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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.

Music City Morass: No. 4 Vanderbilt bowling finishes fourth at Music City Classic

Despite recent momentum and a geographical advantage, the Commodores went home disappointed with a fourth-place finish in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Arianna Santiago
Vanderbilt bowling competed in the Music City Classic from March 18-20, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)

It wasn’t the regular season sendoff the Commodores were hoping for. That said, it wasn’t a particularly poor showing either. 

The Music City Classic in Smyrna, TN, is the largest regular season tournament of the year—this time, 33 teams vied for the crown that ultimately went to No. 1 McKendree. The tournament field was quite literally as hard as it could get. No. 10 Duquesne was the only NTCA top-10 team to forgo the competition. 

For better or for worse, No. 4 Vanderbilt would have to wait a little longer to face its first opponent of the weekend, as the Commodores began with a bye game. Byes are incredibly important in bowling—they still count towards a team’s seeding because each team is ranked for bracket play via its average pins per game. However, according to junior Mabel Cummins, byes can be trickier than actual games.

“Our energy can sort of die down a bit when we don’t have the auditory feedback from another team bowling,” the Tennessee native said. “You have your cheers and theirs, and their loudness kind of fuels you.”

Vanderbilt ended the bye with an acceptable total of 1,007 pins and moved on to face No. 12 Maryville in their first real match on Friday. It’s been detailed before how luck factors into bowling: if the opposing team has an absolutely horrendous shooting day, the match can be relatively smooth. Unfortunately for the Commodores, they found themselves in the alternative scenario against Maryville—facing a team that was absolutely on fire.

The Saints dropped a program-record 1,184 pins against Vanderbilt, dooming any reasonable chance the Commodores had of walking away with a victory. Just like that, through the luck of the draw, Vanderbilt started 0-1. 

Next up was No. 17 Maryland Eastern Shore. When these teams met three weeks ago in Greensboro, NC, the result was a 50-pin Commodore victory; unfortunately, with back-to-back opens to end the first game, Vanderbilt started from behind and stayed there this time around. At the end of the five-game match, the Commodores found themselves down 26 pins and faced with their first two-loss Friday in almost two months. 

Thanks to some good scheduling luck, Vanderbilt found itself slated against multiple unranked programs to end the day. Emmanuel College and Spalding University—both first-time opponents for the Commodores this season—served as stress free opportunities to rebound heading into Saturday. Vanderbilt did just that with a 1,050-979 victory over the former and a 989-622 victory over the latter. 

As competition resumed on Saturday, the Commodores found themselves ranked third in the standings. Their first opponent: standings leader and No. 1 overall team McKendree. 

Vanderbilt has more or less had the Bearcats’ number all season. Last time they met, the Commodores took both matches en route to a second-place finish at the Prairie View Invitational. They were up to the challenge once again.

All five players—Samantha Gainor, Caroline Thesier, Angelica Anthony, Paige Peters and Mabel Cummins—scored above 200 as the Commodores totaled 1,129 pins in a victory over McKendree. It was the highest combined scoring total of any match on the weekend. 

“We’re always going to bring our A-game to those matches; but, having parents, extended family, and friends in the background because it’s our home tournament helped,” Cummins said of the source of their success.

Associate head coach Josie Barnes had very high praise for the team afterwards.

“We came out in what I feel like is one of our most complete matches start to finish,” the former Commodore and national champion said. “It was [also] probably our most complete day all season.”

The Commodores continued to roll right along in their next match against No. 7 Louisiana Tech, scoring 1,108 pins in an easy victory with Peters leading the charge at 279. 

With all the momentum behind it, Vanderbilt continued to play strong against No. 24 Monmouth, who fell to the Commodores 1,011-966. Anthony, Thesier and Cummins all totaled above 200 pins once again.

“When you get a big win like [McKendree] at the beginning of the day, it carries over to the rest of the day,” Barnes said of the team’s Saturday success. “I think when you have that high energy in the beginning it just kind of snowballs.”

