The title match will be shown live on ESPNU at 3 p.m. Central time Saturday and will be replayed Sunday on ESPN2 at 2 Central.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for our student-athletes and our school," says Coach John Williamson. "We have worked very hard to be in this position but our team is fully aware that we have unfinished business. We will be striving for the consistency and exceptional execution that has been our hallmark so far."
One of Williamson's tasks will be to get his teams' collective feet back on the lanes after the thrilling and emotional spending day.
The semifinal win over FDU was memorable. The top-seeded Knights had just thrashed Sacred Heart with impressive scores in a loser's bracket game but Vanderbilt left an early calling card by registering 10 strikes and two 9-pin spares in fashioning a 258 game.
The 'Dores won the first three games in the semifinal, just as they did in the other games of the day. They won game one 258-184, then took a squeaker 171-166 and came back in the third game to win 214-193. FDU rebounded 237-192 until VU won the fifth and decisive game, 225-223, in a game that obviously wasn't decided until the 10th frame.
"I think we might have caught FDU a bit off-guard in that first game," said freshman anchor Josie Earnest. "They had just come off a big win and we were sitting there watching them do it."
Lead-off bowler Michelle Peloquin had an extraordinary afternoon with nine strikes in 10 throws.
"We tried hard to make it feel like just another game," Peloquin said. "We talked about being at home -- reminded each other no one else was here - but we knew what was at stake.
Kaitliln Reynolds, who up to this tournament had been the team's "sixth man", again played a key role and delivered what could have been the single biggest frame of the day.
At a critical point in the final game of the day, Reynolds threw what appeared to be a strike. However, the sophomore fouled on the attempt, then came back to fill the frame with a momentum-saving 10-pin spare.
"I can't remember the last time I fouled and I didn't think I did anything different on this attempt," Reynolds said. "But I stayed focused, put the foul behind me and was able to throw a great ball. It was an emotional game, a competitive game but we knew we would need to bowl at a high level to win."
Reynolds place in the lineup was noted by Peloquin.
"This shows that things can change," Peloquin says. "Just look at our lineup today - few might have thought this would be our lineup at this point but it shows what we have said all year - that we have seven women that can make shots and that depth has paid for us all year long. We win as a team, everyone contributes."
Vanderbilt had blitzed second-seeded Nebraska with three quick victories in the second round of the NCAA Bowling Championship, then hung on to win the sixth and deciding game to topple the Huskers and advance deep into the championship bracket Friday morning.
"This is a game of momentum and we started against both morning opponents with it," said Coach John Williamson. "However, there are no weak teams here and they all have talent and pride so nobody folds easily. We experienced some real highs and fought off some lows. It was a very good morning."
Vanderbilt stuck to its rotation of Michelle Peloquin, Kaitlin Reynolds, Karen Grygiel, Mandy Keily and Josie Earnest again and it paid dividends. The Commodores displayed both calm and consistency against the Huskers, winners of this tournament two of the last three years.
VU toppled Nebraska 230-214 in game one, then won a narrow 191-185 decision and followed it was a white-knuckle 219-215 win that wasn't decided until the last ball was rolled. NU came back with a 203-194 win and a 236-219 victory to cut the margin to 3-2 before the deciding sixth game.
Vanderbilt came out on top, 185-182, with anchor Josie Earnest striking and then filling the frame to close out the Big Red.
The 'Dores had advanced to the second round at the NCAA Women's Bowling Championship Friday morning with a 4-2 Baker series victory over Sacred Heart.
The third-seeded Commodores dispatched the sixth-seeded Pioneers, winning the first three games before dropping the potentially winning fourth game in the best of seven by three pins. Consistency was once again a strength for Vanderbilt as it had scores of 205-219-238-196-179 and 227.
Williamson elected to go with Kaitlin Reynolds in his starting lineup once again. Reynolds, who came off the sidelines early yesterday to help put a spark in the rotating lineup, once again performed admirably.
In the six games, Vanderbilt left just one open single frame, which ultimately proved to be the difference in this match.