SMYRNA, Tenn. - Vanderbilt picked a good day to get its groove back and because it did, the Commodores are leading the 29-team field at their own Columbia 300 Music City Classic heading into Saturday's play.
With its senior class leading the way, Vanderbilt was the only team in the field to go undefeated, winning five games en route to a 111 pin lead over second place Maryland-Eastern Shore and 272 pins ahead of third place Arkansas State.
"This was a very good progression from the Sunday in Kansas City," Commodore Coach John Williamson said acknowledging one of team's infamous struggles earlier this winter. "We were very good today. I thought it was important that our seniors all see action and we got that done. I thought Natalie (Goodman) got us going in the lead-off spot, Jess (Earnest) was very good ... when you consider it, we couldn't have posted the scores we did without everyone performing well."
Earnest, who was impressive as the anchor, also liked what she saw.
"I like the short pattern" the three-time All-American said before deflecting any personal credit to her teammates. "The one thing that helped us today was our energy and how we conducted ourselves. After we lost that first game to FDU by a few pins, we huddled and agreed that we would stay together and we came back with three good games and then kept it going the rest of the day."
Vanderbilt's win over seventh-rated Fairleigh Dickinson highlighted its day. Vandy also topped Hampton, Monmouth (coached by former Vandy star Karen Grygiel), Bethune Cookman and Louisiana Tech. It's only lackluster pin count came in a bye game, where focus can wander.
The Commodores began the day with its four seniors - Courtney Morgan, Sarah O'Brien, Kim Carper, freshman Robyn Renslow and Earnest in the lineup. O'Brien knew she would roll just one or two balls all day while recovering from chronic injury and after she knocked down nine pins, Goodman was inserted into the order. It was a touching moment as the competitive O'Brien choked back tears as she left the rotation and it was fitting that later in the day Sarah threw a 10th frame ball for Earnest and netted a strike.
Carper made a big contribution before giving way to freshman Tori Ferris and the Minnesotan was quick to applaud the young `Dore.
"I thought Tori really came in and gave us a lift," Carper said unselfishly. "As a team we were relaxed today but I would define it as more of a combination of relaxed with a competitive edge."
Play begins Saturday morning at 9:40 with six team games on tap. Bowl.com with Lucas Wiseman is live streaming the tournament and Vanderbilt's Bowling Facebook and Twitter accounts are providing updates throughout the day.