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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 continues cold streak, finishes eighth at Prairie View Invitational

For the second tournament in a row, the Commodores have found themselves behind the eight-ball and in the eighth spot.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt huddles at the 2024 Prairie View Invitational. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

No. 2 Vanderbilt Bowling wrapped up their third tournament in as many weeks with a trip to Arlington, Tex. for the Prairie View Invitational. Despite being the tournament’s reigning champions, the Commodores struggled against a field of 12 teams that was crowded with nine of the NTCA Top 10. Vanderbilt finished in eighth place — ahead of No. 9 Stephen F. Austin and No. 10 Maryville — but behind most of its top-ranked peers.

“I’d like to think that it’s exhaustion, it’s lack of practice,” head coach John Williamson said. “I don’t have a great answer in terms of what’s transpiring. It’s the simple mistakes. It’s the lack of urgency. Sometimes the lack of competitiveness. Sometimes all three.”

The players themselves admit to a feeling of fatigue.

“We haven’t had time to catch our breaths,” freshman Haley Lindley said. “[But] in a way, I think it’s a good thing, because it’s exposed some things that we all need to work on that will help us come this postseason.”

Because of the limited size of the tournament, the weekend began with each team playing each other team, round-robin style. On the opening day, Vanderbilt faced No. 4 Louisiana Tech, No. 9 Stephen F. Austin, Southern, No. 11 Sam Houston State and No. 3 Youngstown State in the Baker format.

With a lineup of Lindley, Alyssa Ballard, Victoria Varano, Caroline Thesier and Paige Peters, the Commodores got off to a slow start with a 934-913 loss to Louisiana Tech. Following a substitution of Amanda Naujokas for Ballard, Vanderbilt rebounded with two 1,000-pin-plus performances in victories over Stephen F. Austin and Southern.

After breaking 1,000 pins in matches 2 and 3, the Commodores would struggle in the final two games, managing 988 and 982 pins in losses to Sam Houston State and Youngstown State, respectively. With that, the Commodores finished 2-3 on the day but fifth in the standings.

Saturday’s traditional match play fared no better for Vanderbilt, as the team lost a season-high four matches in one day. Though coming against elite competition in No. 5 North Carolina A&T, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 1 Jacksonville State and No. 6 Arkansas State, the Commodores are still unaccustomed to facing that much adversity. Vanderbilt’s lone victory on Saturday came against No. 10 Maryville, 1,145-953.

Vanderbilt entered the final day of competition with one remaining seeding game against host Prairie View A&M. After beating the Panthers 949-849, the Commodores finished round-robin play with a record of 4-7 — their worst record in the seeding round since March of 2021.

“I think it’s both physical and mental,” Lindley said of the challenges. “There’s kind of a sense of a lack of competitiveness.”

Despite the heavy losses, Vanderbilt still entered Baker bracket play in fifth place because of its relatively high average of just over 1,000 pins per match. Locked out of championship contention, the Commodores rematched Sam Houston State for the opportunity to finish fifth or sixth. 

“There’s times it’s been pretty good and there’s times they’re putting a little too much pressure on themselves to be successful,” Williamson said. “When you try to force yourself to do really anything in sports, whether it’s make shots in basketball or throw strikes in a pitch in baseball, you tend to make more mistakes.”

After beating the Commodores in Baker play on opening day, the Bearkats showed little sign of slowing down as they took game 1 of the best-of-seven series 200-193. Vanderbilt bounced back to win game 2 194-179, but the two teams spent the remainder of the series ping-ponging back and forth. Sam Houston State would win a game, then Vanderbilt, then so on and so forth until the Bearkats stood on top 3-2 heading into game 6.

With the series on the line, the Commodores made one mistake after another, finishing the game without a strike or spare in five frames. Vanderbilt would fall, 202-140, and move on to face North Carolina A&T for its final match of the weekend.

Another rematch of an earlier series Vanderbilt lost, the final best-of-seven series came all the way down to game 7. After clinching narrow victories in low-scoring games 1 and 2, the Commodores faltered in game 3 191-169. With nothing to play for but seventh place, neither team seemed particularly motivated to be there, and neither cracked the 200-pin mark until game 5.

After losing a tough game 4, the Aggies trailed 3-1 in the series with little indication that they could overcome a still moribund Commodore offense. But, whether motivation or luck, a switch seemed to flip in game 5, and North Carolina A&T rattled off three straight 200-pin performances en route to a series comeback and clinching victory in game 7. Only once in the entire series would Vanderbilt cross the 200-pin threshold.

The morose offensive display was evident in the all-tournament team selection, as no Commodore qualified for the first time in the calendar year. Peters was the highest finisher at 11th overall, followed by Varano in 27th.

“At the moment, in some ways, we’re searching for an identity as who we are and what this team will be,” Williamson said. “You don’t really like to be two-thirds of the way through your season and figuring out that you’re looking for an identity, but I guess it’s better than being through your season and still looking.”

Vanderbilt will now have a much-needed weekend off before hitting the road again on Feb. 16-18 for the Mid-Winter Invitational hosted by Arkansas State. The Commodores only have three more tournaments to right the ship before the regular season concludes.

Baker Match Scores:

Louisiana Tech defeats Vanderbilt 934-913

Vanderbilt defeats Stephen F. Austin 1,093-939

Vanderbilt defeats Southern 1,031-937

Sam Houston State defeats Vanderbilt 1,054-988

Youngstown State defeats Vanderbilt 1,061-982

Traditional Match Scores:

North Carolina A&T defeats Vanderbilt 1,015-987

Nebraska defeats Vanderbilt 1,200-929

Vanderbilt defeats Maryville 1,145-953

Jacksonville State defeats Vanderbilt 1,034-991

Arkansas State defeats Vanderbilt 1,161-1,024

Vanderbilt defeats Prairie View A&M 949-849

Baker Bracket Scores:

Sam Houston State defeats Vanderbilt 4-2

North Carolina A&T defeats Vanderbilt 4-3

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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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