PWBA stars prepare for upcoming season by competing in USBC Masters

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - As the excitement builds for the start of the 2018 Professional Women's Bowling Association season, several of the Tour's stars are working in a final tuneup at the United States Bowling Congress Masters.

There are six PWBA players are among the 360 competitors in the field this week at the Oncenter Convention Center, including three-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year Liz Johnson of Palatine, Illinois, and 2017 PWBA Rookie of the Year Daria Pajak of Poland.

Three-time PWBA Tour champion Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, two-time USBC Queens champion Diana Zavjalova of Latvia, 2016 PWBA Players Championship winner Clara Guerrero of Colombia and former Team USA member Ashly Galante of Palm Harbor, Florida, also are competing this week at the custom-built 48-lane venue.

The 2018 PWBA Tour season starts April 26 in Las Vegas at the PWBA Las Vegas Open and will conclude in September at the PWBA Tour Championship in Richmond, Virginia.

Guerrero led the PWBA contingent during Tuesday's opening round, averaging more than 211 during her five-game block to finish the day in 34th place with a 1,058 total.

She has been actively preparing for the season but only has competed in one recent event - the Brunswick Euro Challenge last month in Germany - since the start of 2018.

"I've been spending a lot of time in the gym and on the lanes, which hasn't been any different than previous years, but I haven't been competing as much," said Guerrero, who had a high finish of second during the 2017 season at the PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open. "This is only my second tournament of the year, so I definitely wanted to come out here to prepare and get ready. Bowling against the men always is challenging, and it will help get me in the right mindset for the season."

Guerrero has been fighting a nagging finger injury on her bowling hand since last season, but she has continued to adjust her span to alleviate some of the tension.

She didn't have an opportunity to take much of a break after the conclusion of the 2017 PWBA Tour season due to several events with the Colombian national team, but she feels the tough 40-foot oil pattern being used this week at the Oncenter Convention Center will help her moving forward to the Las Vegas Open.

"I still have the small injury from last year, and it was hard to recover since I never stopped bowling," Guerrero said. "The adjustments I've made to my fit are feeling better, and I've also worked on some adjustments in my physical game to feel sharper. The pattern is difficult this week, so I think it will also show me if there's anything else I need to work on so I'm ready to start the season."

Guerrero hopes to stay ahead of the transition as she looks to continue strong in her final 10 games of qualifying and advance to the 64-player match-play portion of the Masters, which starts Friday.

The best finish by a woman at the Masters happened at the 2012 event in Henderson, Nevada, when 2011 Queens champion Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, California, finished tied for ninth place.

"The idea during the first round was to stay farther right and not migrate left with the guys," Guerrero said. "I was able to accomplish that by using different speeds and releases, and I'm happy with my start. The mindset for the next two days will probably be the same, but I know I have to stay open minded, too. If I don't see what I saw playing further right or have to make a big jump left on the burn, I'll be ready for that. But the main goal is stay out and away from where the guys are at. That would be a good thing for me."

McEwan finished Tuesday's opening round 10 pins outside of the cut number with a 1,021 total. Johnson was 34 pins out of the cut with 997, while Pajak (919), Zavjalova (904) and Galante (901) were a little further back in the standings with 10 games remaining.

Live coverage of the 2018 Masters can be found on Xtra Frame, the Professional Bowlers Association's online bowling channel. Xtra Frame also is home of the PWBA Tour throughout the season.

The stepladder finals of seven of the 14 events during the 2018 PWBA Tour season will be featured live on Xtra Frame. The other seven events will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.