Without question, Vanderbilt has long been a power in collegiate women's bowling. The Commodores always seem to be in the national title picture and a threat to win any tournament they enter. Ironically, their performance in their home tournament -- this weekend's Music City Classic, belies that storied history.
Vanderbilt has won just two of the previous nine Music City Classics. The Commodores won back-to-back in 2009 and '10; even the 2007 NCAA championship team was third. Last year, the 'Dores were third.
Part of that can be attributed to the strength of the field the event draws. In this year's event, which starts Friday at Smyrna Bowling Center, 19 of the top 20 teams in the most recent NTCA Coaches' Poll are competing. Only 19th-ranked Norfolk State is missing.
"This continues to be the largest and strongest field in the NCAA," Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. "For most programs, this marks the end of the regular season so we have teams hoping to improve their NCAA resume, some wanting to experience tough competition one more time and others simply wanting to enjoy a good tournament to end their year."
In Vandy's case, it needs a strong performance this weekend to lock down a spot in the national tournament. The Commodores are currently ranked eighth and eight teams will make the trek to Wickliffe, Ohio, next month. Their showing last weekend at the Ozark Invitational bolstered their case, going 7-2 in an abbreviated two-day tournament, finishing second to Nebraska.
During Saturday's team play, Vanderbilt won a pair of thrilling battles that came down to the last ball in the final frame.
Anchor Natalie Goodman and junior Rebeca Reguero figured big in a two-pin victory against fellow bubble team, ninth-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater. Reguero had a team-best 247 but it was Goodman who cooly rolled a pair of strikes in the 10th.
Two games later Vanderbilt trailed No. 5-rated Central Missouri the entire match, at one point by more than 40 pins, before mounting a late rally. Every Commodore in the lineup had at least one strike in the memorable 10th and after CMU failed to convert a single-pin spare, Goodman spared, then struck on the fill ball for a one-pin win.
Another bubble team, Sam Houston State, brings a 79-38 dual match won-loss record into the tournament, the most victories by any squad in the top 20. Forty of those wins are against nationally ranked foes.
“This is our final opportunity for us to build our resume for the NCAAs,” head coach Brad Hagen said. “We’ve had some highs and lows this year, but are on track to finish strong if we maintain our focus.”
Sam Houston has participated in nine tournaments so far this season, winning the Hornet Invitational in Montgomery, finishing as runners-up at Tulane and Arkansas State, fifth at Nebraska, sixth at the Track Kat Klash and UCM Invitational and seventh at both Valparaiso and New Jersey.
Action begins Friday with quad baker competition followed Saturday by traditional team matches and Sunday with best-of-seven baker bracket play.