USBC Queens Wrap-up and Analysis

*SPOILER ALERT* The finals of the USBC Queens aired on ESPN yesterday, (Sunday, 9/8), with the tiara being passed on to the winner by last season’s victor, Diandra Asbaty. The finalists were, in order of seed for the tv finals, Diana Zavjalova (zav-YA-lo-va) of Latvia, Shayna Ng (UNG) of Singapore, Leanne Hulsenberg (formerly Leanne Barrette), Jennifer Higgins, and Lynda Barnes.

In the opening match between Barnes and Higgins, both bowlers had issues with carry, which would be a recurring theme throughout the day. Barnes was throwing the Columbia Antics, and Higgins appeared to be using an Ebonite Champion. The challenge for all bowlers on the telecast was not finding the pocket, it was creating the angle to carry on the soft, lazy backends. However, all the bowlers seemed content with the strategy to stay around the pocket and attempt spares, as the split percentage on errant shots was extremely high. The opening match was low scoring, with the difference being Higgins putting a few strikes together in the middle of the match. Of the two, Barnes was able to stay closer to the pocket, but fought poor carry throughout the game, and would fall to Higgins 205-173.

In the second match vs Hulsenberg, Higgins would succumb to the same issues that plagued Barnes in the previous match, while Hulsenberg, who used the Storm IQ Tour Pearl, would start slow but rebound to string several strikes to end the match early, going on to win by a score of 235-184. Hulsenberg avoided the carry issues due to her rev rate, soft hand, and angle to the pocket. Higgins played much straighter, and was able to stay near the pocket for much of the match, but her reaction was slow at the breakpoint, and the result was late entry into the pocket.

In the semi-final match vs Ng, who threw the Roto Grip Totally Defiant, Hulsenberg would continue her striking ways, while Ng had carry issues early, followed by two splits in the 4th and 5th frames, again clinching the game for Hulsenberg early. Before the game began, I had thought that Ng’s even higher rev rate would give her an advantage, as the first couple shots her reaction looked good, and the pins were lively. However, it appeared she felt pressed to try and “chase carry,” which unfortunately resulted in the splits that ended her day before it even began. Hulsenberg would cruise to another victory, 249-172.

In the final against Zavjalova, both bowlers would struggle early. Both missed 10 pin spares in the 2nd frame, prompting Zavjalova to switch from one Ebonite Cyclone to another of a different color. Hulsenberg continued to hit the pocket, but the poor carry finally caught up with her, and to compound the problem, she missed two more 10 pin spares late in the game, while Zavjalova was able to put together a triple in the middle of the match to create some space. I would consider Hulsenberg’s missed spares the difference in the game rather than Zavjalova’s late triple, as the age and experience of Hulsenberg could have given her the advantage going into what would have been a difference of a few pins in the 10th frame. Zavjalova was visibly nervous, and although she was able to conquer the pressure earlier, it’s different from mathematical pressure. When it’s early, you know you need to stay close to the pocket and fill frames, when it’s late and you know you MUST strike on a certain ball, your mindset changes. At the end of the game, however, Zavjalova took the tiara and the $20,000 first place prize during her first trip to the Queens by a score of 190-160.

Overall, despite getting to see a couple new faces, the show felt slow and sluggish, which is unfortunate. The crowd didn’t seem to be into it, though to be honest, none of the matches were very close. It was fairly apparent either by the score or the early patterns in the game that emerged who was going to come out on top. I love bowling and could watch it all day long, and I especially like watching the women because we don’t get to see them much anymore. However, I found myself wanting to fast forward after only the first few frames of each game because I could see what was going to happen (I recorded it on our DVR and watched it yesterday evening). Objectively speaking, if I wasn’t a bowler or a fan of bowling, this show would have done nothing to hold my attention or make a fan out of me had I came across it randomly. It was also pitted directly against opening weekend of the NFL during the time slot when the majority of the football was being played, which in my mind was an exceedingly poor decision. Hopefully others decided to DVR it as well and have watched it or will watch it later, but as big of a fan of bowling as I am, even I decided to put it off in favor of football.

The things I took away from the show: It’s obvious that the men are much more animated than the women, and though I’ve disliked “showboating” in the past, I have to admit that it does add more excitement and get the crowd into it more. However, I can appreciate the very even keel of both Barnes and Hulsenberg. Hulsenberg especially impressed me with her demeanor throughout. She didn’t get too high when the strikes were plentiful, but she handled defeat at the hands of her own mistakes extremely graciously. Zavjalova showed some emotion when she put a couple strikes together in the middle of the title game, but it seemed only natural, and was still respectful of her opponent. Higgins and Ng seemed merely excited to be there. It was nice to see some international flavor, to me that makes it more interesting than simply having new American players on the show. Several things could have been done by USBC to make the show more interesting and more inviting though, and it’s sad that with the state of professional bowling, especially with the women being at more of a disadvantage, that the appropriate steps haven’t been taken to make the drastic changes needed to build the sport’s televised success back up to where it used to be. Here’s hoping the future will be better.