ARLINGTON, Texas – The opportunity to represent your hometown in competition generally brings excitement and anticipation, and Kristina Szczerbinski experienced it during qualifying and match play at the Professional Women’s Bowling Association event at AMF Gates Lanes in Rochester, New York.
The combination of Szczerbinski’s skill and a little bit of “home cooking” helped the 28-year-old left-hander from North Tonawanda, New York, nab the No. 3 seed for the Nationwide PWBA Rochester Open television finals, which air Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
She will be joined by top-seed Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, No. 2 seed Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, and Colombia native Clara Guerrero, who earned the fourth seed.
Szczerbinski, originally from Naperville, Illinois, made North Tonawanda her home two years ago when she married John Szczerbinski, who is from the Buffalo suburb.
Because the PWBA provides an unseen level of difficulty week to week, any level of additional comfort always is welcomed on tour. Szczerbinski took full advantage of the friendly faces she saw throughout the week of competition in Rochester.
“Though I'm not originally from the Buffalo area, I definitely consider it my home and being able to bowl a national tour stop so close made it even more unforgettable,” Szczerbinski said. “I was fortunate enough to bowl really well and that was definitely due to the support I received.
“John was there for me every step of the way, as well as his family and a bunch of our friends. Some of them were able to come to AMF Gates Lanes and watch, while others tuned into Xtra Frame and sent me encouraging messages along the way. I know its cliché, but everyone always says that success takes a village and my village is definitely one of the best.”
The Szczerbinski relationship certainly is one that rivals many top-level husband-wife duos in the sport.
Kristina attended Maryland Eastern Shore and was a four-time All-American, including two first-team nods. She helped the squad to two NCAA Women’s Bowling Championships (2008 and 2011), and an Intercollegiate Team Championship in 2011. The 2011 team was the first NCAA team to win both the NCAA and ITC titles in the same season.
John Szczerbinski was a two-time first-team All-American at Wichita State and was part of the Shockers team that won the ITC in three consecutive seasons (2008-2010).
Both Kristina and John work daily to achieve success at the professional level, and John does everything he can to make sure Kristina is prepared when it’s her time to hit the lanes. As you would expect, John is an invaluable resource for Kristina both on and off the lanes.
“John is my rock,” Szczerbinski said. “He stood behind me every shot I threw and was there for me no matter what I needed. Mentally, he is great at keeping my head in the game, helping me to stay present, and was there if I needed to vent. He is also amazing at ball motion and it's always great to have a second set of eyes behind you, seeing things from a different angle. He helped me with lane play and ball choices throughout the weekend, which was a definite key to striking a lot.
“We will practice together to keep things sharp, as well as work on things we both need to do better to be successful. Off the lanes, we try to motivate each other to be healthier and have a stronger mental game. We go for runs together and always try to do something active daily.”
Szczerbinski’s village began to take shape at the age of six when she rolled her first ball down a lane. At the time, becoming a professional bowler wasn’t on her to-do list, but that changed in high school when she met retired Professional Bowlers Association member Marty Miller.
Miller was instrumental during that stage of life for Szczerbinski, as she quickly developed an unwavering passion for the sport and realized she could go as far as her talent and hard work would take her.
Szczerbinski, who competed for Oswego East, finished her prep career as one of the best high school bowlers in Illinois, and still holds the Illinois high school record for high series (826 set in 2007).
Following high school, Szczerbinski made the decision to attend Maryland Eastern Shore after being recruited by former head coach Sharon Brummell. Their relationship was strong from the start, and when Brummell retired as head coach in 2012, she tabbed Szczerbinski as her interim replacement and she would lead the Hawks to their fourth national championship.
“I was at Junior Gold where coach Sharon Brummell was there recruiting and saw me,” Szczerbinski said. “She got in contact with me when she was able to and I took a campus visit. I felt like I was at home at UMES and the rest is history, I guess. She’s my second mother. I can still call her to this day. I saw her recently when I was in Baltimore and it was like we never were apart. Having that comfort in college was great, especially being that far away.”
The natural progression after dominant high school and college careers would’ve been the PWBA Tour, but Szczerbinski and many successful collegiate players, graduated at a time where consistent women’s professional competition was not an option.
When Szczerbinski received news that the Tour would be relaunched in 2015, albeit different life priorities and circumstances, she knew exactly where she needed to be. Now, Szczerbinski will look to fulfill a dream when she hits the lanes for her first PWBA televised appearance.
“I need to be on Tour,” said Szczerbinski, when asked what her first thought was when she heard the Tour would be relaunching. “I wish this was around when I got out of college. If it was, I think I probably would’ve been bowling professionally and that would’ve been my job.
“The girls who are competing at Junior Gold, who are just graduating from college, have an awesome opportunity in front of them. This is what I live for. This is my passion. This is one of the biggest things for me. I’m so fortunate it’s back and have been given this opportunity, and girls have to take advantage of it. We got to get out here and bowl, we got to get out here and promote, we get out here and do what we can to make this tour a success.”
The finals of the 2017 Nationwide PWBA Rochester Open was one of three PWBA shows taped Aug. 6 at Plano Super Bowl in conjunction with the U.S. Women's Open.
Competition at the Nationwide PWBA Rochester Open, a standard event on the PWBA Tour, included two six-game qualifying blocks to determine the 32 players for the six-game cashers' round. The top 12 players then advanced to round-robin match play based in their 18-game pinfall totals.
Qualifying and match-play rounds of PWBA Tour events were broadcast on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association.
The 2017 PWBA Tour season will conclude with the Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship with a live broadcast Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network. The final major of the season will bring together 16 players in a unique, single-elimination bracket format, featuring event champions from 2017 and the highest point earners from the 2017 PWBA points list.