Vanderbilt bowlers fall just short in bid for second national title

Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 12:14pm
Staff reports

The Vanderbilt women’s bowling team just missed out on winning its second national championship in school history.

The Commodores lost to Maryland-Eastern Shore 4-2 in the national championship game on Saturday in Taylor, Mich. It is their highest finish since they claimed the title in 2007 — the university's only national championship in any sport.

The Commodores won two straight games and went up 2-1 against Maryland-Eastern Shore. But the Hawks rallied to win the next three games and capture their second national championship in four years.

The championship game will be aired on a delayed basis at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN.

“We did what it took to win and just came up short,” Vanderbilt coach John Williamson said. “We battled and fought all week. I told our team that all we wanted was a chance to win, and we definitely had that chance. I am proud of what this team accomplished.”

Vanderbilt, ranked fourth and seeded fourth when the three-day tournament began, rallied out of the loser’s bracket on Friday to keep its title hopes alive.

The Commodores, who were playing in their sixth straight national tournament, opened up the double-elimination tournament with a victory against Central Missouri on Thursday. On Friday, though, they fell to defending national champion Fairleigh Dickinson by two pins in a tiebreaker after a deadlocked seven games (the first game ended in a 192-192 tie, and the teams split the last six games).

Vanderbilt responded by knocking out Arkansas State in six games and beating Nebraska in five to advance to the semifinals — for the first time in three years — on Saturday morning. The Commodores once again met Nebraska there and dispatched the Huskers in five games to reach the national championship game.

Vanderbilt was led by its three All-Americans: sophomore Jessica Earnest and juniors Samantha Hesley and Brittni Hamilton, who was named the United States Amateur Female Bowler of the Year last week. Hamilton was also named to the all-tournament team.

The Commodores also got huge lifts throughout the tournament from sophomore Sarah O’Brien, who will undergo her second hip surgery in eight months after the season ends, along with reserves sophomore Kim Carper and senior Amanda Halter.