LANSING, Mich. — Vanderbilt punched its ticket to the NCAA Bowling Final Four Saturday, sweeping a best-of-four tiebreaker, 4-0, with an energized Youngstown State team that earlier in the afternoon had beaten the Commodores in the mega-match.
The regional championship sends the nationally two-seeded Commodores to the national semi-finals in Las Vegas next Friday at the South Point Bowling Plaza. Vanderbilt will face three-seed Arkansas State in its semi while top-seed McKendree meets four-seed Nebraska.
It was an afternoon of huge momentum swings at the Royal Scot Lanes, where tension and pressure presided between the two Southland Bowling League powers.
The fired-up Penguins dominated the opening mega-match, winning the traditional point, 1,030-967, and romped to an easy win in the 5-game baker set after winning the first game by 72 pins, forcing the best-of-seven tiebreaker.
The Commodores returned to the decisive showdown after the 30-minute break between matches and a revised rotation of Amanda Naujokas, Alyssa Ballard, Caroline Thesier, Victoria Varano and Mabel Cummins quickly seized the momentum back, stringing the strikes they couldn’t find earlier.
“The first part of the day we were playing to hold onto our trip to Vegas,” head coach John Williamson said. “We were timid, our body language was bad and Youngstown was bowling well. We were on our heels the entire time”
“At the break, we talked about what was the worst thing that could happen; it was happening but we still controlled our fate and had to execute. We thought if we won the first game we could flip the script,” Williamson said. “We did that, then won Game 2. In the mega-match it snowballed against us and now it was snowballing for us. We made some big shots.”
What was said during the break between rounds to turn things around?
“We talked as coaches and Amelia and Mabel talked,” Williamson said. “There was definitely a sense of urgency. When they talk people listen, they have a lot of credibility as they don’t ask anyone to do anything they don’t do themselves. Mabel came out and was on a different level in the best of seven. That’s what you have to have, you have to hope people bowl crazy good.”
As with any big win, there were moments when everyone in the rotation made a big shot. This was especially true in tie-breaker Games 1 and 3 when Varano and Cummins combined for game-winning strike strings – a freshman and a senior possibly facing…
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