SMYRNA, TN---Solid bowling over demanding lanes and stimulated by the biggest pin count game of the tournament pushed Vanderbilt into third place and the title bracket at its own Columbia 300 Music City Classic Saturday.
The Commodores face fourth-seeded Stephen F. Austin while top seed Arkansas State meets No. 2 McKendree on the other side. The best of seven Baker matches start at 8:30 Sunday morning at the Smyrna Bowling Center.
Vandy's highest rated opponent Saturday was its opener against No. 6 ranked Fairleigh Dickinson. While the Commodores opened slowly Friday, they were white-hot today - jumping out to a 50-plus pin lead by the end of the fourth frame and increasing the margin with a barrage of strikes from everywhere in the rotation.
In the rout, three `Dores were over 240; Giselle Poss had six straight strikes at one point for a 245, Kristin Quah had two four-baggers and a 248 and Maria Bulanova crushed it from her anchor spot with seven in a row and a 244. The 1,144 pins were the best score of the day from this mammoth field of 35 teams.
No team can stay that hot and while the Commodores cooled off a bit, they still notched three more wins against Bethune-Cookman, Adelphi and Lincoln Memorial. They stumbled in the third game against Franklin Pierce with their day-low total after they had closed to a single pin from the tournament lead.
As was the case Friday, Quah was the dominant `Dore. The diminutive sophomore finished second in the field of 237 competitors after crafting games of 248-217-153-224-225 for a 213.4 average. Arkansas State's Julia Hurren averaged 228 to win the individual title.
Kristin seemed satisfied with her day but it was clear the swoon in the third game had made a mark at the time.
"Today was a pretty okay day," she said afterwards. "I ran into some issues in the third game, misreading how the lane was playing and I stated feeling uncomfortable. At the end of that game I started focusing on just making two good shots in a row. I knew if I just made shots I'd be fine."
Coach John Williamson had a similar take on the team's entire day.
"We started off well and were making good shots," he said. "We got caught up in the transition and didn't bowl well in third round but overall for the day, with the lanes playing tough and the scores across the board low I thought we did a good job. Kristin matches up well, she's good enough, she's regained her confidence and she just went out and attacked it."
One of the highlights for many in the big and enthusiastic crowd was the insertion of seniors Nicole Powell and Kendyll Dellinger into the lineup in the day's finale. Powell bowled the entire game and recorded a commendable 185. Dellinger's first ball in the ninth frame was a strike. Freshman Bryanna Leyen also entered to throw a ball in the tenth frame.
"I haven't bowled in a match since October," Powell said, "It was exciting. I was nervous, of course. I've been working hard in practice and it was good to see that pay off."
Williamson was pleased there was a good opportunity to get them in the lineup.
"The seniors work hard and do the things they are asked," he said. "We want to reward them as best we can. They've earned it. We're trying to win the tournament and so there's a balancing act in looking for opportunities to give them some of the spotlight."
In a tournament featuring 19 of the nation's Top 20 teams, it is understandable the top four squads after 10 games will be powerful. Williamson said there wasn't much to say in preparation for the Lady Jacks, who won the NCAA title last season.
"We control what we can control and we need to focus on ourselves and executing shots," he summarized. "Statistically we play best of seven better than anyone in the country. These top four teams are capable of being an NCAA semi-final. Three of these teams are Southland Bowling League members so this could also be a precursor to next week's conference championship."
The tournament attracted a number of Vanderbilt alumni back including Robyn Renslow, Nicole Chanin, Rebeca Requero, Tori Ferris, Courtney Morgan and Brittni Hamilton, who is employed by Vanderbilt Athletics as an academic counselor.
Admission to Sunday's action is free of charge.