KENOSHA, Wis. – Vanderbilt was one pin away from winning the Ladyjack Classic, losing 118-117 in a Baker modified at Jacksonville State on Sunday afternoon.
The two collegiate powers had a most unusual finish, splitting four previous Baker Games and tying three others to force the tense finish. Vanderbilt suffered a failed spare in the first frame of the tiebreaker, got safe in the second and then threw four strikes while the Gamecocks had a spare sandwiched by a pair of doubles.
It came down to the two All-American presenters; Jacksonville State’s Crystal Elliott went as a backup while Vandy’s Paige Peters went for a strike and could have tied it again with a third. But a stubborn 10-pin stood tall and that was the difference.
Second place took some of the shine off what was otherwise a splendid day for the Commodores, who defeated No. 2 Arkansas State and No. 3 Nebraska to reach the championship game.
It didn’t take a bowling expert to point out where the Commodores went wrong. After bowling solidly in previous rounds, Vanderbilt struggled with spare shots, missing countless one- and two-pin conversion attempts.
“I thought overall we competed at a very elite level, but we executed at a very average level,” head coach John Williamson said. “Our spare shots were not good enough to win a quality tournament like this and were inadequate throughout the weekend. That hurt us the first two days trying to accumulate pins for a seed. “I don’t think the way we executed it is indicative of who we are as a team.”
“We beat two very good teams today and we weren’t very good against them either,” Williamson continued. “I thought Paige was very good today and we will soon improve our free throw shooting. In a way, I’m almost glad we didn’t win the tournament because I don’t want anyone to think you can win by executing like that.”
Vanderbilt used a starting rotation of Haley Lindley, Alyssa Ballard, Natalie Kent, Victoria Varano and Peters for most of the day, substituting Kailee Channell for Lindley late in the title match.
That unit beat Arkansas State, 4-2, in the opener thanks to Peters’ timely attacks and anchor play. The same could be said to sum up Nebraska’s victory, which included a sizzling 290 containing 11 strikes after an opening spare.
But there were signs midway through the Husker game that the Black and Gold backup machine was starting to fail. After taking a quick 3-0 lead in best-of-seven play, botched conversions (conversions that are defined as doable rather than difficult splits) began to rear their ugly heads for him. These openings not only destroy momentum, they can be demoralizing and affect the psyche of a team. With the game score deadlocked at 3-3, Vandy was able to regroup and win the seventh game, 228-184, to advance.
Vanderbilt will conclude its fall campaign Nov. 17-19 at the Hawk Classic, hosted at Maryland-Eastern Shore.