Qualifying - Rd. 2
ADDISON, Ill. - Ukraine’s Dasha Kovalova moved into the overall lead after two rounds on Friday at the 2022 United States Bowling Congress Queens.
The 2019 USBC Queens champion added games of 217, 204, 208, 216 and 246 for a 1,091 five-game block and leads the field with a 10-game total of 2,286, an average of 228.6.
She is followed in the standings by Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York (2,259), opening-round leader Gazmine Mason of Cranston, Rhode Island (2,246), Stephanie Schwartz of Racine, Wisconsin (2,229), and Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York (2,228).
The USBC Queens is the second event and first major championship on the 2022 Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour schedule. The finals will be broadcast live Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network. All qualifying and match-play rounds leading up to the televised finals are streaming live at BowlTV.com.
The four-time PWBA Tour champion spent the offseason training her mental game and placing an emphasis on understanding her triggers and what produces anxiety when she competes. What she didn’t know at the time was how much of an escape bowling would become amidst devastating times.
Part of Kovalova’s anxiety stems from some emotional stress directly related to her native Ukraine, which was invaded in February. Kovalova’s parents, who live in Ukraine, were able to flee and find safety with Kovalova in her current hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.
Needless to say, the state of her country has taken its toll on Kovalova, but she’s managed to use the stress as a training tool to improve as a player as she looks to support not only herself, but her parents in the immediate future.
“In the past couple of months, I’ve found that bowling is actually my escape,” Kovalova said. “And, as you know before, I was very anxious about it. I'm still anxious about bowling, but I catch myself enjoying it because I don't have to think about sad stuff. I can just focus on what I'm doing the best, which is throwing shots. My parents fled so now they're here with me, which also adds a little bit of pressure, because I've got to work hard to make sure they can stay.
“I think it really, really pushed me to get on the lanes almost every single day in the offseason and just make sure that my body knows what to do when my brain freaks out. Then, find my triggers and understand how to bring myself back to the ground and focus on repeating shots, rather than throwing it all over the place and hoping for the best.”
All competitors will bowl on the fresh 42-foot lane condition for the final day of qualifying, which might be music to Kovalova’s ears after she averaged 239 on the fresh Thursday. She’s looking forward to what the condition will present after its third application to the lanes, but most importantly, she can’t wait to sport a new bowling jersey.
“Well, I'm going to try my new shirt to see if that's a good bowling shirt, because so far I have 2 1/2 good bowling shirts,” said Kovalova, while smiling with her usual jovial spirit showing. “And as you know in bowling, it’s very important to bowl in a good shirt. So, I'm going to try that out and experiment a little. But, I also think I have to resurface a couple of my bowling balls because I have a suspicion they gained some lane shine, and I don't think they’re going to work if I don't resurface them.”
McEwan went through her own stressful period in 2021 thanks to a lingering toe injury, specifically the big toe on her right foot. The seven-time PWBA Tour champion somehow managed to win two titles despite consistently being in pain while competing.
As the season went on, she did see some improvement, but it wasn’t until the offseason where McEwan would have a couple of procedures done, which forced her to not bowl and focus solely on the improvement of her injury for two months.
With one round left, her sights are set on the double-elimination match-play bracket, and if she’s learned anything about herself during a difficult 2021 season, McEwan now knows she can win when she’s not 100%.
“I think it made me realize that I can still win when I'm not at my best, which is something that I always struggled with,” said McEwan, who finished third at the 2016 Queens. “If my game felt really good physically, then I knew I could win. But if it didn't, then I would kind of convince myself that I had to throw it good in order to be successful, and out here, that's not always the case.
“Sometimes your absolute ‘A’ game is not what's needed. Your ‘B’ game is just as good to compete out here if you're doing the right stuff on the lane. So, I think just having that in the back of my mind that even weeks where I don't feel 100%, I can still come out and compete.”
And as for the status of her toe?
“It's doing really well,” McEwan said. “But, some of the related parts around the injury are lingering. Anybody that's ever had an injury probably knows how that feels. For example, if you hurt your hip, all of a sudden your knee and your ankle start hurting, so some of that is going on. I’m still recovering, but overall doing much better.”
Competition resumes Saturday with the third round of qualifying at 10 a.m. Eastern. After 15 games, the field will be cut to the top 63 players and Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, who is guaranteed a spot in the double-elimination bracket as the defending champion.
Bond finished the second round with a 2,014 total and is tied for 59th place.
Match play will begin Sunday, with all matches prior to the stepladder finals featuring a three-game total-pinfall format. Bracket play resumes Monday, with the top five athletes advancing to Tuesday’s stepladder finals.
The 2022 Queens champion will take home the $60,000 first-place prize and tiara awarded to the winner.