ARLINGTON, Texas - The 2016 Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour season for Latvia's Diana Zavjalova might best be described as unfulfilled.
The PWBA Tour made its return to national television last season and one would've thought the talented 25-year-old right-hander would be a mainstay on CBS Sports Network. But bad luck and missed opportunities stopped her from challenging for the tour lead in television appearances.
But, what a difference a year makes. Zavjalova already has a major title under her belt in 2017, winning the United States Bowling Congress Queens for the second time in her career, and now will make her second TV appearance of the season as the No. 3 seed for the PWBA Storm Sacramento Open, which airs Tuesday, June 13, at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
Zavjalova will face No. 4 seed Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, in the opening match with the winner to face No. 2 seed Rocio Restrepo of Colombia. The winner of the second match will advance to face No. 1 seed Liz Johnson of Deerfield, Illinois, the reigning back-to-back PWBA Player of the Year.
Simply put Zavjalova couldn't get over the hump in 2016 as evidenced by the eight top-10 finishes, including three fifth-place finishes and two seventh-place finishes. Aside from the disappointment of falling short, each time Zavjalova missed television, it was a moment missed to expand on her glowing television history.
At the professional, collegiate and international levels, the 25-year-old right-hander has lost just once during an event with local or national TV elements.
She added a Queens victory in May, defeating Johnson, 247-216, in the title match, to go along with her 2013 Queens title. Last year, she won the 2016 Qatar Open, which was part of the World Bowling Tour and was broadcast live in Qatar.
In 2014, Zavjalova capped off her collegiate career rolling games of 289 and 290 in the semifinal and final matches to win the women's Intercollegiate Singles Championship, and in 2012 she helped the Webber International women's team to an Intercollegiate Team Championship.
The lone blemish came at the 2012 World Singles Championship in Limassol, Cyprus, where she finished second to Kelly Kulick.
"I think when I'm on a TV show it brings this amazing focus out of me," Zavjalova said. "I literally concentrate so much on every single shot that I don't even know that I'm on TV. When I'm there, nothing bothers me at all. At the (USBC) Queens in 2013, I missed a 10 pin in the second frame and I had already forgot that I missed it by the third frame because I was so focused on one shot at a time.
"For some reason, I perform so good on TV. I have fun and I smile on TV, which you don't really see me do very often when I bowl."
The inability to "get over the hump" in 2016 began to weigh on her mental space, especially after the 2017 season began in a similar fashion.
Zavjalova led throughout the majority of the 2017 QubicaAMF PWBA Sonoma County Open, only to lose the lead late in match play and falter in a Group Stepladder final. It was eerily similar to the 2016 event held at Double Decker Lanes in Rohnert Park, California.
The 2016 version of Zavjalova would've let the disappoint linger, but when an opportunity to advance to television presented itself the following week, the 2017 Zavjalova left no doubt by defeating Amanda Greene of Romney, W.Va., 279-236, in the Group B stepladder final to advance to the PWBA Storm Sacramento Open TV finals.
Prior to that moment, Zavjalova had zero confidence in those situations but friendly advice helped make the difference then.
"Today, I was just in a different mindset," Zavjalova said after her Group Stepladder Final win. "I had been putting so much pressure on myself in the past because I kept coming so close. It was very frustrating, and to start off this season the same way was heartbreaking.
"Before my match (against Amanda), I was talking to Daria Pajak, and she told me a couple of things that really boosted my confidence. I'm not sure if everyone could see it, but I was smiling and just wanted to bowl happy. Once I started smiling, I felt like that monkey was coming off my back, and that's what happened."
One thing is for certain, Zavjalova is one of the best players in the world. If she is confident, she might be the best player in the world.
"For me, it's all about the mental game," Zavjalova said. "If I'm struggling, 99 percent of the time it's my mental game. Last season was so tough on my mental game because I was bowling well, but I didn't make any TV shows. It was very hard on my mental game. When things like that happen repeatedly, my confidence goes down. When my confidence is down, I don't perform as well. When my confidence is at its highest, you can't beat me. When I'm confident, I know I'm the best bowler in the world."
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