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April 10, 2007
Vanderbilt's long wait for the NCAA Bowling Championship to arrive is nearly over; this weekend in the Orlando, Fla., suburb of Apopka, eight teams will compete for the opportunity to be the 2007 national champion.
"It will be 17 days since we learned the eight-team field," says Commodore Coach John Williamson, "and I can assure you that our bunch is chomping at the bit. In many sports, teams have less than a week to get focused for their Big Dance. Bowlers have almost too much time on the heels of a very long regular season. We are looking forward to it."
The Commodores, 70-14 on the year and rated third, are considered by many to be among the favorites when double-elimination competition begins Friday at the Brunswick Wekiva Lanes. The other teams are defending champion Fairleigh Dickinson, New Jersey City University, Nebraska, Sacred Heart, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Central Missouri State and Minnesota State-Mankato.
"We know all of these teams well," Williamson says. "We've fared pretty well against this field during the regular season so we like our chances. All season long we have preached focus and consistency, which we will need again, but I also want us to enjoy the moment. This is a special reward for a very good season. When someone asks me about pressure, I say `What pressure? This is opportunity!' and I mean that. It's a business trip for sure but we want to be relaxed and in the moment."
Vanderbilt's all-freshman/sophomore tournament team will once again be in play. Those seven include five sophomores making their second NCAA appearance. They are Karen Grygiel, Tara Kane, Kaitlin Reynolds, Michelle Peloquin and Mandy Keily. Freshmen Josie Earnest, who has the team's top average at 197 in 68 games, and Ashley Belden round out the Commodore bowlers. Upperclassmen Christine Luce and Mallory Abbott will also make the trip.
The team leaves Nashville early Wednesday morning and will have an afternoon practice session in Apopka. The annual NCAA team banquet is held Wednesday evening.
Thursday consists of qualifying rounds so that the official bracket can be set up. Qualifying includes a series of team games (each of the five team bowlers rolls an entire game with the scores totaled) and then some Baker games (in which the five bowlers follow each other in order, each one ultimately bowling two frames).
There will be two four-team brackets in play Friday using a double-elimination format. If necessary, there will be one or two final elimination matches Saturday morning before the afternoon's nationally televised championship match. That live telecast is on ESPNU at 3:00 p.m. CT with a replay on ESPN2 at 2:00 p.m. CT Sunday. Beth Mowins will do play-by-play with Chris Barnes as the analyst.
The National Ten Pin Coaches Association released its latest poll Monday. Nebraska took over the top spot by one poll point over Fairleigh Dickinson, the top rated team the entire season. Vanderbilt remained third.
The Top 10
2. Fairleigh Dickinson
4. Central Missouri State
5. New Jersey City
6. Maryland Eastern Shore
7. Sacred Heart
8. Arkansas State
9. Alabama A & M
10. Minnesota State - Mankato