MILLSBORO, DE---There was a real jewel in the Diamond State Saturday.
It wasn't so much Vanderbilt running the table on five opponents to leap into second place at the Hawk Classic heading into Sunday's finale, although that was the first priority.
No, the high drama actually came in mid-afternoon when Vanderbilt's Kristin Quah started the fourth game with the front three, then five, seven and nine as the team's chants of Black-Gold continued to grow longer and louder with each successive strike.
The honors engineering junior began her 10th frame with a strike (Black-Gold repeated 10 times!), then another (11 Black-Golds) and now that moment when everyone gets quiet. High drama that seldom is seen in college bowling; will there be a perfect game?
The tension certainly got to the facility’s' ball return, which got Quah's ball stuck for two long minutes, during which time she chatted with assistant coach Josie Barnes. Her 12th throw was just a bit off mark, knocking down five pins and finishing with a powerful 295 - the third highest score in program history. (Brittni Hamilton had a 300 and Kaitlyn Reynolds a 299.)
"Before the game I thought to myself, `it'd be nice to have a big game', Quah recalled afterward. "After the fourth frame I began thinking I could actually do this. A few of the strikes were lucky but I was lined up and I believe in the law of averages - I had been on the short end of some carry in recent weeks.
"On the last shot I was actually less nervous than the prior four or five," Kristin continued. "My hands were not sweaty. The delay might have played into some over-thinking on my part but there are really no excuses on that throw."
The dazzling gem was the highlight of excellent day at the Millsboro Lanes in which Vanderbilt bolted from fifth place into second, setting up a showdown Sunday at 8:30 (ET) with top-seeded Sacred Heart. Sam Houston and host Maryland-Eastern Shore play on the other side of the championship bracket while the Vandy-SH winner automatically advances to the title match.
"We talked about having a consistent day," Coach John Williamson said. "A day where we have five rounds with nobody falling asleep. We had a goal to make the Top 2 because we felt we should be there although we had 250 pins to make up. For the most part we did it although the last pair (of lanes) got kind of screwy."
Williamson was not surprised by Quah's monster game - or day.
"She shot 299 at the Queens so she's been there before," he said. "I was actually talking more to Kelsey (Abrahamsen) because she was bowling behind Kristin and I didn't want all the commotion to throw Kelsey off her game."
Williamson saw much he liked but specifically noted Jordan Newham's last game on the tough lanes.
"I thought she was really good in that game," he said. "She 9-spared her way to a 190 when some others were struggling a little. She didn't get frustrated with the conditions. I was proud of her. Sometimes we get propped up by huge games from Kristin and Maria and not enough attention is paid to the good work of the others."
The Commodores have the best won-loss mark among the 16 teams at 9-1 and had the most pin count Saturday. Sacred Heart's No. 1 seed is the result of two days of steady pin counts, not its 5-5 record.
Vanderbilt beat North Carolina A&T, LIU-Brooklyn, St. Francis (Pa.), Sacred Heart and Saint Francis College (NY) en route to its spotless day. The lineup never wavered - Quah, Abrahamsen, Samantha Gainor, Newham and Bulanova.
Quah averaged 235.40 with games of 223-209-237-295-213 to win the individual championship while Bulanova was fifth with a 211.0 average. Newham was 18th and Gainor was headed to a Top 15 finish until coming off the rails in the final game. It was Quah's second career championship having won the Sugar Bowl Classic last fall.