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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.

Great Expectations: Vanderbilt bowling wins Lansing Regional and advances to NCAA Championship tournament

The Commodores finished the weekend early with routs of Alabama State and Arkansas State.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt bowling poses after winning their NCAA Regional tournament on April 9, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

After finishing fourth at their hometown tournament in mid-March, it was fair to assume that the young Vanderbilt Commodores bowling team might limp its way through the postseason. Through two victories in the Southland League championship and an NCAA regional, Vanderbilt now looks as poised as any team to take home the national title in Columbus, Ohio, April 15-16.

The Commodores entered the postseason as a No. 1 seed in the set of four NCAA regionals. That placement allowed them to avoid stiff competition with a first round matchup against unranked Alabama State.

The NCAA Regionals used the same double elimination “mega-match” format as the Southland League tournament. In this format, teams play a best-of-three series consisting of a traditional match, a Baker match and a best-of-seven Baker series.

The first match against Alabama State went as expected—without a hitch. Freshman phenom Paige Peters led the way in the traditional match with a 258-pin performance as the Commodores blanked the Hornets 1,075-914. The Baker match wasn’t much closer; Vanderbilt led from start to finish and advanced to the second round without any trouble.

In the afternoon match, the Commodores faced conference foe No. 6 Arkansas State, who beat fellow Southland team No. 9 Youngstown State in its morning series. When the two teams met in the Southland tournament on March 25, Vanderbilt won the mega-match 2-1 after conceding the first Baker series.

The Commodores got in their own way during the opening traditional match against Arkansas State. With several pins left standing and some inconsistency in strikes, Vanderbilt dropped well below its traditional total in the former series and lost the match, 972-944.

“When you’re bowling for yourself you have a different feeling than when you’re bowling for a team,” head coach John Williamson said regarding the learning curve for younger players. “There’s added pressure to not let anyone down.”

The result of the first Baker match was a 189-189 tie—a rarity in the sport. The Red Wolves jumped out to an 11-pin lead after Game 2, but the Commodores gained a slight advantage after Game 3 with a 650-635 series score. Subpar bowling by both teams in Game 4 stagnated the advantage at plus-23 for Vanderbilt heading into the final match.

While Game 5 appeared as if it might swing the series back in the Red Wolves’ favor, a set of strikes in the 10th frame by Peters sealed the Baker match for the Commodores and forced a tiebreaker best-of-seven Baker series.

“I think Paige had some nerves,” Williamson said. “We had a conversation with her in the middle of the Arkansas State game, and she got better after it.”

Olivia Rodrigo levels of deja vu struck the two teams in Game 1 as they tied the opener for the second straight series. Arkansas State then regressed into a slump, totaling only 194 and 175 pins in Games 2 and 3, respectively. By the time the Red Wolves crossed the 200-pin mark in Game 4, the series was more or less over—the Commodores held a 3.5-0.5 lead. 

Then, Vanderbilt found itself in a rut of its own. With consecutive poor shooting performances, the Commodores dropped Games 5 and 6. The series was on the line in Game 7, and the Red Wolves were disastrously unready for prime time. They totaled a meager 158 pins, and Vanderbilt completed the overall series with a victory.

With a 2-0 record thus far, the Commodores awaited the winner of the Arkansas State and Youngstown State rematch and only had to win one of two series to clinch a spot in the NCAA Final Four. Arkansas State lost the traditional match but executed clean sweeps of both Baker series to set up a championship series against the Commodores.

Seniors Angelica Anthony and Angelique Delasandro led the way in the traditional match with 244 and 206 pins, respectively, as the Commodores clinched a 1-0 series advantage with a victory. Six consecutive strikes in frames 5-10 allowed Vanderbilt to also start hot in the Baker match, and the Commodores held a 54-pin lead after Game 1.

“The one thing that kept me grounded was being aware of my emotions at the time because obviously this is the match that decides who goes home and who goes on,” Anthony said. “I tell myself that your body doesn’t know the difference between nervousness and excitement.”

Delasandro’s play was miraculous for a number of reasons, as the senior returned to action just this week after breaking her foot in January and being taken off the injury list less than two weeks before the competition.

“This was her first bowling in eight to nine weeks,” Williamson explained. “She did everything you could ask of somebody and more.”

Arkansas State got back in its groove in Game 2 and brought the series to a more manageable 47-pin deficit, but a major regression in Game 3 effectively sealed the deal on the series. The Red Wolves scored only 169 pins while Vanderbilt continued its hot shooting with 224. Game 4 gave the Commodores an almost insurmountable 121-pin lead heading into the final Baker game.

“I kind of felt like the energy and everything was going our way, so I pulled the team to the side and said the team that wins this match is the team that wants it the most,” Anthony said. “If we wanted it more, then we would get it.”

Even though the Red Wolves bounced back tremendously with a 244-pin performance in Game 5, middle-of-the-road Vanderbilt shooting was enough to keep a vice grip on the match. With a final Baker score of 1,110-1,017, Vanderbilt secured a 2-0 victory in the mega-match and advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

“Honestly, it feels really good because I feel like we got past the hardest part of the [NCAA] tournament,” Anthony said. “I think just by accomplishing what we did [this] weekend is a huge weight off our shoulders.”

No matter what happens next weekend, Williamson said he hopes the players get what they deserve.

“I do feel like there’s an underappreciation for the things our girls have done,” Williamson said. “We’re two wins away from the opportunity to compete for a national title, and at that point, that’s all we’re looking at—putting a final spin on what this team is.”

The Final Four will kick off in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, April 15 at 8 a.m. CDT, with Vanderbilt taking on No. 13 Fairleigh Dickinson. The other participants will be No. 1 McKendree and No. 8 Stephen F. Austin. All games 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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