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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: Commodores finish second at Regionals, will not advance to Final Four

After losing to Vanderbilt in last season’s national championship, Arkansas State got its revenge by ending the Commodores’ season prematurely.
Vanderbilt+claimed+victory+in+a+rematch+against+Merrimack.+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt claimed victory in a rematch against Merrimack. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Vanderbilt Bowling finished second behind No. 2 Arkansas State at the NCAA Regional in Rochester, N.Y., closing the curtain on an up-and-down season. The defending national champions were selected as the second seed in a region featuring last year’s national runner-up, No. 16 Merrimack, William Smith and Fayetteville State.

“I wouldn’t call it a failure,” head coach John Williamson said of the season. “I felt like our girls competed the whole year. I don’t see it as a disappointment, but there were missed opportunities.”

The NCAA Regionals adopt a double-elimination format in which teams compete in “mega-matches” consisting of a traditional match, Baker match and Baker best-of-seven series. Each mega-match is best-of-three, so the Baker series is optional depending on the result of the prior two matches.

The Commodores opened the tournament with a mega-match against Merrimack, the champions of the Northeast Conference. Behind 248 from Amanda Naujokas and 244 from Paige Peters, Vanderbilt got out to an early lead with an 1,111-1,050 victory in the traditional match. The Warriors rebounded with a torrid shooting performance en route to a 1,160-1,003 Baker match victory that sent the mega-match to a best-of-seven.

After a strong 242-pin performance in game 1, the Commodores suddenly lost all momentum, totaling a meager 177 and 160 in games 2 and 3, respectively. Down 2-1, Vanderbilt fought back and came within five pins of winning game 4, but Merrimack hit just enough strikes to put the Commodores down in five games. 

Just one match into the tournament, Vanderbilt lost all of its margin for error.

“That’s the hard part of our sport. There’s no scoring,” Williamson said. “I felt like we had a good look at the pocket. They just had a better one.”

The Commodores rebounded by cruising past William Smith in a 2-0 mega-match, not needing the best-of-seven to dispense with the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference champions. Once Merrimack lost to Arkansas State, a do-or-die rematch between the Warriors and the Commodores was sealed.

Having already felt the sting of a potent Merrimack offense, Vanderbilt was in no mood to mess around in the rematch. The Commodores won by a healthy 1,013-925 margin in the traditional match behind 236 pins from freshman Hailey Lindley, then eked out the narrowest of victories in the ensuing Baker match. By a 2-0 margin, Vanderbilt would finally advance to face the hosts of the region.

The NCAA Selection Committee set up a fierce showdown in Rochester by pitting the reigning national champions and runners-up against each other for a spot in this season’s Final Four. On Saturday, April 6, both teams delivered.

Arkansas State struck first by taking a strike-laden 1,058-975 victory in the traditional match. The Commodores immediately bounced back, opening up a 60-pin lead after the first game of the Baker match. That lead would hold through the remaining four games, with the Commodores clinching a 1,042-999 Baker match victory over the roars of a local contingent of Vanderbilt fans.

In the tie-breaking best-of-seven series, the Commodores were ultimately not undone by their opponent’s scoring, but by their own lack of it. The Black and Gold took game 1 in a repeat of the Merrimack match; but, in keeping with the Merrimack match, they proceeded to lose the following four. The largest culprit was not a prolific shooting stretch by Arkansas State, but rather an anomalous 13 opens for the defending champions.

Spare shooting has been a concern for the Commodores for three seasons. This season, it cost them.

“We had a couple of opens and the air went out of the balloon,” Williamson said. “I felt like we did enough that we could have been successful, but some teams did more.”

The tournament concludes the collegiate careers of Naujokas, Jennifer Loredo and Caroline Thesier. All members of the national championship team, Loredo was the Most Valuable Player of the 2023 Final Four, while Thesier was a 2023 Second Team All-American. Also members of the 2021 and 2022 Southland Bowling League Championship teams, the three will go down in Vanderbilt history as among the university’s most accomplished student-athletes in any sport.

“Those three, when you think of them, the thing that I think of is that they’ve been very successful and they’ve won a lot,” Williamson said of his seniors. “The class of 2024, when I think of them, I just think of winning.”

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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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