Commodores Crowned as NCAA Champs
April 14, 2007
WELCOME BACK PARTY SUNDAY NIGHT at 6 PM CT:
Welcome back our 2007 NCAA Champions Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. CT right outside the McGugin Center.
Note: Watch the championship replay Sunday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
Added Sunday at 10 AM: Commodore Notebook - Did Anyone Notice?
Read Rod Williamson's Post-NCAA Column: Incredible, Awesome!
View Championship Photo Gallery
NCAA Champs Desktop Wallpaper
2007 NCAA Results Plus All-Tournament Team
APOPKA, Fla. --- Vanderbilt broke away from Maryland Eastern Shore in the last five frames of the seventh and deciding game to win the first team NCAA Championship in Vanderbilt University history Saturday.
"Right now I can't put this championship into proper perspective," said an elated Coach John Williamson. "To win the first national team championship in school history is special. Our student-athletes worked so hard, our coaches worked hard and this victory on national television is validation that the effort was worthwhile."
The Commodores, 74-14 on the year and the tournament's No. 3 seed, jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven format. They slid past UMES, who had been the Cinderella team of the tournament, in the first game 167-164 before posting a resounding 242-166 win in Game Two.
UMES came back to tie it with wins in the third and fourth games before Vanderbilt regrouped to win a convincing 224-180 battle in Game Five. The Hawks came back to take Game 6, setting up the pressure-packed seventh game.
"During the last television timeout in the seventh game, our kids said they wanted to finish their year by throwing five good balls. And they did - we threw four solid strikes and had one nine-pin count to put it away," said Williamson.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Josie Earnest iced the game with two crucial strikes in the tenth frame.
"I knew that I had wanted to be in that moment the entire season," Earnest said, "and when I got there I focused on making good throws and then just hoped and prayed those pins would fall."
Sophomore Karen Grygiel said the team got a big boost from Commodore baseball coach Tim Corbin before they left campus for this Orlando suburb.
"Coach Corbin told us that we have to be able to visualize winning," Grygiel said, "and if you do, you can win. Winning was the only image on my mind this afternoon, I never allowed losing to come into my thoughts and I think we all felt that way."
Grygiel said the unique bowling conditions plus the pressure of the national championship were factors in the lower scores than normal.
"There were definitely nerves," Grygiel admitted, "and anyone who has ever competed for a championship is lying if they say they aren't nervous. No matter how hard you try, you just can't simulate the atmosphere, you just have to experience it and never let the lows get you down. We bounced back from splits and bad breaks all week. Our ability to recover from setbacks was the difference."
The Commodores' depth played a major role in the team's success at this tournament. On Friday, Kaitlin Reynolds provided a big spark when she was inserted into the starting lineup. Today, Tara Kane - who is normally one of the starting five - was put back into the fray in the middle of Game 4 and she also turned up big.
"My mindset today was not to over-think fundamentals," the sophomore said. "I talked to coach this morning and told him I wanted the lineup that was best for Vanderbilt and that right now I agreed that included Kaitlin. I said I would play any role I could so when I got my chance, my only thoughts were to help pull something out for our team when we needed it."
Williamson said the decision to reinsert Kane was not difficult.
"We had subbed Tara twice in the early games to give her a feel for the lanes and situation and thought she threw the ball well," Williamson said. "When Kaitlin had a bit of trouble adjusting to the lights we thought it would be good to give her a chance to settle down and then Tara came in and did a terrific job. It's amazing what can be accomplished when no one is worried about who gets the credit. It was a team win, everyone played a vital role - everyone."
Vanderbilt had several of its lowest scores of the year, often missing spare conversions that it had converted with relative ease in earlier rounds. Hot television lights that dried out the lanes along with some jitters and the championship game format all played roles in those scores.
"The right lane was playing harder than the left lane," Williamson said, "although early on we scored 242 on the right side. But the conditions changed and when we had the choice of lanes in the seventh game, all the girls agreed that the left lane was our best one."
Joining Earnest on the five-person all-tournament team was another VU sophomore, Michelle Peloquin.
Championship Match Resutls
2007 NCAA All-Tournament Team
Josie Earnest, Vanderbilt University, FR, Vandalia, IL
Kristi Kerr, Fairleigh Dickinson University, FR, Essexville, MI
Kaitlin Reynolds, Vanderbilt University, SO, Enfield, CT
Marion Singleton, Maryland Eastern Shore, FR, Lockport, NY
Jessica Worsley, Maryland Eastern Shore, JR, Brick, NJ
Most Outstanding Performer: Josie Earnest, Vanderbilt
Check back for complete championship coverage on VUcommodores.com during the next few days. Congratulations, Commodores!