March 7, 2010
HOWELL, N.J. --- When push came to shove, two of collegiate bowling's most dominant performers propelled Vanderbilt to victory in the 2010 ECAC Championship Sunday.
Brittni Hamilton and Josie Earnest gave the Commodores a potent 1-2 punch, which proved more than enough to knock out a Delaware State unit that was putting up some pretty good numbers of its own. Vanderbilt won the championship match, four games to one, after sweeping Kutztown in the semi-finals.
"I think we are starting to jell as a team," said Coach John Williamson. "We emphasize match play and think that's our strong suit. When our 1-2-3 bowlers can set the table for Brittni and Josie we are going to win a lot of matches."
"The way we played forced our opponents to beat us and the way the shot was playing, that was hard to do," Williamson continued. "Josie was just lights out when she had to be, she made sure somebody would have to beat us with clutch shot after clutch shot. And Brittni was very, very good today."
"We made an adjustment in how we played the lanes from the start today and I felt very comfortable," Josie Earnest said. "I thrive in the anchor position and want the ball in my hand when we need a big shot."
Vanderbilt was able to apply pressure on every opponent during the day and the All-American Hamilton was one of the reasons.
"I was a lot better today than yesterday," the Webster, N.Y. sophomore admitted. "I could never get into a groove yesterday but I was really relaxed today - in a comfort zone all the time. I was pleased that as a team we were able to answer every opponent's run and never gave in."
Vanderbilt came into the title match having dusted Kutztown for the second time in a few hours while Delaware State had to work hard to top second-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson, four games to two.
Things got off to a good start with a high-scoring, 233-220, win in game one. Josie was huge, striking out to ice the win. Of significance, VU did not have an open frame in this game and had only four in the five games.
Game two was another Vandy win, basically by making fewer errors than DSU. Then it was the Hornet's turn in game three as they strung together eight strikes in a row for a blistering 257 total. That score came on the right lane (10) and it began to appear the right side was solid gold. But Hamilton and Josie Earnest were the real money and the `Dores came back to win there in game four and then changed the story line by winning on lane 9 to gain their fourth victory of the season.
"We had noticed in the semifinals that in the New Jersey City match, five of six games were won on the left side so as the top seed I took the left," Williamson said. "The lanes changed a bit and if our game would have gone any further, as top seed we would have played the right side the last two games."
Williamson used both Kayla Rhoades and Kim Carper successfully in the final two matches. Rhoades was excellent in the semis and Carper came in for the finals and passed with flying colors.
"The shot had changed dramatically and I thought Kim looked more comfortable in the warm-ups," Williamson said. "It was more or less a gut call and I was pleased with how both Kayla and Kim responded."
Josie Earnest made the all-tournament team, placing second to Delaware State's Angela Reynolds by just seven pins.
The day opened with three four-game Baker sets. (this site incorrectly reported yesterday that these would be team games).
Vanderbilt came out crisply against Kutztown and its possible its opening 218 sent a discouraging message to the Pennsylvanians. The Commodores were up big after two games and cruised in just 12 pins south of 800. With just six opens over the four quick games, it seemed a marked improvement from yesterday's open woes. Brittany Garcia and Josie Earnest had the best hands in the lineup of Jessica Earnest, Garcia, Kayla Rhoades, Brittni Hamilton and Josie Earnest.
In game two and now leading the tourney in total pin fall, Black and Gold momentum continued early with an easy 209-153 win over St. Francis, who had finished yesterday in third place. The scores cooled off slightly the rest of the way although still competitive on the tricky lanes. Kim Carper entered the lineup for Rhoades while the All-American Hamilton filled the most frames.
In the last qualifying game before the championship bracket, Vanderbilt faced an upstart Adelphi team hoping to make the NCAA field of eight next month. At the same time, the Commodores seemed to lose a bit of energy and their scores sagged as the ever-changing lanes took a modest toll. Just the same, Vandy prevailed by 39 pins as it moved forward.
At this point, the field was divided into a best-four-of-seven bracket with Vandy holding the No. 1 seed by four pins over Fairleigh Dickinson. Kutztown had edged St. Peters by 20 pins for the four seed and would face the Commodores while FDU would battle Delaware State.
The Commodores were able to post four games over 200 and while Kutztown was game, it could never quite get over the hump.
In the first game, Josie Earnest clinched victory with a strike in the tenth frame and in the second, VU took advantage of critical Kutztown opens. The nomination for ESPN's "Play of the Day" would come in the sixth frame of Game 3 when Jessica Earnest switched balls and proceeded to get her thumb stuck upon release. Her ball went nearly to the arrows on the fly and almost into the adjacent lane. Ever poised, the freshman chose another ball and calmly threw a 10-pin spare to keep things alive.
Kayla Rhodes was in the rotation in the semi-final once again and she responded beautifully. After an open on her first frame, she rattled off six strikes and a spare in the win. Josie Earnest was also very effective.
FDU beat Kutztown in the consolation game for third place.
Vanderbilt hosts its own Columbia 300 Music City Classic next Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Smyrna Bowling Center. Sixteen of the nation's top 20 teams will be competing.
Vanderbilt's Sunday Action
VU 788, Kutztown 701
VU 761, St Francis 648
VU 715, Adelphi 676
Semifinals (best four of seven)
VU 4, Kutztown 0
VU 4, Delaware State 1