Qualifying: Round 3 | Round 4
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - Stephanie Zavala of Downey, California, celebrated her 25th birthday Saturday by raising the trophy at the 2021 Professional Women's Bowling Association BVL Open.
Zavala claimed her second title in just five events as a professional by defeating Jordan Richard of Maumee, Ohio, at Farmingdale Lanes, 228-204.
The championship round was broadcast live on BowlTV.com, with Zavala earning her second $10,000 first-place check in May. She won the PWBA Greater Cleveland Open three weeks ago, defeating Bryanna Coté in the title match, 247-216.
Zavala nearly recorded a wire-to-wire victory at the BVL Open. She was at the top of the standings for 22 of the 24 qualifying games heading into the stepladder finals and finished qualifying with a 229-pin lead over the next closest competitor, Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, to earn the top seed for the stepladder.
"If someone told me I'd already have two titles, I'd say they were crazy, but it sounds like a dream come true," said Zavala, a rookie on the PWBA Tour this season. "It's one I would have wanted to come true, so I'm glad it did. This was the best birthday present I could have given myself and my grandpa. We share a birthday, and he passed away in November, so it was the first one I've had to spend without him. It was tough waking up this morning knowing that, but I knew he was watching over me all weekend and that he couldn't be prouder."
Zavala got out to an early lead in the title match, rolling four consecutive strikes after a first-frame spare, while Richard stayed clean but was unable to double.
A 7-10 split in the sixth frame momentarily slowed Zavala, but she responded with three more strikes to set up the 10th frame and the opportunity to shut out Richard, who had found some late momentum with a pair of strikes in the eighth and ninth frames.
Needing a mark to lock up the victory, Zavala left, and converted, the 3-6-9-10 combination and then knocked over six pins on her fill ball to put it out of reach.
"I definitely took a few extra breaths before shooting at that spare," said Zavala, who bowled collegiately at Sam Houston State University. "It's not fun or my favorite, however, I do leave a lot of them and have had plenty of practice shooting at it. I wanted to take my time, relax and give it a shot."
Zavala also was the top seed at the Greater Cleveland Open, but noted that some of the initial nerves she felt at Yorktown Lanes against Coté were not present at Farmingdale Lanes as she waited for her opportunity to bowl for the title.
Despite out-averaging the field by nearly 10 pins during qualifying, she continued to push herself to stay ahead of the transition on the event's 40-foot lane condition.
"The scores weren't very high this week in qualifying, and I found success pretty early," Zavala said. "For me, though, I wanted to keep my head down and keep working. I knew I couldn't get too comfortable or complacent and always had to stay on top of the moves. I kept working hard and kept making good shots."
Richard, a two-time PWBA Tour champion, advanced to the title match with a near-perfect performance in the semifinal against Clemmer. The 2018 PWBA Rookie of the Year rolled 10 consecutive strikes, before leaving the 4-6-7-10 split on her 11th delivery. She defeated Clemmer, 284-225.
Richard kicked off the stepladder with a 245-224 victory against England's Verity Crawley.
The 25-year-old right-hander advanced to her first championship-round appearance of the season after several close calls. Richard recorded top-10 finishes at the PWBA Hall of Fame Classic (ninth place), PWBA Twin Cities Open (eighth) and United States Bowling Congress Queens (tied for seventh) before her runner-up finish Saturday.
Clemmer, who's also a rookie on tour this season, made her first career championship-round appearance Saturday, while Crawley recorded her second consecutive fourth-place finish after advancing to the stepladder at the USBC Queens.
The 69-player field in Farmingdale bowled 12 games Friday, before the first cut to the top 32 athletes. Advancers bowled an additional six-game block Saturday morning, with the top 12 competing in a final six-game round to determine the four bowlers for the stepladder, based on 24-game pinfall totals.
The Bowlers to Veterans Link is a national nonprofit charity 501(c)(3) that supports America's veteran and active-duty service men and women through myriad recreational therapy programs and services to speed recuperation and boost morale to brighten lives. Founded in 1942, BVL is the sport of bowling's oldest and most successful charity, raising more than $50 million for the cause.
John LaSpina, the president of Maple Family Centers (which includes Farmingdale Lanes), is the chairman for the BVL Board of Directors.
To donate to BVL, visit BVL.org.
The 2021 PWBA Tour season will stay in New York for next week's event, the PWBA Albany Open. The tournament will be contested at Kingpin's Alley Family Fun Center and be held June 3-5.