CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. - Since the return of television to the Professional Women's Bowling Association in 2016, Latvian native Diana Zavjalova had come up just shy of reaching the bright lights, but that sentiment changed on Saturday as Zavjalova broke down the door to earn her first PWBA televised finals appearance at Steve Cook's Fireside Lanes.
The TV finals of the PWBA Storm Sacramento Open will be taped Tuesday, May 23 during the United States Bowling Congress Queens and is scheduled to air June 13 on CBS Sports Network.
History could've repeated itself this week, but a determined Zavjalova defeated Amanda Greene of Romney, West Virginia, 279-236, in the Group B Stepladder Final in an emotional victory. Joining Zavjalova on television is top seed Liz Johnson Cheektowaga, N.Y., Colombia native Rocio Restrepo is the second seed and Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y., is seeded fourth.
Zavjalova, who now resides in Austin, Texas, has run into bad luck on more than one occasion late in PWBA competition, most recently last week at the QubicaAMF PWBA Sonoma County Open. After holding the lead for much of the event, Zavjalova eventually lost in the Group Stepladder Finals to finish fifth.
This week, she again held a lead only to lose it late in match play, but it was a different bowler in the final match thanks to some friendly advice.
"Today, I was just in a different mindset," Zavjalova said. "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."
Johnson, the reigning back-to-back PWBA Player of the Year, led the way in Group B with a 5,308 pinfall total, just five pins ahead of Restrepo for the top overall seed. Johnson found success on an unreleased lane condition which forced her to display her versatility.
Although she arguably is the most accomplished player on tour, she still embraces all challenges after many years of competing, and this week would certainly qualify.
"This week required a little more of the C and D game, and that's why I constantly work on my game," Johnson said. "My ball reps had me keeping my shoulders back and square so I wouldn't come around it, and the little things like that helped all week. I did my best to stay out of trouble, and everything kind of came into place. After all of the years out here, I'm not afraid of anything. I may not be as good on some shots as others, but I know I can do it."
Restrepo, last season's runner-up for PWBA Player of the Year, earned an automatic TV berth for the second consecutive week after earning the top overall seed at the Sonoma County Open, putting her in position as the early front-runner for PWBA Player of the Year honors in 2017.
The players in the second, third and fourth positions in each group at the conclusion of match play advanced to their respective group stepladders Saturday and battled for the final two spots on the TV show.
The final TV spot went to McEwan, who defeated Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, 195-170, in the Group A final. McEwan advanced to the final match after dispatching of Shannon O'Keefe of O'Fallon, Illinois, 224-190.
Prior to facing Zavjalova in the Group B final, Greene defeated Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, 216-201, to advance.
Competition at the 2017 PWBA Storm Sacramento Open began Friday with two six-game qualifying blocks to determine to the 32 players for Saturday's Cashers' Round.
An additional six-game block Saturday morning narrowed the field from the 32 cashers to the top 12 players for round-robin match play.
The 2017 PWBA Tour season continues next week with the PWBA Fountain Valley Open at Fountain Bowl in Fountain Valley, California.
Go to PWBA.com for more information about the PWBA Tour. Qualifying and match-play rounds of PWBA Tour events are broadcast on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association.