Vanderbilt finished Valparaiso's Crusader Classic with a lack-luster fifth place finish, not totally unexpected with a youth-dominated lineup but certainly not what the Commodores were seeking when they left campus.
"The lanes were playing difficult, especially at the end," Coach John Williamson said. "And the lanes were definitely not to our strength. If you were not striking, you were falling behind and for us, this was a grind-it-out day. There will be other tournaments where we'll see lane conditions that require a bit more skill but today striking and carrying were more important than spare conversion."
Williamson mentioned several Commodores in his post-tournament assessment.
"I thought Jess (Earnest) was very good and Natalie (Goodman) was just lights out in the 3-8 slot," he said. "Once again I thought Amanda Fry gave us very good play leading off, she sets the table for us."
Williamson said he was encouraged with the tenacity his team showed at several points of the day.
"There are a few times a year when lane choice becomes significant and today was one of them," he said. "In our Whitewater match, they had lane choice in the deciding game and there was a 50-pin difference between the right and left lanes. At the same time, we had lane choice in the modified Baker against Valparaiso and that was to our advantage. But we showed that we can rally from behind and make it a fight and I liked that a lot."
After "erratic" play the first two days as Coach John Williamson phrased it, the best Vanderbilt could hope for Sunday was third place and it got off on the right foot with a 4-3 Baker win over the host Crusaders. Both teams won squeakers during the seven matches but VU posted its second best score of the game in the decisive finale to advance upward in the bracket.
The advance was quickly stalled by Wisconsin-Whitewater, who jumped to a quick 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven format before Vanderbilt rallied with a couple victories in low scoring matches. And when the Commodores were relegated to the "cold lane" and couldn't do better than 174 in game seven, it was sent packing to the fifth-sixth place game in a rematch with Valparaiso.
This became quite a struggle with the teams trading wins and even a 203-203 draw that forced a five-frame baker tie-breaker, which Vandy won by nine pins.
Vanderbilt has little time to make corrections as it heads next week to Maryland Eastern Shore's Hawk Classic, an event the Commodores have won five of the last six years.
Vanderbilt's Bracket Games
VU 4 Valparaiso 3
Whitewater 4 VU 3
VU 4.5 Valparaiso 3.5
VU 106-97 (5 frame modified baker)