Scores heating up in Diamond Division at 2019 USBC Women's Championships

By Ryne Navarro and Katie Smith
USBC Communications

- With the United States Bowling Congress Queens heading to Northrock Lanes later this week, many of the top bowlers in the world are in Wichita and sharpening their skills at the USBC Women's Championships and making their way to the top of the Diamond Division standings.

On Sunday, the Diamond Team lead changed twice within just a few hours at the 48-lane venue, while the number to beat in Diamond All-Events jumped for the second consecutive day.

Defending Diamond Team champion Golden Approach Pro Shop of Dayton, Ohio, ended Sunday in dramatic fashion to return to the top of the standings with a 2,682 total, surpassing the 2,663 rolled earlier in the day by Ballard vs. the Big C of Keller, Texas.

The same two teams finished in first and second place at the 2018 USBC Women's Championships in Reno, Nevada.

In Diamond All-Events, USBC Hall of Famer and four-time Women's Championships titlist Kendra Gaines of Orlando, Florida, moved into the lead with a 2,025 total. Emily Eckhoff of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, had raised the bar Saturday with 2,002.

Heading into the last game, the members of Golden Approach Pro Shop needed a huge effort to have a chance at the lead after starting with games of 811 and 879. The team responded with a late flurry of strikes and a 299 game from Team USA's Shannon Pluhowsky to finish with a 992 total, the second-highest team game total since the event switched to four-player teams in 2014.

Pluhowsky, bowling in the anchor position, needed the first strike in the 10th frame to secure the lead for her team. Her 299 helped her finish with a 714 series, and she was joined by Rebekah Martin (204 final game, 658 series), Rebecca Whiting (223, 657) and Ann Coleman (266, 653).

If Pluhowsky was able to connect for the 300 game Sunday, she also would have become the first bowler to record perfect games at both the USBC Open Championships and Women's Championships. She rolled 300 at the 2014 Open Championships, which also was held in Reno. 

GoldenApproachProShopTrophy_637Prior to the start of competition Sunday, Pluhowsky, Martin and Whiting were recognized as part of the winning team from the 2018 event at the National Bowling Stadium. They were joined by Kelly Belzeski in 2018 on the way to a winning total of 2,703.

"It's crazy because we always have three of the four same people," said Pluhowsky, a four-time Women's Championships titlist. "But, we always find some team chemistry to have fun and bowl well."

Heading into the event and final frames, the teammates did not know the score they were chasing from the earlier squad. A late run of 13 consecutive strikes starting in the sixth frame helped put them in position to return to the top of the standings.

"We didn't know the number," Pluhowsky said. "We usually don't look because we just want to come out and have fun."

The performance also served as a nice change of pace for Pluhowsky, Martin and Whiting after each struggled earlier in the week at the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA) Lincoln Open.

They'll now hope to use that momentum to find success at the Queens, which starts Wednesday at Northrock Lanes.

"Bowling strikes is fun, especially since we didn't get too many at the PWBA stop in Lincoln," Pluhowsky said. "This event gives us a great opportunity to bowl with friends, hang out and just have fun while tuning up for the Queens."

Diamond Team features bowlers with combined entering averages of 725 and above.

051219KendraGaines_637Gaines, who was inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame in 2018, put together sets of 720 in singles, 672 in doubles and 633 in team over the weekend at Northrock Lanes to move into the lead.

Her biggest adjustment came at the end of her doubles set, and she was able to roll 20 strikes during singles on her way to games of 226, 258 and 236 to take over third place in Diamond Singles.

Beverly Gonzalez of Sierra Vista, Arizona, leads Diamond Singles with 798.

"I needed to create some rotation to get my ball to face up the right way," said Gaines, who made her 24th tournament appearance. "And once I put my glove on it was like 'Ah!' The picture became even more clear. I was really, really close, but my hand wasn't as crisp and clean every shot in team or the first part of doubles."

Gaines became the first bowler in tournament history to roll an 800 series when she connected for an 812 set during her team event at the 2000 Women's Championships, and she was excited to return to the top of the leaderboard.

"The cool thing is I get to leave in the lead," said Gaines, who was the first bowler to roll an 800 series at the Women's Championships during the 2000 event. "It's nice to still be able to see the lane, play it the way it's supposed to be played and actually get scores that reflect that."

Diamond All-Events includes bowlers with entering averages 190 and above.

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