BATON ROUGE, LA---Vanderbilt dropped back-to-back games to Nebraska and as a result finished in third place at the NCAA Bowling Championship Saturday.
The Commodores entered the day unbeaten and holding the advantage over the once-beaten Cornhuskers, needing only to win one more game to reach Saturday night's championship match against McKendree. However, the second-seeded 'Dores could not capture the consistency they demonstrated the first two days of the tournament and lost matches by scores of 4-1 and 4.5-2.5 to end their season.
Using a lineup rotation of Kristin Quah, who was quickly replaced by Jordan Newham, Giselle Poss, Emily Rigney, Katie Stark and Maria Bulanova, the Commodores came out of the gate quickly, rattling off eight straight strikes to win the first game in the best of seven by a 259-171 margin. That proved to be the high-water mark for the match.
"We gave it a good run and had some fine moments but in the end today, we were plagued by some of the same things that gave us trouble much of the season," Coach John Williamson said. "We had too many low pin counts coming off marks and we didn't convert spares like we had been earlier in the week."
Vandy had excellent changes to win several games with a strategic late strike but couldn't get it done and lost two games by scores of 189-184 and 211-204. That was more than enough for the potent Huskers to seize the first match and force and "if-necessary" in the double-elimination format.
Using the same lineup, the Commodores gave it the old college try in the second match, splitting the first four games. In a match in which both skill and good fortune played roles, two turning points occurred in Games 5 and 6.
In the fifth game, Vandy could have grabbed victory with a double in the tenth but settled for a second ball spare, allowing Nebraska to escape with a 177-177 draw. Each team earned a half-point toward the needed 4 points to win the match.
In the sixth game, first-team All-American anchor Maria Bulanova needed just nine pins on her third and final ball in the 10th frame to clinch victory but could manage just six pins. That allowed Nebraska star Julia Bond to throw a strike and pull out a 189-187 win, which gave the Huskers momentum and conceivably sapped some energy from the gallant Commodores. Opens by Vandy in the final game removed any suspense of the final outcome.
The collegiate careers of three Vanderbilt seniors came to a close. First-team All-American Giselle Poss had been a constant presence in the lineup for four years while other seniors include Nicole Powell and Kendyll Dellinger.
The young nature of Vanderbilt's team -- that often had three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting rotation - bodes well for the future. But the future seemed a long way off as the disappointed team filed out of the Baton Rouge River Center.
The semi-finalist finish was Vanderbilt's highest since a runner-up placing in 2013.