RENO, Nev. - Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, concluded the championship match at the Professional Women's Bowling Association Pepsi Classic with six consecutive strikes to win her third career title in an intense finish Thursday at the National Bowling Stadium.
The 25-year-old right-hander was trailing throughout the match against Colombia's Maria José Rodriguez and recorded the victory after Rodriguez left a devastating 7-10 split to start her final frame, 234-222.
Bond collected the $10,000 top prize for her third win of the 2021 PWBA Tour season. The Pepsi Classic was broadcast live on BowlTV.com.
In the title tilt, Bond fell behind early after she was unable to convert a 3-6-10 combination in the second frame. Rodriguez built her lead on the strength of six strikes through the first eight frames, and a spare in the ninth frame gave her the opportunity to lock out Bond in the 10th to secure her third PWBA Tour title.
Bond finished the match first, and her final three strikes forced Rodriguez to roll a strike on her first delivery for the chance to win the title. A nine count on the first offering from Rodriguez opened the door for the chance at a tie, if she converted the spare and rolled a strike on her fill ball.
"I'm very proud of the way I finished that match," Bond said. "I think it shows who I am as a person. I don't care if I'm losing or down, I'm always going to attempt to throw a great shot, because every shot holds the same importance for me.
"This win makes me happy. It makes me feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be. I've learned a lot, and I'm continuing to learn, which makes me excited. There are things I still need to get better at and things I'm still learning, but being able to apply those things and succeed makes me excited for the future."
Bond won three matches in the stepladder and averaged 231 on her way to the title. She defeated Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas, in Thursday's opening game, 203-192, and rolled eight strikes to defeat Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, California, 256-220, to advance to the finals.
The championship pair did provide Bond with some initial trouble, however, since the ball that helped her make her fourth championship-round appearance of the season did not give her the best look.
She also made a ball change at the end of the game against Johnson and felt she was making the right choices, while trying to think ahead for her remaining matches.
"We knew what looked good based on qualifying and match play, but it didn't look great on the TV pair," said Bond, who won her first major at the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Queens, also held at the NBS. "I think we did a good job of being open-minded and flexible."
Rodriguez was making her first championship-round appearance of the 2021 season after earning the top seed for the stepladder by a single pin over Parkin. Rodriguez struck on her fill ball against Parkin in the position round earlier on Thursday to finish qualifying with a 5,646 total, including bonus pins.
Parkin made her fifth championship-round appearance of the year. She has three runner-up finishes this season, including to Bond at the USBC Queens.
Johnson made her second consecutive finals appearance at the PWBA Fall Classic Series after placing third at the PWBA Reno Classic on Tuesday. It marked her third championship-round appearance of the season.
The Fall Classic Series features the final three events of the 2021 PWBA Tour season - the Reno Classic, Pepsi Classic and PWBA Tour Championship.
The Reno Classic and Pepsi Classic featured the same format. Each event featured 12 games of qualifying to determine the top 12 players for round-robin match play. At the conclusion of match play, the top four athletes, based on total pinfall and bonus pins, advanced to the stepladder finals.
Stephanie Zavala of Downey, California, won her third title of the season at the Reno Classic, defeating Bryanna Coté of Tucson, Arizona, in the title match, 207-194.
The top 24 athletes based on their combined qualifying totals for the Reno Classic and Pepsi Classic (24 games) determined the advancers to the season-ending Tour Championship, the third major of the year.
Pinfall will drop at the beginning of the Tour Championship, with all advancers bowling three eight-game blocks of round-robin match play Friday and Saturday. The top five competitors, based on total pinfall and bonus pins, will advance to the stepladder finals.
The finals of the Tour Championship will be broadcast Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network, with the winner earning a $50,000 top prize.
All four finalists from the Pepsi Classic qualified for the Tour Championship, and Bond is looking to use the momentum from her win to make a run at a second major and the chance to win PWBA Player of the Year for the 2021 season, which is based on position on the season-long points list.
"After this event, I know I'm throwing it well," Bond said. "It's a nice confidence boost and offers a little validation. Now, I need to make good choices and be smart. That's the goal heading into the next event."
Heading into the final event, the race for PWBA Player of the Year features six players within 8,600 points of current leader Verity Crawley of England.
Crawley (118,600 points) is 300 points ahead of Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova (118,300) and 355 points ahead of Bond (118,245).
Two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O'Keefe enters the Tour Championship in fourth place with 115,770 points and is followed by Coté (111,445), Parkin (110,262.5) and three-time PWBA Player of the Year Liz Johnson of Niagara Falls, New York (110,060).