 were once again less than optimal, with the Commodores failing to score above 200 in any of them. Just like that, Vanderbilt found itself staring down a seemingly insurmountable 0-3 hole.

The Commodores failed to reach 200 pins yet again in Game 4; but, this time, the Bearkat offense slowed down just enough to allow for a 199-195 victory. Then Vanderbilt came alive. 

With a streak of six consecutive strikes in frames 3 through 8, the Commodores far outpaced their prior series totals by racking up 256 pins en route to a decisive victory. The same could not be said for Game 6, in which both teams struggled to get anything going. Luckily, Sam Houston State committed just a few more errors than they could spare, and the Commodores squeezed by with an ugly 175-171 victory.

It was once again on to a winner-take-all Game 7 with a championship berth on the line. Vanderbilt had been here before, on the verge of greatness, and failed to deliver.

They wouldn’t do it again.

“Nothing can really hold your feet to the fire like peer pressure,” Williamson said. “I’ve always told them that we have a team that we know will do something when they’ll hold each other to account.”

The Bearkats proved they weren’t ready for primetime, as the No. 2 team in the nation scrambled together a mere 176 pins with the tournament on the line. The result: a 32-pin Vanderbilt victory.

For the third time in four tournaments, Vanderbilt found itself back in a championship matchup. 

“We talked about legacy and how you want to be remembered for that,” Williamson said. “They have a possibility to be a team that’s remembered.”

Game 1 proved sloppy for rematch-opponent North Carolina A&T, and four straight spares in frames 6 through 9 allowed the Commodores to take an early lead. The Aggies found themselves quickly back in the mix, evening up the series with a strong performance in the opening frames.

Strikes in six frames and another two in frame 10 allowed Vanderbilt to wrestle the lead back in Game 3, while another eight strikes in Game 4 brought the series to 3-1.

The Aggies proved their No. 6 ranking by failing to fold in the game that followed. Despite Vanderbilt rolling a number of strikes, North Carolina A&T took a hard-fought 13-pin victory into game 6. 

Then things got weird.

Through 10 matchups on Friday and Saturday, the Aggies averaged 204.5 pins per game. In the seven-game-series Sunday morning, they eclipsed 170 pins every time—and usually by a comfortable margin. 

For whatever reason, be it nerves, oil patterns or bad luck, the Aggies dropped far below any previous level of performance with a horrific 134-pin performance in Game 6. Even though Vanderbilt failed to gain steam with a mere 182 pins at the end of 10 frames, it was enough to secure the series victory against such a putrid showing.

And, thus, the Vanderbilt Commodores were crowned champions of the Stallings Invitational—their third tournament victory of the season.

“I think we all are just aiming for that one goal,” Peters said. “We want to win a national championship.”

Vanderbilt will have two weekends off before it hosts the Music City Classic in its regular season finale. All games from March 18-20 can be streamed via the Vanderbilt Athletics YouTube channel.

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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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1 year ago

   This just reminds me of how long it’s been since I engaged in bowling. I really can’t believe that it’s been as long as it has.