I interrupt your normally scheduled baseball and basketball programming to bring you coverage of another sport that starts with “B”, bowling! Our mainstay power program has been up to business as usual this year, winning both the Prairie View Invitational and the Stallings Invitational and placing top three in all nine tournaments they competed in. Vanderbilt, as of March 10, was ranked second in the coaches poll and, as of March 15, second in the RPI as well.
Across all nine tournaments this year, Louisiana Tech (12), Sam Houston State (9), North Carolina A&T (7), Youngstown State (6), Nebraska (3), and McKendree (1) are the only six teams to finish above Vanderbilt Bowling, but we have also beaten each of these teams head-to-head at least once and placed above them more often than not. We’ll have an opportunity against Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston, and Youngstown, as well as Arkansas State (4) and Stephen F. Austin (5) at the Southland Bowling League Championship this coming week at where we will be looking to threepeat after winning the conference title in both 2021 and 2022. The tournament is double elimination seeded strictly by RPI, which means Vanderbilt should be the first seed facing Valparaiso in the first round. We are the favorites, but with five other top fifteen teams in the field of eight, you never know what will happen at the Rowlett Bowlarama.
Following the conference tournament, Vanderbilt will head to one of Arlington, Lansing, Pittsburgh, or Rochester for NCAA Regionals. Barring disaster this week, Vanderbilt should be the top seed at their double elimination, best-of-three regional site. After a first round matchup against what will hopefully and likely be a low-ranking minor conference champ, we will be up against the best teams in the country game-in and game-out with the season on the line every single frame.
Right now, the starting lineup has rather consistently been Amanda Naujokas, Alyssa Ballard. Caroline Thesier, Victoria Varano, and Mabel Cummins, with Paige Peters in-and-out due to “illness and aches” all season. Each of these bowlers has a list of accolades and highlight performances from the season, but I’m just going to highlight a few of my favorites. First off, back at the LadyJack Classic in November, the team put together a Baker perfect game for only the sixth time in the program’s eighteen years. That perfect game was one of four games that would combine to set the program record for best four-game stretch in school history.
This record-setting squad also has (as of the start of March) the second-highest total pins/game average in the country but maybe more importantly the highest (with the exception of far down the ranks New Jersey City University) pins/game average in bracket play by a whole 10 pins: this team excels under the pressure of elimination. Finally, Mabel Cummins and Alyssa Ballard are coming off a February that earned them Southland Bowler and Southland Newcomer of the Month honors, respectively, while many of their teammates have also been bowling their best lately. The team seems to be hitting its stride at just the right time, and there’s really no reason they can’t hoist the trophy at the end of the year.
I’m going to try and keep the Anchor Drops as up to date as I can while I’m a few time zones away and still trying to get good sleep. Between now and then, most matches should have a stream available in one form or another. The next best source of updates will, as always, be @VandyBowling on Twitter. I’ll also post updates as we move through the postseason, up to and including a game thread for the televised national title match should we make it.
Finally, as always, Hail Pin Man!