FLORENCE -- After nearly a week touring Paris and Rome, Vanderbilt's bowling team spent about 10 hours in Florence's very modern bowling center facing the Italian National Team.
With the center dotted with "Friendship Game" posters and a warm introduction from the Italian team to get things started, it soon became about bowling. While the aura was definitely relaxed and friendly, it was not business as usual for the Commodores who were facing some opponents that looked old enough to be their mothers, or at least much older sisters.
No worries on this day. Despite having spent the prior week far from bowling balls and hiking up Eiffel Tower's stairs and around Rome's many attractions, the 'Dores offered some early excitement.
In the second game, sophomore Natalie Goodman, coming off last week's outstanding performance at the Junior Gold Tournament, had the attention of nearly everyone as she reeled off 10 strikes in succession before leaving a 7-pin on her 11th ball.
Among the impressed was our genial and worldly guide Johan, who was watching his first high level bowling competition and thought like many that he was going to witness a 300.
Not long after Samantha Hesley got the front eight and darned if Goodman didn't come back a few games later with nine in a row. She averaged a torrid 242 over the morning's singles games.
In the afternoon Vanderbilt continued to dominate with Goodman, Hesley and teammates Jessica Earnest and Nicole Mosesso joining the fun. Goodman teamed with Earnest to win doubles while Mosesso and Sarah O'Brien formed a team strong enough to rally into second place in doubles play.
Earnest said afterwards that the week away from bowling and walking too much took a minor, early toll.
"The mixture of no bowling and all the touring left me uncomfortable early,'" the senior-to-be said. "I started to get into the flow late in the morning session and then in the afternoon doubles I was paired with Natalie; she had such a great look that it relaxed me and we both get lined up."
Earnest, who a month ago was in Thailand with the Junior Team USA, said this international competition was definitely different in feel but some things stay constant.
"I take a lot of pride in this Vanderbilt jersey and even if it's a friendship tournament everyone still wants to win."
Goodman obviously had a good time as she scorched the lanes. Indicative of just how tremendous her day was came with a question afterward as to why her afternoon -- which included games of 236-256-221-203-226 along with a 150 -- wasn't as good as her morning's effort. Upon reflection, the reporter essentially withdrew the question.
Coach John Williamson intentionally kept the day low key and said afterward he saw both good and not-so-good things.
"We had some flashes for sure," he said, "but we also made mistakes and missed makeable spares that we would like to think we would normally convert. I thought we settled down in the afternoon."
The two teams will share dinner later in the evening, then resume tomorrow morning with a half-day of triage (teams of three) play.
Meanwhile, the great city of Florence awaits and a specialist will be brought in to show the Vanderbilt party the sights in detail once the bowling has concluded.