BATON ROUGE, La. - Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 and Nicholas J's Pro Shop of La Crosse, Wis., can sum up their dominating performance at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships on Monday with one word - teamwork.
The 10 bowlers may be young, but years of bowling together in college and league helped them remain confident and comfortable as they surged into the top two spots in Regular Team at the Baton Rouge River Center with 3,401 and 3,204, respectively. Legend of Dung Ho of Cerritos, Calif., previously held the lead with 3,088.
Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 turned in a consistent performance that included games of 1,115, 1,165 and 1,121, while its companion team, made up entirely of first-time participants, had 953, 1,098 and 1,153.
"Everyone had the same plan in mind," said Nick Heilman, a 29-year-old right-hander and the veteran of the group with nine USBC Open Championships appearances. "We were all working towards the same goal. It made it easier with everyone doing the same thing. We didn't have people trying to fight against each other wanting to play their own games. We had all 10 people playing together as one team, breaking it down and doing the best we could."
The group spent countless hours together on the lanes in recent weeks testing different equipment and strategies, but their success on bowling's biggest stage came down to fundamentals, which included minimizing errant shots and making spares.
Heilman set the pace for Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 with a 769 series and was followed by Andy Mills (680), Trevor Yonan (679), Matt Mysliwiec (659) and Greg Pizl (614). The effort included marks in all but eight frames and helped the group become the 33rd team in 109 years of tournament history to eclipse the 3,400 mark.
"We had the shot put out at our bowling alleys and got to practice on that a good bit for almost a month," Heilman said. "We got to try out different equipment, different drillings and different game plans. It played very close to what we saw back home."
Rob Warren led the way for his team of first-timers with a 663 set and was joined by Thomas York (659), Matt Krueger (642) and Jade Lucas and Megan Jirsa with 620 apiece.
"I know we all just wanted to bowl really well," said Krueger, who currently bowls with Warren, Jirsa, York and Pizl at Viterbo University in La Crosse. "We expected it to feel a lot like a college tournament, and we are comfortable in that environment together. We came here to bowl as a team and didn't set any individual goals. We just wanted to end up plus, and we knew if we worked together, threw good shots and made our spares, we could do that."
Yonan found instant success last year with a 300 game in his own tournament debut, but he's excited about the chance to share the spotlight with his teammates this time around.
"Shooting 300 last year was awesome, and I couldn't wait to come back," said Yonan, a 21-year-old right-hander. "We struggled a little bit as a team last year, but this year we worked harder and recruited a talented second team to help us break down the lanes. We played the same part of the lane and hoped we could open it up for the second and third games, and that's exactly what happened."
On the other side of the River Center on Monday night, K Lines 2 of Gildford, Mont., grabbed the top spot in Classified Team with scores of 875, 912 and 871 for a 2,658 total. Wafflers of Romeoville, Ill., previously held the lead with 2,568.
Andy Owens lead the way for K Lines 2 with a 606 series and was followed by Todd Langel (570), Ron Turner (540), Dan Redding (488) and Lyle Harrison (454).
"We came down to have fun," Redding said. "We could have bowled better. Some of us didn't hit our averages, and we could have shot a little higher, but we are happy to be in the position we are in now."
To be eligible for the Classified Division, a team must have a combined average of 900 or less and 360 or less for doubles. Individuals must have an average of 180 or less for singles and all-events.
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.