Vanderbilt
J. Earnest

BESSEMER, Ala. - Vanderbilt came to the Holiday Classic with a To Do list, the first item of which was to shore up its NCAA post-season credentials. Check.

The Commodores finished their Alabama "Holiday" by beating third-rated Central Missouri in the tournament's championship game, 4 games to 1, to complete a long weekend in which they won 12 of 13 games. Just what the doctor ordered.

"Other than the fourth game in our Stephen F. Austin loss, we were pretty good all weekend," said Coach John Williamson of his team's second title of the year. "The conditions were tough because it was different from pair to pair and there was an adjustment period each time we changed lanes. I thought we did a nice job of doing what was required to win."

Vanderbilt began its Sunday beating Alabama State in Baker play to complete the tournament's round-robin and clinch the No. 1 bracket seed. Once again, VU began the day sluggish but the win avenged an upset loss to the Hornets last October in the Commodores first action of the year.

The Commodores began their day with a lineup of Brittni Hamilton, Amanda Halter, Sarah O'Brien, Jessica Earnest and Samantha Hesley.

They faced second-seeded Sam Houston State, the tenth-rated team for the second time in under 24 hours and once again came away with victory, 4 games to 1. After trading wins in the first two games, a big moment came in the third game when VU won by five pins, powered by Earnest's clutch strike in the ninth and Hesley's two strikes in the tenth.

"We substituted Kim Carper for Sarah midway through the Sam Houston game and she responded with four strikes in quick fashion," Williamson noted.

That semi-final win set up a rematch with the Jennies; Saturday's game wasn't decided until the last ball was rolled but Sunday's game didn't have quite the suspense. Vanderbilt won the first in the best of seven and Central came back to win the second, both wins on the left hand lane.

A turning point in the momentum came in the fourth Baker where the `Dores ignored recent lane history and chalked up 226 pins on the right hand lane to seize a commanding 3-1 advantage, then added the identical 226 in the fifth and last game of the weekend to take home the hardware.

Brittni Hamilton, who won the individual title Saturday, headed the all-tournament team and was joined by teammate Jessica Earnest, who tied for third place with Central's Natalie Jimenez with a 200.2 average. Hamilton's winning mark was 221 over the five team games. Hesley was eighth.

The title was Vanderbilt's second at this event, hosted by Alabama A & M. Its other win came in 2007. Sam Houston State placed third, Stephen F. Austin was fourth in the 12-team field.