Another high-scoring affair was on the agenda for the Commodores, as No. 3 Sam Houston State—a Southland Bowling League rival until this year—came prepared to give Vanderbilt a hard time. That said, it was nothing head coach John Williamson and company couldn’t handle, and the Commodores ended with a 1,093-1,035 victory.

From there, Vanderbilt ended its Saturday with a cupcake match against Carthage College, which tried its best in a 974-882 Vanderbilt victory.

Despite its 5-0 record and incredible shooting performances on Saturday, Vanderbilt didn’t budge in the standings heading into bracket play. With a No. 3 seeding, the Commodores would get a shot at No. 8 Stephen F. Austin for a chance to play in the championship match.

The Commodores and Ladyjacks had met five times previously this season—the result, a 3-2 lead for Vanderbilt. That said, with a team ranked in the top 10, there remains no room for error no matter how many times they’ve been bested before. Vanderbilt learned that the hard way on Sunday in its best-of-seven series.

Game 1: Two opens in the later frames for Vanderbilt and seven strikes for Stephen F. Austin allow the latter to take a 1-0 lead. Game 2: Vanderbilt strikes back with strikes all through the ninth and 10th frames. Series tied at 1-1. Games 3 and 4: The Ladyjacks rattle off strike after strike en route to consecutive victories. Vanderbilt trails 3-1.Game 5: The Commodores connect on eight strikes to cut the deficit to 3-2. Game 6: Stephen F. Austin trips over itself and scores only 187 pins. Series heads to Game 7.

In a winner-take-all match to continue fighting for a championship, the Commodores simply ran out of gas. It took until the eighth frame for Vanderbilt to secure its first strike, and the Commodores fell 220-163 in one of its worst performances of the entire weekend.

Next up was Maryland Eastern Shore in a rematch of Friday’s narrow loss. This time, the Commodores were fresh off an infuriating loss and not looking to make their misfortune a habit. The result: seven strikes to start the first game, two to start the second, seven total in the third game, and a narrow victory to close out the series with a sweep. 

With the victory over UMES, Vanderbilt moved on to face No. 6 Arkansas State for a shot at third place. The first game was competitive, but a split in the third frame proved extremely costly as the Commodores fell 214-195. Vanderbilt would bounce back in the second game with strikes in the eighth through 10th frames, sending the series to a 1-1 tie. 

After managing only 181 pins to drop the third game, an open in the eighth frame of the fourth game would prove to be the deciding factor in a 215-214 loss. Staring down the hole of a 3-1 deficit, the Commodores were unable to muster a comeback, dropping the final game 196-194 and finishing fourth overall. 

“We just didn’t have our mentality in the right spot,” Coach Barnes said of the losses. 

But that doesn’t mean the team is down on its luck heading into the postseason.

“I think our mistakes this weekend were simple mistakes,” Barnes said. “I feel good about this team.” 

Cummins had a similar message.

“There’s definitely a lot of hard work that’s going to occur in the next week, two weeks, three weeks,” the junior, who finished fifth individually at the tournament, said. “But, I think if we clean up a few of the things that’ve been a little messy we’ll have a great shot. We have a lot of great talent on this team.”

As for their best attribute heading into next weekend’s Southland Bowling League Championship:

“One thing they’ve done really well all season is they fight,” Barnes reiterated. “They dig deep and they give themselves a chance.”

They will have a chance at their second consecutive conference title next weekend as they compete with Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Tulane, Valparaiso and Youngstown State for the Southland crown. The games can be streamed via the Vanderbilt Athletics YouTube channel.

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About the Contributors
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]
Arianna Santiago
Arianna Santiago, Senior Staff Photographer
Arianna Santiago ('24) is from Bremerton, Wash., and studying electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering. When not shooting for The Hustler or for freelance work, Arianna can be found leading campus tours, organizing events for University Catholic, attempting to study and procrastinating her lab reports. You can reach her at [email protected].
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