BY JOE JACQUEZ
Reno, NV - To say Verity Crawley had a turnaround block on Monday evening would be an understatement at best.
England's first female professional tenpin bowler went from 27th after the first six games of qualifying to third place after six more games at the PWBA Reno Classic — the first of three tournaments this week at the Taj Mahal of tenpin bowling, The National Bowling Stadium in Reno.
Not to be overlooked, Kelly Kulick also had a block in the 1,400-pin range during the afternoon to jump into seventh.
Rookie of the Year favorite Stephanie Zavala led at +399, and others advancing to match play include Bryanna Cote (second), Diana Zavjalova (fourth), Stefanie Johnson (fifth), Birgit Norelks (sixth), Ashly Galante (eighth), Sandra Gongora (ninth) and Daria Pajak (10th).
Valerie Bercier and Misaki Mukotani finished in a tie for the cut line at +198.
Crawley has been one of the most consistent players on tour all season long. Entering the week third in the season-long points race for Player of the Year, she's had her best season yet. In addition to winning her first career title at the 2021 PWBA Greater Nashville Open, she's made many other shows and could easily have multiple titles.
Six players are within 13,400 points of Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova, and the Fall Classic Series, which concludes with the third major of the season, the PWBA Tour Championship, will determine Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and other season-long awards.
Besides Crawley, two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O'Keefe is second (108,145 points) and Liz Johnson, Julia Bond, Danielle McEwan and Missy Parkin are all in the mix.
As far as Crawley's consistency goes, only O'Keefe (13) and Kovalova (11) have made more match-play and top-12 appearances this season and she's tied with Kovalova for the most championship-round performances with six.
So how did Crawley go from below the cash line to in the top three in six games? Crawley said it all boiled down to her angles.
"The first six games were very steady," Crawley said. "I struggled to string the strikes together and I had a few splits, and to me I felt like my angles just weren't quite right."
Crawley knew she was executing shots and throwing the ball well, which she said made it easier to make adjustments and get in the right part of the lane.
She said it was on her for failing to not make adjustments during the morning block, when other players having success were getting ball to the seven or eight board down lane instead of four or five where she was playing.
The lunch break couldn't have come at a better time for Crawley, who was able to easily make adjustments because she knew she was throwing the ball well and was also conscious of where she was sliding at the arrows and at the break point.
"So that was my game plan going into the afternoon block was not necessarily starting further right, but my break point not going as far right," Crawley said.
Crawley rebounded from a 167 to start her second six-game block, a game in which she struck five times and split five times, with games of 268, 263, 234, 226 and 268 to post the highest block of the afternoon at 1,426.
So what changed? Crawley didn't let herself overthink it.
"It's actually quite simple," Crawley said. "What I'm doing in this moment isn't working, so do something else. So going into game two, I know what I can't do, and what I can do differently that is the complete opposite of what I've just done."
For Crawley, the complete opposite was moving as far left on the approach as she could.
"In simple terms, I tried to hook the whole lane," Crawley said.
It paid off in a big way.
Crawley knows she has a great shot to win Player of the Year, but as cliche as it is, when Crawley says she doesn't think about it, it's actually believable.
"Honestly I don't think about it until it gets brought up and I get asked questions like these about Player of the Year and then I am like, 'Oh, Player of the Year,'" Crawley said.
Crawley may not think about Player of The Year, but she may well take home the award doing just that.
Off the Lanes
Crawley has been just as busy off the lanes as she has been on the lanes, but in the best and most fun ways possible.
She said lately going home had not been very fun, dealing with a lot of death and going to a lot of funerals, thanks in part to COVID-19.
But after the U.S Open wrapped up at the end of August, Crawley again went back home to England and this time it was for the best of reasons — to see her brother get married.
"It was nice to go home and celebrate something," Crawley said. "Every time I've gone home lately, it's been really nice to be home, but there's been more sad elements to it than happy."
On top of that, Crawley's visa situation at the beginning of the year forced her to go back home for the wrong reasons, but this time it was different.
"When I went home this time, it was a celebration. I was able to watch the Weber Cup, supporting both Team Europe and USA.
"You couldn't have written a better story. You couldn't have asked for a better story or for the tournament to go any better really. As fans, that is what you want, for it to come down to the last game, and it did," Crawley said.
Away from the Lanes...but Not too Far Away
Crawley said watching bowling always makes her want to bowl again, and while she admitted in hindsight having time off from bowling to go home and enjoy herself was good for her and her body, it stressed her out a bit at first.
"I'm a huge practicer, so when I first got back, I was a bridesmaid in the wedding and we had a lot of activities, family things, before and after the wedding, so I wasn't practicing as much.
"I honestly had a feeling of like, 'Oh, my God, I'm not practicing as much as I should be,'" Crawley said. However, in hindsight, I think it is good to give me that mental break, a little break for my body, so I do think it was a good thing."
After the wedding, everything calmed down and she was able to get back to practicing like she normally was, but she still mixed in some fun, including a tour of the Harry Potter studios, where all the films took place.
"They walk you through how all the films were made and they have all the sets," Crawley said. "They explain what sets they used versus what actual buildings they used and they explained what was CGI and they had all the props.
"It was phenomenal. I've always heard good things about it, but it was way better than I thought it was going to be," Crawley said.
Above all else, Crawley is just grateful.
"It was just amazing to spend time with my family," Crawley said. "That's definitely something in previous years I have missed a lot, and I think that is what helps me perform better because I am just so much more thankful and so much happier."