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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.

Bowling: Vanderbilt comes up short at Northeast Classic

Occupying eighth in the standings at the end of the weekend, the Commodores had their worst outing of the season.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Victoria Varano steps up to the lane at the Northeast Classic. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Success is a relative measure. Compared to the other 33 teams at New Castle, Delaware’s Northeast Classic, Vanderbilt Bowling finished strong in eighth place. Compared to their own previous outings, the Commodores had by far their worst placement of the year, finishing well behind their prior lowpoint of the bronze medal.

“Everybody has strengths and weaknesses,” head coach John Williamson said. “What was required to be successful wasn’t our strength.”

As one of the older bowling alleys in competitive circulation, New Castle’s Bowlerama features lanes with an inordinate amount of wear and tear. Given the amount of friction this creates, such lanes are more conducive to bowlers with a softer throwing motion and lower velocity — not the type of bowler that Vanderbilt has emphasized in recruiting.

“Looking across the board, there was a specific type of bowler that bowled well,” sophomore Victoria Varano said. “I left some [spares] that I have never left in 17 years of bowling.”

Despite the unorthodox lanes, No. 2 Vanderbilt got off to a hot start with a 4-1 record on opening day. A collection of wins over Bryant, No. 13 Maryland Eastern Shore, Wagner and Wilmington vaulted the Commodores to fourth in the standings despite an untimely loss to St. Francis to end the Friday slate.

While head-to-head wins are nice, what really matters in bowling is a team’s average pin count. After opening day, the Commodores held an average of 210.32 pins per game. Vanderbilt managed another impressive 4-1 outing on Saturday, but their pin counts in those games took a noticeable dip down to 204.1.

That left the Commodores, even with an 8-2 record, out of the possibility of championship contention by the time bracket play began. With the seventh seed, the best the team could hope for was a fifth place finish — already below their season’s nadir.

In the first game of bracket play, Vanderbilt matched with No. 9 Stephen F. Austin. Just a week ago, the Commodores took down the Ladyjacks 1,024-979 in a traditional match at the Las Vegas Invitational. That momentum held in Delaware as the Commodores posted blistering scores of 256 and 252 to start the series, leading them to an early 2-0 lead. 

After dropping game 3, Vanderbilt rebounded with an eight-pin margin of victory in game 4 and a series-clinching win in game 5. With that, the Commodores moved on to face No. 12 Tulane for the first time since a victory in the Ladyjacks Classic last November.

Vanderbilt employed a lineup of Haley Lindley, Amanda Naujokas, Alyssa Ballard, Paige Peters and Varano to attempt another triumph over the Green Wave. The group got off to a shaky start with only 179 pins in game 1 before rebounding to take games 2 and 3 and lead the series 2-1. That’s when the unorthodox lanes struck again.

“Start[ing] off is not the issue, it’s once we hit transition and there’s so many teams playing in so many spots,” Varano said. “It’s nothing we’re able to replicate in practice.”

The Commodores came to a screeching halt with only 176 pins in a game 4 loss. A 214-pin performance might usually have been enough to win in game 5, but Tulane mustered a miraculous 240 pins to take a series lead.

With their backs against the wall, the Commodores responded in game 6 with their best performance of the day: an incredible 256 pins. With both teams on fire and the series tied, all eyes were on the winner-take-all final game.

For Vanderbilt, it was not to be.

Tulane kept its part of the bargain with 243 pins. Vanderbilt could only manage 191. With that, the Commodores were relegated to rematching Stephen F. Austin in a battle for seventh place.

“They way sports and life is, you don’t always get to do what you want,” Williamson said of playing on the tougher lanes. “You do what you have to do.”

After narrowly losing a 239-233 shootout in game 1, the Commodores fell back down to 190 pins in game 2. A 214-171 win in game 3 made the series briefly competitive, but the Ladyjacks quickly pulled away from a clearly out-of-sync Vanderbilt squad. With a series loss, the Commodores would finish the tournament in eight place — their lowest mark on the season.

Despite the overall tough break for the team, Peters continued to bolster her All-American resume with a third place individual finish and spot on the all-tournament team. The junior from Toms River, New Jersey has made the all-tournament team in four of the six tournaments in which the Commodores have played this season — a pace that puts her firmly in the competition for National Player of the Year.

Vanderbilt will next travel to Arlington, Tex. to compete in the Prairie View Invitational from Jan. 26-28. This will mark the third straight weekend of action for the Commodores, who then get a rest before playing the final three tournaments of the regular season.


Baker Match Scores:

Vanderbilt defeats Bryant 966-833

Vanderbilt defeats Maryland Eastern Shore 1,110-1,022

Vanderbilt defeats Wagner 1,082-896

Vanderbilt defeats Wilmington 1,174-932

St. Francis defeats Vanderbilt 964-926


Traditional Match Scores:

Mount St. Mary’s defeats Vanderbilt 985-906

Vanderbilt defeats Long Island 975-930

Vanderbilt defeats Merrimack 1,012-944

Vanderbilt defeats Morgan State 1,013-1,010

Vanderbilt defeats Sacred Heart 1,041-980


Baker Bracket Scores:

Vanderbilt defeats Stephen F. Austin 4-1

Tulane defeats Vanderbilt 4-3

Stephen F. Austin defeats Vanderbilt 4-1


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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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