Ohio team highlights big day at 2018 USBC Women's Championships

RENO, Nev. - As part of a star-studded team event featuring more than 20 past champions at the United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships, Golden Approach Pro Shop of Dayton, Ohio, stole the show Monday as it moved into the top spot in Diamond Team.

The team made an early statement at the National Bowling Stadium, posting a 925 opening game, before finishing with 885 and 893 for a 2,703 total. High 5 Gear of Franklin, Wisconsin, previously held the lead with 2,500.

Golden Approach Pro Shop was led by Australia's Rebecca Whiting, who finished her set with games of 269 and 254 for a 713 series. She was joined by three-time USBC Women's Championships titlist Shannon Pluhowsky (693), Rebekah Martin (660) and Kelly Belzeski (637).

Although Golden Approach Pro Shop got out to a great start Monday, Whiting helped weather a slow start to Game 3, which included three opens in the first two frames. Working in the leadoff spot, she delivered strikes on eight of her first nine offerings as the rest of the team started to settle in.

"I like to lead off and get them going," said Whiting, who made her second Women's Championships appearance. "I didn't bowl as well during the first game, but the other girls bowled quite well. We all came together at the end and put together the effort we needed."

Whiting's first appearance at the Women's Championships came at the 2016 event in Las Vegas, where she also teamed with Pluhowsky. That combination resulted in a second-place finish in Diamond Team.

Martin, who's also from Australia, joined Pluhowsky's team at the 2017 event in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for her first appearance, which also resulted in a top-10 finish in the team event.

Belzeski just finished a successful collegiate career at the University of Nebraska, which included a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title with the Cornhuskers in 2015 and a semifinal appearance last month at the Intercollegiate Singles Championships.

"Rebecca and I bowled here a couple of years ago and finished second in Las Vegas, and I've gotten to know her and Rebekah from when they've come over to bowl some of the (Professional Women's Bowling Association) Tour stops," said Pluhowsky, an 18-time member of Team USA. "And Kelly is just out of college and had a great career at Nebraska, so I figured I'd just try to put together some strong bowlers and see what happens."

Pluhowsky admitted the teammates kept things pretty quiet during their set, but the team effort clearly didn't require much conversation as the team finished the day averaging better than 225.

The NBS also has been a home away from home for Pluhowsky. She won the 2006 USBC Queens at the 78-lane venue, and she also captured the Diamond Team title during the Women's Championships last visit to The Taj Mahal of Tenpins in 2015.

During that performance, she teamed with Brenda Burns, Megan Kelly and Megan Withey to help AZ Gals of Peoria, Arizona, to the title with a 2,717 total.

"I like this building," said Pluhowsky, who helped Ebonite Bowlers Map of Roseville, California, to the 2007 Classic Team title and claimed the 2011 Scratch Singles title at the Women's Championships. "My ball roll is really good here, and I think the low end usually plays a little better, so we hit a pretty good pair and bowled really well. We'll keep our fingers crossed."

Whiting also will be looking forward to seeing if the score is enough to hold on in hopes of bringing a pair of gemstone trophies across the Pacific Ocean.

"I think it would be great to prove to the fans in Australia that we're pretty serious with women's bowling," Whiting said. "Hopefully, we can get it back on the radar and get more people interested, and I think we can do that by winning titles here."

Pluhowsky, Whiting and Martin will be competing in the upcoming 2018 Queens, which starts at the NBS on Wednesday with the official practice session.

With many of the top female bowlers in the world already in Reno, the Diamond Team standings had an overhaul Monday. Nine teams made their way into the top 10 during the two team squads, and previous leader High 5 Gear dropped to seventh in the standings.

Diamond Team features four-player teams with combined entering averages of 725 and above.

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