Feb. 25, 2012
BESSEMER, Ala. -- The consistency and momentum of Friday's first day slowly evaporated for Vanderbilt's bowling team Saturday and as a result, despite an 8-1 won-loss mark, the Commodores will be the No. 3 seed in Sunday's title bracket at the ninth annual Holiday Classic.
Vanderbilt will bowl fourth seed Valparaiso with the winner going to first place and the losing team no better than fifth in this unusual nine-team bracket.
The Commodores opened the day with gusto and a win over Alabama-Birmingham but the Vandy team agreed that the second game - a bye that each team had to have with an uneven number of competing teams - was the turning point in the day.
"We went downhill after that bye," said Kim Carper.
"As a team we tend to lose momentum when we have bye games," agreed Jessica Earnest, who later would rescue her team from an upset-minded UAB squad with a 235 effort. "In the NCAA, regardless of what sport, you can't take anything for granted. These teams all want to win and for many, a win over Vanderbilt becomes the focus of their web site's report."
Vandy had entered the day with nearly a 250-pin lead on the field but watched it erode while it struggled in every way.
"It's not how you want to go into the Sunday bracket," said Coach John Williamson. "We missed 22 makeable spares and that is not considering the splits. We were not executing our first shots well enough to overcome such shaky spare shooting. Yesterday we went with five bowlers all day and were clicking. Today we could not get five on the same page."
After the bye which caused the blahs, Vandy turned back Alabama State but then lost to Valparaiso and then had to fight for its life to top that same UAB unit it beat hours earlier. UAB, vastly improved since last fall, had upset Central Missouri yesterday and had designs on its second big takedown, leading Vanderbilt through the first seven frames.
Vandy's winning rally against the Blazers began in the eighth when Courtney Morgan, substitute Rebeca Reguero, Earnest and Samantha Hesley struck and Brittni Hamilton led off the ninth with the team's first consecutive bullseye. The team was still down a few pins heading into the 10th but clutch finishes by Earnest and Hesley salted away the win.
Arkansas State had a big day and won the top seed and will play Central Missouri in the other side of the championship bracket.
Central star Natalie Jiminez won individual honors with a 218.6 average while Earnest was Vandy's top individual in 11th place at 201.8.
Vanderbilt kept up its steady Friday pace in the morning's opener, topping an improved UAB squad that battled hard until a ninth frame sag. Hamilton led the charge over 1,000 with a 233, softened only by a ninth frame split. Each slot in the Vandy rotation had an open and all were over 190. The Commodores allowed Hamilton and Hesley to sit out the bye game, which is necessary with an uneven number of competing teams (9). With less intensity, the `Dores managed only 861, led by Carper's 193.
Next in the rotation was Alabama State, not regarded as a national power but a team that often has played Vanderbilt tough and beat the Commodores in the 2010-11 season opener. This one was never in real doubt but was closer than some may have expected. Strong games from Earnest and Hesley kept things under control.
For the Commodores, the match of most interest was their fourth one of the day against third-rated Valparaiso. It proved disappointing; 11 open frames will do that. The Crusaders had a nice start and grabbed an early lead. Several mini-rallies by the `Dores were cut off with splits and resulting opens and Valpo got into a good gear in the middle of its seventh frame, rolling eight strikes out of 10 attempts at one point.
Sunday's best-of-seven Bakers begin at 8:30 a.m.
Arkansas State 8,919
Central Missouri 8,870
VU 1,015 Alabama-Birmingham 930
VU 952 Alabama State 870
Valparaiso 1,005 VU 910
VU 912 UAB 893