SEMINOLE, Fla. – A high-scoring week at Seminole Lanes became a much more difficult test in the stepladder finals of the Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open on Saturday.
But No. 5 seed Diana Zavjalova of Latvia was able to fight through to win her opening match, then climbed the stepladder to capture her third PWBA title with a 201-158 victory over top-seed Daria Pajak of Poland.
The finals of the Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open, which had five bowlers who are all in their 20s, were televised live on CBS Sports Network.
Zavjalova, who celebrated her 27th birthday on Wednesday, admitted that after a high-scoring week, she didn’t know what to expect with the finals on a pair of lanes not used during the week.
“I was nervous,” Zavjalova said. “I didn’t throw it well in the first game. Once I got through the first game, I got more comfortable, kept moving left and the other girls were struggling. I just kept moving left and just got more comfortable as the games went on.”
An early double in the title match helped Zavjalova to an 18-pin lead after six frames, and when Pajak, 25, missed a single-pin spare attempt for the second time in the match, Zavjalova simply continued to make her spares.
“I did not see the right shape, and when I threw it good, I didn’t carry,” Pajak said. “I tried to make adjustments, and that’s when I threw bad shots. And you cannot win when you miss two spares.”
In the semifinal match against Liz Kuhlkin, 24, of Schenectady, New York, Zavjalova was in a groove, striking on six of her first seven shots. Kuhlkin, who ran the stepladder to win the U.S. Women’s Open in June, managed only two strikes in the 225-157 loss.
Zavjalova had missed two spare attempts in the opening five frames of her second match against Jordan Richard, 22, of Tipton, Michigan. After a missed 10-pin spare attempt in the fifth frame, Zavjalova did not miss anything the rest of the match, finishing with seven consecutive strikes in a 226-172 victory.
“I hate missing spares,” Zavjalova said. “Once I missed, I sat down, decided to start fresh and said ‘Let’s do this.’”
In the opening match, Zavjalova slipped past Verity Crawley, 24, of England, 185-168, in a match that took some big momentum swings in the final frames. Zavjalova had a 10-pin lead entering the ninth frame, but left the 2-4-10 on her first shot and could not convert.
Crawley, with a chance to clear the deficit, hit the pocket only to leave the 7-10 split. Zavjalova struck on her first shot in the final frame to clinch.
For Zavjalova, winning the title meant going through Crawley in the opening match and Pajak in the title match. The three were teammates at Webber International and travel together on the PWBA Tour.
“We’ve known each other for a long time and I love the girls more than anything,” Zavjalova said. “But it’s really tough to bowl against them. I’m happy that I won, but Verity and Daria bowled amazing all week. That’s the beauty of the game – it comes down to one game in the finals and it worked in my favor.”
The Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open is the first of three elite-field events that will take place in August. Following the U.S. Women’s Open, the top 24 players on the PWBA points list earned their way into the elite-field events with the remainder of the 32-player field determined through a pre-tournament qualifier (PTQ).
Players had 16 games of qualifying on Friday before the field was cut to the top 12. Six additional games on Saturday morning determined the five players for the stepladder finals.
HOUSTON, Texas (July 29, 2018) – EJ Tackett of Huntington, Ind., and Liz Johnson of Palatine, Ill., survived a dramatic final game to win the 19th PBA-PWBA Storm Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles title at Copperfield Bowl Sunday, sending Australia’s Jason Belmonte and Chicago’s Diandra Asbaty to their second straight runner-up finish.
Tackett, PBA’s 2016 Player of the Year, and Johnson, one of two women ever to win a PBA Tour title, led the tournament through 17 games before being overtaken by Belmonte and Asbaty. Trailing Belmonte and Asbaty by 10 pins going into the final match, victory in the tournament was going to be decided by whichever team won the game.
Thanks in great part to a bold move by Johnson to move to an extreme outside angle on the left lane while continuing to play an inside angle along with the rest of the field on the right lane, she gave her team the edge with a 212-192 margin over Asbaty. Tackett was unable to strike in his 10th frame, but Belmonte, needing a double for the win, left a 10 pin on his first shot in his 10th frame. While Belmonte out-scored Tackett, 214-208, but it wasn’t quite enough. Tackett and Johnson, bowling as partners for the first time in the event, won the final match, 420-406, and earned 30 match play bonus pins to post a composite 20-game total of 8,797 pins to win by a 34-pin margin.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Tackett, who earned his 11th PBA Tour title and second of the 2018 Go Bowling! PBA Tour season. “I’m so happy for Liz. I’m so proud to be part of this win. There was not a single person in this building who could have done what she did in that last game. It was absolutely amazing watching her play outside on one lane, inside on the other.
“There are only two people in the world who can do what Liz did – her and Norm Duke. That’s one reason she is the greatest woman bowler of all-time.”
“I’m pretty numb,” Johnson said of her 20th PWBA title. “It’s taken me 17 years to win here. People say ‘You’ve won everything,’ but this is a major title to me. I’m so proud. This is my favorite tournament of the year.
“This has always been an event unlike any we bowl all year and it’s getting bigger and bigger,” she added. “When I started bowling this event I think I was one of the only ones coming from out of town. Now players come from all over the country and all over the world.”