LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Hours after the fabulous South Point Bowling Plaza has grown quiet and the national champion Vanderbilt Commodores have exited the building, there is finally an opportunity to reflect upon a few glorious memories that will linger a lifetime with members of the bowling team and its community.
What happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas.
Here are a few thoughts and observations that will stay with this 20-year follower of NCAA bowling:
The tentative Commodores were down three games to one to Arkansas State in a best-of-seven format to determine the national championship. How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.
A patient and methodical Vanderbilt won Game 5 easily but lots of fingernails were chewed during Game 6.
It came down to national Player of the Year Mabel Cummins in her anchor role (doesn’t it always come down to Mabel?) She had to convert a tricky 3-10 split—her nemesis—for Vandy to have a chance. Head coach John Williamson would later call that conversion the biggest spare shot in program history, allowing VU to win 193-187.
Vandy would take the title comfortably in Game 7—the first time in championship finals history that a team has rallied after being down 3-1.
Vanderbilt Bowling: a Program of Firsts
Vanderbilt has a knack of sniffing our chances to make history. Among the memorable program firsts:
- First sport to win a team NCAA championship at Vanderbilt
- First bowling team ever invited to the White House by the president
- First bowling team to take an international trip (Paris, Rome, Florence 2012)
- First Southland Bowling League team to win the new conference tournament
- First team in any collegiate sport to win a national championship in Las Vegas—until this tournament, the NCAA avoided scheduling championship events in the city known for its gambling
The Instant Classic
Casual fans will recall the title match but those inside South Point Plaza will never forget the semifinal match with Nebraska. With the stakes as high as one can imagine—the winner advancing to the national championship match and the loser ending its season—both teams were electric and the match advantage swung back and forth the last three frames. We’re up, now we’re done.
A Vanderbilt fan whispered to nobody in particular, “we need divine intervention,” heading into the 10th as the Commodores were down about 30 pins given two long Husker strike strings. Shockingly, former Husker Player of the Year…
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