In a week where strikes were hard to come by, Team USA member Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, stepped up and delivered one to remember as she defeated Diana Zavjalova of Latvia, 225-212, in the championship match of the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America Women's All-Star Tournament at The Cherry Bowl in Rockford, Ill.
Neither player had trouble getting to the pocket in the finale Friday, but carry was a challenge as it had been all week. Zavjalova clung to a one-pin lead until a missed 2-4-8-10 split in the ninth frame gave Pluhowsky a chance to shut her out.
"In my mind, I wasn't necessarily trying to strike, because that's when you over-think it and bad things happen," said Pluhowsky, a 31-year-old left-hander who earned $15,000 for the win. "I just wanted to throw a good shot, and I did that. Diana bowled two great games today and had one bad frame. It could've gone either way. She bowled well all week."
Pluhowsky and Zavjalova battled for the top spot in the standings throughout the 16 games of match play Thursday. The two faced off in the final game of match play and again in the position round, with Pluhowsky winning both meetings to secure the No. 1 seed for the stepladder finals.
"The lanes weren't easy this week, and you didn't need a lot of big games stay close," said Pluhowsky, who also won the 2006 United States Bowling Congress Queens. "I tried some different tricks to try and make it carry better here and there, but I didn't necessarily want to make too big of a move. I was fortunate to be able to win a lot of matches (14), and the bonus pins were a big help."
Zavjalova struck in six of her first seven frames in a 236-207 semifinal match against Team USA member Shannon O'Keefe of Arlington, Texas, and it looked like that momentum might carry her to her first win against Pluhowsky. But as was the case throughout the week, the 39-foot oil pattern proved tricky to navigate.
"The lanes have been really sensitive all week, and even small mistakes turned out really bad," said Zavjalova, the 2013 USBC Queens champion. "I thought I threw it OK in the ninth frame, and I was surprised that happened. I thought it would make it back because I knew I had even slowed down a little bit."
O'Keefe's road to the semifinal included wins against three-time U.S. Women's Open winner Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, New York, and five-time major champion Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey.
In her match against Johnson, O'Keefe struck eight times on the way to a 237-175 victory, while Johnson was in the pocket the whole game but managed just one strike, which came in the eighth frame.
In the opening game, Kulick struggled early with four opens in the first six frames and never got any traction, falling 223-169.
The field at this week's BPAA All-Star included 75 bowlers, who all bowled 18 qualifying games over three days, before being cut to the top 16 players for 16 games of round-robin match play.
The Women's All Star Tournament, which began in 1971, was the precursor to Bowling's U.S. Women's Open, which is on hiatus until 2015. This year's event showcased today's top talent, highlighted the history of women's bowling and celebrated the 40th anniversary of formation of the Ladies Pro Bowling Tour.
Bowling's U.S. Open officially will return in 2015, as USBC and BPAA agreed to a three-year deal that will see USBC operate and conduct the U.S. Open for men and women in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
As part of the agreement, USBC and BPAA each will contribute at least $100,000 annually toward operating the events. Further details will be announced at a later date.
The excitement at The Cherry Bowl this week included the 2014 Bowling's Senior Women's U.S. Open, which was held simultaneously using the same format and saw Paula Vidad of Sun City, Calif., successfully defend her title with a 234-210 win over USBC Hall of Famer Tish Johnson of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Be sure to check out our full coverage of this event and Bowling's Senior U.S. Women's Open in the September, 2014 issue of Bowlers Journal International.
For more information on the BPAA All-Star Tournament and Bowling's Senior Women's U.S. Open, visit BPAA.com/tournaments.
2014 BPAA WOMEN'S ALL-STAR
At The Cherry Bowl, Rockford, Ill.
Shannon O'Keefe, Arlington, Texas, def. Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 223-169 (Kulick finishes fifth, earns $3,000)
O'Keefe def. Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 237-175 (Johnson finishes fourth, earns $4,000)
Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, def. O'Keefe, 236-207 (O'Keefe finishes third, earns $6,000)
Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, def. Zavjalova, 225-212 (Zavjalova finishes second, earns $8,000; Pluhowsky finishes first, earns $15,000)