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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.

Super Bowl(ing) Sunday: Vanderbilt Bowling finishes second at Lady Techster Classic

Confronted with unusual conditions, the Commodores leaned on depth and veteran experience to clinch another high placement.
Vanderbilt Athletics
The Vanderbilt Bowling team (Vanderbilt Atheltics).

With a win at the Prairie View Invitational, Vanderbilt Bowling proved that it has what it takes to win major tournaments. Then, with a tantalizingly-close finish at the Lady Techster Classic, the team learned that it still has a ways to go before the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s frustrating because it’s another second-place finish,” associate head coach Josie Barnes said. “It’s another lesson learned.”

Regardless of the final result, the Commodores have undoubtedly shown progress since the start of the season. The team is up to No. 2 in the latest NTCA rankings and received 9 of the 39 first-place votes.

As early as pre-tournament practice, it was apparent that the competition would be irregular. Only eight teams were competing, each team would play all other teams twice before advancing to a single playoff round and — most consequentially — the oil pattern was far from standard.

“It was a significantly longer pattern,” Barnes said. “I’m hard pressed to believe we’ll see another pattern like that.”

The difference made by the oil pattern was felt in the opening match against No. 9 Sam Houston State as young starters Alyssa Ballard and Paige Peters were quickly substituted for Kaylee Hitt and the veteran Amanda Naujokas. The switch wasn’t enough to save the series, but it propelled the Commodores to subsequent wins against Southern, Tulane and St. Anselm.

“We have such a successful team because, if somebody doesn’t have the best look, somebody can step in and help them,” Naujokas said.

Vanderbilt had another skid against No. 12 Louisiana Tech, dipping below 1,000 pins for the first time all day. Inconsistent striking resulted in the second loss of the weekend, but high-scoring performances in their three wins kept the Commodores on top of the field after day one.

After 24 hours to settle in, Vanderbilt found its stride on the second day. All five matches — including a rematch against Sam Houston State and a bout with No. 22 Tulane — were decided in favor of the Black and Gold by more than 100 pins.

It was one of the most dominant days in the history of the program and was nearly record-setting: One missed pin in the 10th frame of game 3 against Grambling was all that kept the Commodores from earning their seventh perfect game in school history.

That momentum carried over into Sunday morning as Vanderbilt faced another slate of four round-robin opponents. The only close contest was the rematch against Louisiana Tech in which, despite scoring below 1,000 pins, the Commodores still managed to win by a healthy 71-pin margin.

With the abnormal format out of the way, Vanderbilt advanced to the championship series. By nature of their ludicrous Saturday performance, the Commodores were the top seed and the unquestioned favorite. Occupying the opposing lane, after drawing Vanderbilt 1-1 in round-robin, was Sam Houston State.

And so the tournament ended the same way it began.

Game 1 was a horrid performance for both sides. Whether from physical fatigue, mental exhaustion or tense nerves, the Commodores posted their worst single-game outing of the weekend with a measly 149 pins.

Game 2 was an immediate bounceback effort. Vanderbilt began with two strikes, carried forward the momentum with four consecutive strikes in the late frames and finished with a 222-191 victory to tie the series.

Game 3 was a regression back to the mean. The Commodores struggled with leaving pins on the board and suffered accordingly with a 2-1 series deficit.

Game 4 was a rinse-repeat of game 3. With another championship on the line, Vanderbilt headed into an all-too-familiar elimination game.

“I would say there was a little sense of anxiety when we were down,” Naujokas said. “[But] as we’ve shown in past weekends, we can come back from a deficit.”

Game 5 had no margin for error. Unfortunately, the Commodores erred on the margins. For the fifth time in its last six tournaments, Vanderbilt Bowling finished in second place.

“As a team, we’re going to work on believing in, visualizing and understanding that we can win,” Naujokas said. “We will come out with a win if we keep putting ourselves in a position to win.”

A similar sentiment was shared by the coaching staff.

“I think it was more mental than anything else,” Barnes said. “We’re going to talk about how we can mentally shift quicker.”

None of this is to say the team didn’t perform well — particularly in its round-robin matches. Caroline Thesier, Mabel Cummins and Naujokas each made the all-tournament team with the senior Cummins finishing as the top individual scorer.

Vanderbilt has a weekend off before heading to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the Stallings Invitational from Feb. 24-26. It will be the year’s penultimate regular season tournament and the last before the Vanderbilt-hosted Music City Classic from Mar. 17-19.

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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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