New leaders in Diamond Doubles, Singles at 2017 Women's Championships

BATON ROUGE, La. - Taylor Bulthuis of Coral Springs, Florida, has enjoyed continued success at the Raising Cane's River Center, home of the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships, but she still is seeking her first win in the specially constructed venue.

The 23-year-old right-hander returned to the River Center this week for the first time since collecting a pair of runner-up finishes at the Intercollegiate Team and Singles Championships in April, and she once again found the right look on the way into the lead in Diamond Singles with a 746 series Wednesday.

Bulthuis, a collegiate standout at Webber International, used games of 278, 226 and 242 to surpass Katie Ann Sopp-Schroeder of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, who took the lead Tuesday with a 684 total.

After the strong start in singles, Bulthuis ran into trouble to start the second game and had to make a decision on how she was going to attack the lanes.

"A lot of the girls around me were making ball changes," said Bulthuis, who helped Webber capture the 2016 ITC title. "That was the one thing I didn't do. After shooting 278, my next shot went through the face, and I thought it might be too much ball. Instead of balling down, I decided to make a move and just kept making them along the way."

Bulthuis feels her success at the venue is due to some similarities to the Kegel Training Center in Lake Wales, Florida, where she practiced daily alongside her teammates at Webber.

"The thing I like about this place is that it reminds me of home, which is the Kegel Training Center," said Bulthuis, who made her third USBC Women's Championships appearance. "That really makes me feel more comfortable. It's going to sound funny, but they just redid the gutters at Kegel, and it matches exactly what's here. It's a weird thing for me, but it didn't feel like I was anywhere else."

Bulthuis now will wait and see if she finally can claim a title at the River Center, but she knows she trusted her process to make three successful showings at the venue.

"It would mean a lot," Bulthuis said. "On the plane, I thought about having two second places in this building, so that meant I still could go up from there. That was the thought process coming out here, and I'm glad it ended up working out. I hope it holds up, but if not, I'll always come back and keep trying. I wanted to keep an eye on my moves, ball motion and do the best I could to keep those scores going up, and I'm glad it ended the way it did."

Bulthuis' overall effort also pushed her into the top 10 in Diamond All-Events. She added sets of 617 in team and 613 in doubles for a 1,976 total, which is seventh overall. Jennifer King of Irmo, South Carolina, leads with 2,046.

VanDykeSanders_637Before Bulthuis made her run at singles, Melissa Van Dyke of Parma, Ohio, and Heidi Sanders of Xenia, Ohio, made a run of their own, taking the lead in Diamond Doubles with a 1,332 total. Hayley Veitch of Kenner, Louisiana, and the Dominican Republic's Aumi Guerra previously held the lead with 1,319.

Van Dyke, a 28-year-old left-hander, led the effort with games of 245, 255 and 208 for a 708 total, and Sanders, a 27-year-old right-hander, added games of 218, 222 and 184 for 624.

The strikes did not add up as quickly for the pair in the finale, but they solidified their spot at the top of the standings after Van Dyke stepped up first in the 10th frame and delivered a double.

Spares were key for Sanders down the stretch as she converted six multiple-pin leaves in the final game to stay clean.

"After Melissa finished and we knew we had it, it felt like a weight was lifted off our shoulders," said Sanders, who made her second Women's Championships appearance. "That's when we started to get excited."

Both Van Dyke and Sanders knew what adjustments needed to be made after their team event Tuesday, and though this was the first time they had paired up for doubles, they relied on the chemistry built through bowling together on teams throughout Ohio to help them to the top spot.

"I think we stayed focused very well today," said Van Dyke, who made her tournament debut this week. "After the team event, we knew what it was going to be like and that it would take a lot of hard work to get there. We've been friends for such a long time and can push each other in a good way, and it really helped today."

Both now look forward to seeing if their effort is enough to claim their first Women's Championships titles and echoed that their performance at the River Center could not have been down without a strong support system of family and friends back home.

Van Dyke also moved into the top 10 in Diamond All-Events, adding 633 in singles and 632 in team for a 1,973 total, which is good for eighth place. Sanders added sets of 611 in singles and 578 in team for a 1,813 tally.

Diamond Doubles features bowlers with combined entering averages of 380 and above. Diamond Singles and All-Events includes bowlers with entering averages of 190 and above.

The Women's Championships now will take a brief hiatus to welcome the USBC Queens to the River Center. Queens qualifying kicks of Thursday at 9 a.m. Eastern, and the 2017 edition will run through Tuesday. The stepladder finals of the 2017 Queens will air on CBS Sports Network on Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Competition at the Women's Championships will resume Monday evening at 9 p.m. Eastern.

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