LAS VEGAS – If the members of Team USA are going to find success in the team event at the 2017 World Bowling Championships, it’s going to take trust.
The players will need to trust their abilities, preparation, each other, their coaches, all the things they’ve learned this week on the event’s 39-foot Beijing oil pattern and their eyes. They need to trust their instincts concerning what they’re seeing on the lane, and it has to result in quick, confident decisions.
The team event reached its halfway point Friday at the South Point Bowling Plaza, and the Team USA men finished the day in fourth place with a 3,050 three-game total, despite struggling after a hot start. The women, the defending champions, are seventh with a 3,012 total.
The men posted games of 1,081, 996 and 973, and the women had 1,015, 1,048 and 949.
The top four men’s teams and top four women’s teams after six games over two days will advance to the semifinals, which will take place Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern as part of two days of live coverage on the Olympic Channel.
“One thing about when you struggle is that you learn a lot, so we should be a lot smarter for tomorrow,” Team USA’s Chris Barnes said. “As a whole, we left a few stone 8 pins and had some bad breaks, but on the flipside, we made five or six big splits. I think the breaks evened out for us, but we’re going to have to game plan a little differently tomorrow. We didn’t do much the last two games at all, and that should be the strength of our team. I anticipate we’ll learn from it and come out and be ready tomorrow, especially the last two games.”
The Chinese Taipei men again found success on the challenging Beijing oil pattern using the “spinner” release, which makes the lane condition less of a factor and uses deflection as the primary means of pin carry.
They lead after three games with a 3,141 total, rolling consistent scores of 1,050, 1,020 and 1,071. Chinese Taipei is followed by Colombia (3,127) and Australia (3,102). Canada is the first team out of the cut, one pin behind the United States with 3,049.
Barnes led the way for Team USA with a 714 series and was joined by AJ Johnson (601), Tommy Jones (596), Jakob Butturff (571) and Marshall Kent (568).
On the women’s side, Malaysia set the pace with help from a 1,102 final game and finished the day atop the standings with a 3,117 total. Colombia is second with 3,105, followed by Chinese Taipei (3,076) and Korea (3,066). Denmark is close behind at 3,062.
“I think we got off to a really good start, and the picture was very clear for all of us,” Team USA’s Stefanie Johnson said. “We’ve been gathering information all week as far as lane transition and ball motion, but I think Game 3 got away from us pretty early today. So, I think the plan of attack tomorrow will be to make moves quicker and commit to them. This pattern has been tricky all week and has played a little differently each day, so we also need to be confident what we’re seeing is actually what’s happening.”
Danielle McEwan was the top performer for the United States, rolling a 621 series. She was followed by Johnson (614), Josie Barnes (605), Kelly Kulick (595) and Shannon O’Keefe (577).
All of the competitors now have bowled 21 games at the Bowling Plaza, making notes about what worked and what didn’t and how the lanes transitioned, but there’s only three games left to put all of the research and information to use.
The environment and traffic pattern also are a little different than many have seen recently on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour or Professional Bowlers Association Tour, where they compete individually, rather than in a team setting.
“The moves and transition we’ve been seeing haven’t been little moves, it has been zone changes and ball changes,” Stefanie Johnson said. “It’s not necessarily transitions we’re used to seeing on Tour, per se. In this environment, especially in the team event with 10 players on a pair and more balls going down the lane, the transitions are going to happen much sooner, and we need to be two steps ahead of it.”
In addition to relying on their experience and what they’ve learned since the event kicked off Saturday, patience will be key.
“We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but overall, the goal is to fill frames and not get to far ahead of ourselves thinking we need to strike every time,” Johnson said. “The world is getting stronger, and there are a lot of talented players here. We just have to make good shots and do everything we can to put ourselves in position to win. I have faith in our abilities, and I’m looking forward to what tomorrow brings.”
Competition resumes Saturday at noon Eastern, with the bottom half of the field in each division. The top portion of the field will hit the lanes at 5:15 p.m. Eastern.
At the conclusion of the six games, total pinfall will determine the semifinalist. The men’s and women’s team semifinals will take place simultaneously Sunday, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
The final three team games also will determine the all-events medalists (gold, silver and bronze) in each division, based on their 24-game pinfall totals from singles, doubles, trios and team.
The top 24 men and top 24 women in the all-events standings will advance to Masters match play Monday.
Wu Hao-Ming of Chinese Taipei tops the all-events standings on the men’s side after 21 games with a 4,595 total, a 218.81 average. Australia’s Jason Belmonte is second with 4,467, and Petteri Salonen of Finland is third with 4,463.
Team USA’s Johnson is fifth, Barnes is tied for 14th place, Jones is 16th, Kent is 38th, Butturff is tied for 59th and Via is 70th.
McEwan leads on the women’s side with a 21-game total of 4,438, a 211.33 average. She is followed by Chinese Taipei’s Tsai Hsin-Yi (4,406), while Malaysia’s Sin Li Jane and Korea’s Kim Moon Jeong are tied for third place with 4,366.
Team USA’s Kulick is 10th, Johnson is 23rd, Barnes is 31st, Pluhowsky is 55th and O’Keefe is 69th.
The 2017 World Championships will run until Monday. The final two days of competition will be broadcast live on the Olympic Channel to a worldwide audience.
This year’s tournament is a combined men’s and women’s event, which happens every four years. The 2013 World Championships at nearby Sunset Station in Henderson, Nevada, also was a combined event.
The field includes 213 men from 36 countries and 176 women from 30 countries.
Countries participating this year in Las Vegas include: Aruba, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, Ukraine, Venezuela and Wales.
For more information on the 2017 World Championships, visit 2017wc.worldbowling.org.