BATON ROUGE, LA---On a day when a team's exiting confidence might mean more than the day's statistics, Vanderbilt bounced out of the River City Center feeling very good. And why not?
The Commodores won four of five qualifying games which are designed to help establish a fair bracket when double elimination play starts late Friday afternoon. Two qualifying games remain in the morning before the that begins.
Vanderbilt's 4-1 mark is second only to McKendree's unbeaten 5-0 mark and it had four individuals rank among the Top 9 -- Maria Bulanova in second, Katie Stark third, Kristin Quah fifth and Emily Rigney ninth to dominate the leader board.
Despite the flashy stats, the Commodores mood was cautiously optimistic but far from giddy.
"Our goal coming into today was pretty much the same goal we've had in the past, to leave the day feeling some confidence," said Coach John Williamson. "For the most part I think everyone had good moments today.
'Were we as consistent as we wanted to be? Probably not," Williamson continued. "But it was a pretty positive day, we were throwing the ball well. The pinfall today doesn't help us tomorrow and in a sense, what we did today isn't that important if we don't follow it up tomorrow."
Vandy started with a rotation of Stark, Giselle Poss, Rigney, Quah and Bulanova, expecting to use some substitutes from its strong bench but because that quintet's play was consistent and the vibe was good, the 'Dores never deviated.
"We've had different strategies ranging from playing everyone to sticking with momentum and today nobody gave me a reason to take them out," Williamson explained.
As with the case in the recent Southland Bowling League tournament which Vanderbilt won, left-handers Stark and Rigney were sources of energy.
"I think both of Katie and Emily have made a lot of progress this season," Williamson said. "I think Emily has made vast improvement physically and I think Katie has improved her mental game. It's a tribute to them that they've become difference-makers. And if I had to pick a time for them to jell, I'll pick the end of the season every time."
Stark, a junior in her third NCAA Championship, talked like the veteran she is afterwards.
"I think overall we bowled well, bowled as a team today," the Orlando product said. "We had enough people bowling well that you couldn't tell if someone was struggling. We are in a good place mentally and physically. We are well prepared for this tournament.
"We know anything is possible tomorrow," she continued. "There are variables but we can control some by taking one shot at a time, one day at a time. We can take the good things from today but we need to focus on what's going on right now; in the end it won't matter what we did today."
Quah, a sophomore, also liked what she sees happening.
"I thought it was a good day for us, overall everyone played a part," she said. "Katie threw the ball well, so did Maria - so did everyone. If someone made a mistake we just went on with our business without us trying for force something to make up for it. I liked that."
Statistics are attached to this report and bowl.com/NCAA is the official championship web site. Vandy will play McKendree and Fairleigh Dickinson to complete the round-robin qualifier Friday morning. All Friday games are live streamed on NCAA.com.
Mini game capsules
VU 984 Sam Houston State 955
The Commodores jumped to a quick and commanding lead and while the Bearcats made a late rally, it was to little, too late. Rigney debuted with a 244 and Bulanova added a 222 to lead the attack.
VU 1,137 UMES 893
The Commodores had one of the day's highest scores with five scores over 208. Bulanova had a 252 and Stark had eight strikes en route to a 243.
Arkansas State 1,042 VU 976
In a rematch of the Southland Bowling League finale, ASU prevailed by grabbing a small lead early and gradually expanding it despite Vandy's two lefties - Stark and Rigney - knocking down 225 and 202 pins respectively.
VU 1,097 SFA. 955
This one looks easier than it was as Vandy trailed by as many as 30 early before launching a strike barrage that blew the game open. Quah had a 257, Bulanova 232 and Stark a 237, each notching long strings of strikes.
VU 1,034 Nebraska 921
This began as a low energy game until Vanderbilt seized momentum midway behind Stark (213), Quah (222) and Bulanova (233).