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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 finishes second at Mid-Winter Invitational

The Commodores had their best placement of the spring behind a career performance from Kailee Channell.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt Bowling finished second behind Arkansas State at the Mid-Winter Invitational. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

No. 5 Vanderbilt Bowling corrected course from two consecutive eighth-place finishes by coming in second at the Mid-Winter Invitational in Jonesboro, Ark. The Commodores won a spring-best 10 matches before falling in the finale to host, No. 3 Arkansas State.

“In some ways I think it’s coach speak and all that stuff, but I do think that there was a truth to the concept that we had two and a half weeks of real practice,” head coach John Williamson said. “We hadn’t had that up until this point in the spring, and so we had a really hard time actually getting to feel good about something.”

The Commodores opened the weekend with a lineup of Caroline Thesier, Kailee Channell, Paige Peters, Amanda Naujokas and Victoria Varano. Behind the veteran lineup, Vanderbilt got off to a blistering 5-0 start on opening day, their first undefeated day of competition since November. Notably absent from the Commodores’ substitution pattern was the same willingness to play deep rotations as well as their usual reliance on freshmen talent.

“This weekend, with the last couple of weekends, it was very important that we bowled well,” Williamson said. “[So] we didn’t necessarily have the leash that we’ve had for the year with allowing people to make a couple of mistakes and figure it out.”

The uncontested star of the weekend was Channell, a Tennessee native who missed the entirety of last season due to a hip injury. Having been increasingly worked into the rotation this season, Channell took full advantage of a situation that desperately called for someone to lead the Commodores beyond the morass of January.

“Going in, I knew that whatever role I was given for the weekend I was going to make the most of,” Channell said. “I’m just going to do all that I can do no matter what.”

Vanderbilt didn’t miss a beat on the second day of the tournament as they progressed into traditional match play. The Commodores bested No. 10 Maryville, Alabama State and No. 15 Wisconsin-Whitewater before taking on No. 1 Jacksonville State. In a matchup between the only two teams to hold the No. 1 ranking all season, the Gamecocks came out narrowly on top with a score of 1,067-1,023.

Despite the loss, Vanderbilt came back even stronger in its final game of seeding play, scoring 1,033 pins against No. 2 Youngstown State. Nevertheless, the Penguins handed the Commodores their second straight loss of the tournament, putting Vanderbilt in third place to begin bracket play.

The Commodores opened the final day of competition with a rematch against Youngstown State for a spot in the tournament semifinal. After taking an early 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Baker series, Vanderbilt suffered a major setback in game 3 as it notched only 162 pins. However, if the experiences of January have taught the Commodores anything, it’s how to deal with adversity — and deal with it they did. Vanderbilt went on to easily clear the Penguins in game 4 and wrap the series up in a tidy five games.

With a spot in the championship on the line, the Commodores rematched Jacksonville State with a chance to get even against the only other team that had beaten them all weekend. The series was neck-and-neck through two games before the Gamecocks established a 2-1 lead following a thin, 2-pin victory in game 3. Facing the prospect of a nigh-insurmountable 3-1 deficit, the Commodores had to do something if they wanted to maintain a chance at moving on.

With a lineup of Thesier, Channell, Alyssa Ballard, Peters and Varano, Vanderbilt accomplished what it had only previously done six times in the entirety of its storied history: score a perfect 300 points in a Baker game. The generational performance completely swung the momentum of the series, propelling the Commodores to three straight victories and a spot in the tournament finale.

Having dodged its bitter rival all weekend, Vanderbilt faced Arkansas State in a rematch of last season’s national championship. The Commodores began with all of the momentum on their side, winning games 1 and 2 by a combined 72 pins. Then, the luck ran out.

“After we got up 2-0, we kind of fell back into our old pattern,” Channell said. “Instead of pushing as hard as we had been to get ahead, we laid back a little.”

The Red Wolves trounced the Commodores 241-153 in game 3, shifting the momentum and completely reinvigorating the atmosphere in a bowling alley very friendly to the home team. After losing by six pins in game 4, Vanderbilt fell completely apart, surrendering the next two games and finishing the tournament in second place.

“There’s a big difference between being up 3-1 and being even at 2-2,” Williamson said. “When we lost game 4 and we missed the two makeables to lose by 6 pins … the momentum was on their side, and the shot became out of our comfort zone and played more to their comfort zone.”

Despite the bittersweet finish, Vanderbilt still finished with its highest placement since early November. With only two tournaments left in the regular season, it was necessary for the Commodores to right the ship and remain at the top of the race for the NCAA Championship.

Commensurate with her success leading the Commodores over the weekend, Channell was awarded the first all-tournament team selection of her collegiate career as she finished fourth individually. Thesier and Varano also finished in the top 15 of the individual rankings, while Peters came in 24th.

Vanderbilt will next be in action at the NC A&T Stallings Invitational in Greensboro, N.C. from Feb. 23-25.

Baker Match Scores:

Vanderbilt defeats No. 17 Oklahoma Christian 921-870

Vanderbilt defeats No. 11 Sam Houston State 1,063-960

Vanderbilt defeats No. 7 Louisiana Tech 1,040-1,023

Vanderbilt defeats No. 8 Stephen F. Austin 1,133-1,074

Vanderbilt defeats Jackson State 991-694

Traditional Match Scores:

Vanderbilt defeats Maryville  1,012-1,007

Vanderbilt defeats Alabama State 1,033-811

Vanderbilt defeats Wisconsin-Whitewater 1,087-868

Jacksonville State defeats Vanderbilt 1,067-1,023

Youngstown State defeats Vanderbilt 1,108-1,033

Baker Bracket Scores:

Vanderbilt defeats Youngstown State 4-1

Vanderbilt defeats Jacksonville State 4-2

Arkansas State defeats Vanderbilt 4-2

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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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