Malaysia's Zulkifli takes lead at 2021 USBC Women's Championships

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RENO, Nev. - Malaysia's Shalin Zulkifli capped an exciting week at the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships by taking the Diamond All-Events lead Wednesday at the National Bowling Stadium.

Zulkifli averaged more than 250 for her nine games at the 2021 event to finish with a 2,253 all-events total, the third highest all-events score in 101 editions of the USBC Women's Championships.

Along with Zulkifli's run to the top of the leaderboard, Tina Williams of Pflugerville, Texas, recorded the first 300 game of the 2021 event to start her doubles set, and Karsyn Lukosius of Brick, New Jersey, and Nichole Hiraoka of Daly City, California, recorded the highest doubles game in tournament history (576) to move into second place in Diamond Doubles.

The Women's Championships now will take a brief hiatus to welcome the competitors at the USBC Queens, the first major championship of the 2021 Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour season, to the NBS.

The Queens will take place until May 18, and squads will resume at the Women's Championships on May 19.

Zulkifli originally wasn't planning to bowl the Women's Championships when she made the trip to the United States for the Queens. She found a team looking for a bowler for team, doubles and singles using the on-site sub board.

"I didn't get to bowl much prior to this trip, so I planned to practice at one of the other centers when I arrived," said Zulkifli, who won more than 90 medals in international competition during her junior and adult career on the Malaysian national team. "I found out about the sub board and found a team looking for someone for all three events. I met them for the first time yesterday, and they are all really sweet ladies."

Zulkifli rolled sets of 782 in team, 752 in doubles and 719 in singles. She recorded seven games above 240 and had a low game of 220 at the NBS.

Jodi Woessner of Oregon, Ohio, holds the all-events record at the Women's Championships with a 2,330 total during the 2010 event in El Paso, Texas.

"I was pretty surprised, because I haven't bowled competitively for about two years with everything going on," said Zulkifli, a three-time gold medalist at the International Bowling Federation Women's Championships. "I'm ecstatic since I didn't really expect anything. I knew I was bowling well, but I didn't know what was leading. I'm quite thankful it all worked out, and it would be incredible if I was able to hold on and win. I'm going to try and keep the same pace and momentum heading in Queens, and try to enjoy the moment and competition."

051221_TinaWilliamsWilliams became the 33rd bowler in tournament history to roll a 300 game to kick off competition at the NBS on Wednesday. She added games of 225 and 212 for a 737 series and paired with Sandi Charles of Nolanville, Texas, to move into 13th place in Diamond Doubles with a 1,366 total.

Williams arrived at the 78-lane venue a couple hours prior to her team event Tuesday to watch some of the other bowlers, and after rolling a 713 series in team, she decided to start with a different bowling ball for doubles.

"We came in early to watch everybody, and I was able to see the zone where a couple of people were having success, so that's what I did in team," said Williams, a member of the USBC Board of Directors. "The ball I used was too strong, though, so I ended up switching in the second game and it was lights out from there. I knew I needed to start with that ball today, and that's exactly what I did. It went through the pocket perfectly."

The former Team USA member wasn't sure if she was going to get the 10 pin out on her final delivery for the 300 game but was glad to catch a hit she doesn't always get.

"I didn't think the 12th shot was going to get through the pins and snap out the 10 like it did," Williams said. "With my rev rate and ball speed, I don't usually get a lot of 10 pins to carry like that, so it was extra special to finish it off that way."

Williams made another run at perfection during her second game of singles, starting with nine consecutive strikes. She left a 10 pin on her first shot of the 10th frame to bowl 279, and she finished her singles set with 745 to move into fifth place in Diamond All-Events with 2,195.

If she was able to roll the second 300 game, she would have become the first competitor in Women's Championships history to bowl multiple 300s at the same event.

USBC Hall of Famer Jeanne Naccarato is the only player in tournament history with multiple 300s at the event (2014 and 2019).

"I don't know if my heart could have handled that, because it wasn't any easier than the first one," Williams said. "I was nervous again. I had made a ball change and moved farther left but had the same ball motion. I just didn't catch it enough, but it feels amazing to be able to put a day like this together."

051221_KarsynLukosius_NicholeHiraokaLukosius attempted to join Williams in the record-setting doubles game, starting the final game with 11 consecutive strikes to finish with 299. She got to the pocket on the final shot, but the 7 pin did not fall down.

Hiraoka started with a pair of spares before delivering nine consecutive strikes of her own to roll 277.

The strong finish catapulted Lukosius and Hiraoka into second place with a 1,472 total. Hiraoka started with games of 224 and 244 for a 745 series, and Lukosius kicked off her doubles set with 181 and 247 for a 727 series.

Colombia's Maria José Rodriguez and Guatemala's Sofia Granda lead Diamond Doubles with a record score of 1,560.

Lukosius and Hiraoka surpassed the mark set Tuesday at the NBS by Kristin Nieter of Homewood, Illinois, and Terysa Wojnar of New Lenox, Illinois. Nieter and Wojnar combined to roll 565 on the way to a 1,368 total.

The Diamond Division features bowlers with entering averages of 175 and above. Diamond Doubles includes bowlers with combined entering averages of 350 and above.