Latvia's Zavjalova wins 2013 USBC Queens

HENDERSON, Nev. - Latvia's Diana Zavjalova became the first foreign player in more than two decades to win the United States Bowling Congress Queens presented by Storm as she defeated USBC Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg of North Ogden, Utah, 190-160, at Sunset Station's Strike Zone Bowling Center on Thursday night.

The 22-year-old right-hander was the first No. 1 seed since 2009 to secure the title, and she did so in her first USBC Queens appearance. Hall of famer Carol Gianotti of Australia was the last foreign player to claim the coveted crown, doing so in 1989, two years before Zavjalova was born.

"There are just so many feelings right now, but excitement is at the top of the list," said Zavjalova, who earned $20,000 and the traditional Queens tiara. "This is the first time I have bowled in this event, I was the leader and I was able to beat a hall of famer. I'm living my dream. I just can't believe it."

Zavjalova has been successful under the television lights before, helping Webber International to the women's title at the 2012 USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships, but the experience is much different when you're out there alone.

Despite being nervous, Zavjalova felt confident with her first few shots, though the 10 pin didn't agree. After missing one in the second frame, she was able to refocus, and the pins started to cooperate.

"I was mad on the inside, but I knew I had to let it go," said Zavjalova, who struck in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames to put the game out of reach. "I started fresh after the open, and even though I left another 10 pin, I made it and kept trying to throw good shots."

Hulsenberg, who has made more than 100 television appearances in her career, threw 15 strikes in her first two matches but was plagued with poor carry in the finale. The 1999 Queens champion missed two single-pin spares late in the game to ultimately cost her a chance at becoming the ninth bowler in history with two Queens victories. She took home $10,000 for the runner-up finish Thursday.

In the semifinal, Hulsenberg struck eight times as she defeated Shayna Ng of Singapore, 249-172. Ng, who was never lower than second in the standings all week, left splits in the fourth and fifth frames and wasn't able to recover.

Hulsenberg started her first game on TV since winning the 2011 Bowling's U.S. Women's Open at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with a missed 7 pin before getting comfortable. She then rattled off a string of five strikes to build a 30-pin lead over Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, and advanced to the semifinal with a 235-184 win.

In the evening's opening match, Higgins trailed after six frames but made a late charge with three consecutive strikes and cruised past USBC Hall of Famer and two-time Queens champion Lynda Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, 205-173.

The Queens is open to any female USBC member, and with this year's event coming just after the World Tenpin Bowling Association World Championships, the field included 202 players representing 15 countries.

Other international Queens winners include Kazue Inahashi of Tokyo in 1984 and Katsuko Sugimoto, also from Tokyo, in 1981 and 1982.