SMYRNA, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt capped off a perfect Sunday with a perfect game and in the process captured the championship of the Columbia 300 Music City Classic, topping No. 1 Arkansas State 4 games to 1 in Baker play.
The 300 Baker, the third in school history, was the culmination of a monster day for the Commodores, who came from way back to beat UMES and then polished off Fairleigh Dickinson to get into the title match.
"This is a team with a lot of talent and I told them I wanted them to experience one complete day," coach John Williamson said. "It was one day in which we controlled everything we had to do."
Everyone in a Vanderbilt jersey said it was the first complete day of the year and while there were many stars, none shined brighter than sophomore All-American Robyn Renslow, who had uncharacteristically struggled for several weeks. It was quickly apparent that Vandy could cancel the "missing person's" report early on as the gifted Californian reappeared in a big-time way and threw strike after strike, many with a game on the line.
"Last night coach [John Williamson] sent me a text asking what he could do to get the best junior bowler in the country to believe in herself," the soft-spoken Renslow said in the jubilant and tearful aftermath. "Before we began this morning we had an emotional moment. Coach was crying, I was crying. It didn't begin easy for me but with the rest of my team behind me it became easier."
It was far from a one-woman show. Everyone in the Commodore lineup produced big shots, including freshman Giselle Poss, who at one point in the day threw 15 strikes in 16 attempts. Williamson called it "her best day and a half in collegiate bowling."
"I was really happy this happened at home," Poss said. "It felt so good to come together as a team, long overdue. The former Illinois state champion said she was a bit nervous at the start of the day but "I got more relaxed as the day went by. Once we get going we know we can't be stopped."
There was no stopping Vandy in the deciding game against Arkansas State. Ironically, on the adjoining lanes Nebraska drew the house's full attention with a 300 game of its own; both Vandy and ASU bowlers pausing as is customary in the sport when a perfect game is in the offing.
Then it was back to business as Tori Ferris, Poss, Natalie Goodman, Nicole Mosesso and Renslow threw pocket strikes. As the score climbed, winning the match was obvious and the only matter was whether Vandy could match the Cornhuskers' perfection. It came down to Renslow, who came through again.
"I was a little nervous on my last balls," she admitted, "but I had been striking on my first ball in the tenth much of the day and once I got the first one I was feeling it, although my head was shaking on my last ball. In coach's office, there is a display of 300 games and who participated in them and I've always wanted to be a part of that."
Poss said Nebraska's 300 helped Vandy on the lanes to the Huskers' right.
"We saw them do it and we knew it was possible," she said. "Chanin [Nicole] said she knew we were going to bowl 300 in the fourth frame."
On a day when things go well it is hard to identify key moments but certainly when Vandy overcame a 3-1 deficit in the best of seven to shock third-rated Maryland-Eastern Shore.
"Baker games are all momentum," Williamson said. "You can be up 3-1 and suddenly lose all momentum. It's a game of runs and emotions and once you start backpedaling it's hard to stop. We've been in similar spots this year and let up but today we kept the hammer down."
Natalie Goodman credited the entire team, mentioning Poss, Renslow and Chanin by name. The Junior Team USA member said that team balance was a reason the early day lineup moves (Renslow from first to fifth, Mosesso from fifth to fourth) didn't affect the chemistry.
"Changing our order isn't a big deal," Goodman said. "We wanted a momentum shift and we got one with the switch. We have practiced Bakers long enough to know that we could come back from that 3-1 hole."
Chanin, a junior not in the rotation, was a major contributor throughtout the tournament. Players and coaches alike credited her with leadership in the settee. Her teammates voted her the annual winner of the Harry Stoddard Award for her leadership and passion for excellence, which was announced after the event.