The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

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.

One Step Closer: Vanderbilt Bowling advances to the Final Four

For the second straight season, the Commodores have emerged victorious from the Lansing Regional.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt bowling celebrates during a tournament in mid-January, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Only two universities — Nebraska and Maryland Eastern Shore — can claim three or more NCAA championships. After winning the Lansing Regional, Vanderbilt has a chance to become the third.

Despite a disappointing finish in the Southland Bowling League Tournament, the Commodores entered the 16-team NCAA Regionals as the No. 2 overall seed. This paired Vanderbilt with Carthage College, Youngstown State and Maryville University in the double elimination, mega-match format.

Under the mega-match, teams play a traditional match — where each player bowls ten frames at once — followed by a Baker match — where there are five games with two frames bowled by each player per game. If the teams split, they advance to a Baker best-of-seven series.

Vanderbilt began by playing the lowest-seeded team in Lansing — Carthage. The Firebirds secured an automatic bid to the tournament field by winning the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. The Commodores welcomed them to the party with a 1,047-917 victory in the opening traditional match.

The ensuing Baker match proved to be more competitive. Vanderbilt held a mere 4-pin lead after the first game, followed by an even narrower 2-pin margin after the second. Six consecutive strikes to end game 3 created the separation the Commodores needed, and Vanderbilt went on to win the match — and the mega-match — 1,043-1,019.

In the second round, the Commodores were  met with an opportunity for revenge against Youngstown State — the team that prematurely knocked them out of Southland Bowling League title contention. Behind 245 pins from Mabel Cummins and 222 from Amanda Naujokas, the Commodores captured the traditional match 1,018-991.

Vanderbilt found itself down for the first time after the opening game of the Baker match. Despite a rebound performance in game 2, the deficit increased to a not-insignificant 25 pins.

A perfect game requires 12 strikes because of the extended length of the 10th frame. In game 3, the Commodores hit 11. Strikes in all but the second frame catapulted the Commodores to a 668-639 match lead that visibly demoralized the Penguins in game 4. Despite a slowdown in game 5, Vanderbilt had done enough to secure the Baker match and a mega-match victory over Youngstown State.

The Commodores then watched as Youngstown State and Maryville played for another shot at the regional leaders. Though it took until the final frame of the best-of-seven series, the Penguins finally overcame the Saints and set up a rematch with Vanderbilt.

The rematch of the rematch opened with a traditional match in which only two Commodores — Caroline Thesier and Victoria Varano — broke the 200-pin mark as the team limped to a loss.The scoring slump continued into the Baker match as Vanderbilt found itself down by a staggering 72 pins after just game 1.

By the end of the five games, the Commodores still trailed by 100 pins, and Youngstown State was declared the winner of the mega-match. A spot in the Final Four now hinged upon a winner-take-all, best-of-seven Baker series.

Both teams knew the stakes, and they responded accordingly. Vanderbilt opened with two strikes. Youngstown State opened with four. The Commodores spent the rest of the game playing catch-up until Varano and Cummins struck out in the final two frames. Vanderbilt would escape the opener with a 209-197 victory.

Two turkeys in game 2 propelled the Commodores to a trouble-free 232-178 win. Game 3 was the opposite — neither team could buy a strike. Youngstown State held a narrow lead entering the final frames, but Varano and Cummins pulled through once again with strikes in the 9th and 10th frames. Vanderbilt would win the game 181-168 and hold a 3-0 series lead.

With such a large margin for error — and after such a long weekend — it would have been understandable for the Commodores to slip up in game 4. They were in no danger. There was no need to expend the energy.

Vanderbilt would have four shots to seal their trip to Vegas. They only needed one.

A strike came in the first frame. Then the second. Then the third. The Commodores opened with the lead and never trailed en route to a 211-192 victory that secured a series sweep. For the second year in a row, Vanderbilt was crowned the champion of the Lansing Regional.

The Commodores now head to Las Vegas for their 10th Final Four in 20 years under head coach John Williamson. Vanderbilt will play No. 3 Arkansas State in the first round of the double elimination, mega-match format before facing either No. 1 McKendree or No. 4 Nebraska.

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About the Contributor
Jayce Pollard
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. He can be reached at [email protected]
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