Vanderbilt Coach John Williamson couldn't understand why his team looked and bowled so uptight but his Commodores were unable to loosen up until the parade had passed them by Sunday.
On paper, one had to like Vandy's chances on the final day of the Hawk Classic. It was the highest ranked team in the championship bracket, had won nine of 10 matches and carried the momentum of an unbeaten Saturday that included a win over the morning's first opponent - Sacred Heart. However, games are not bowled on paper and momentum lasts as long as the next open frame.
It became a disappointing and bumpy ride that left the Commodores third in the final standings and reflecting on what might have been. Vandy dropped a 4-3 Baker match to Sacred Heart, then was swept by Sam Houston in a semi-final that still could have nudged the `Dores into the championship match with a win.
In both matches, Vanderbilt appeared to be on the defensive - the hunted instead of the hunter. Sacred Heart's No. 1 seed advantage also played a role in the opener as the Pioneers had lane choice when the match was knotted 3-3 and naturally chose the lane where most of the winning was taking place.
The plane ride home became a bit shorter when Vandy rebounded in the consolation final to defeat St. Francis University, 4-1. The Red Flash, who figure to be a contender in the Northeast Conference, had notched notable back-to-back victories over Delaware State and host Maryland-Eastern Shore to reach the third-place match.
Kristin Quah and Maria Bulanova continued to be bright spots throughout the day. Both made the all-tournament team - the second time for each this fall - and Quah was named the Most Valuable Player based upon Saturday's pin fall.
The rotation for the majority of the first two matches was the same one that clicked so well Saturday - Quah, Kelsey Abrahamsen, Samantha Gainor, Jordan Newham and Bulanova. Emily Rigney came in for Abrahamsen late in the Sam Houston game and stayed in the lineup against SFU.
Sam Houston rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Sacred Heart for the tournament championship.
The Commodores now have a welcome schedule break until mid-January, seven weeks to hit the school books, enjoy family and friends over winter break and prepare for an equaling challenging spring slate.