WICHITA, Kan. - Competitors at the United States Bowling Congress Queens will tell you there's no such thing as an easy match once the tournament transitions to bracket play, and anything can happen in a three-game total-pinfall contest.
Brandi Branka of Belleville, Illinois, and the Dominican Republic's Aumi Guerra may have been the final two players to qualify for match play at the 2019 event, but each started fresh Sunday and collected a pair of wins to remain undefeated at Northrock Lanes.
A total of 16 players remain in the winners bracket at the 2019 USBC Queens, and 16 additional players still have their championship hopes intact in the event's double-elimination bracket.
Match play will continue Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern until the five competitors are determined for Tuesday's stepladder finals, which will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. Eastern. The winner will claim the coveted tiara and $20,000 top prize.
BowlTV.com will livestream the final rounds of match play Monday.
Sunday's road to victory for Branka and Guerra started with strong finishes Saturday during the final round of qualifying. Branka, bowling during the first of the day's three squads, finished with a 268 game to get to a 15-game total of 3,049, while Guerra, bowling on the second squad, fired 279 in her final game to finish with 3,051.
Both players had to patiently wait for the last squad to finish to see if they advanced, but they went about the rest of the day in different ways.
After the final scores were tallied, Branka earned the final spot in the 64-player bracket.
"I was a little nervous," said Branka, who defeated top qualifier Liz Johnson of Palatine, Illinois (679-637), and Colombia's Laura Plazas (721-691) on Sunday. "I didn't want to come back to the bowling alley or look at the scores, so I tried to keep my mind focused on other things. I eventually looked at the scores before the very last game and saw I dropped out. I actually was in my pajamas getting ready to go to bed before my roommate suggested we go back in case there was a tie, so I got dressed and headed over. When they announced I was the number, I was ecstatic."
Guerra was happy with her performance Saturday regardless of the final outcome as she begins to prepare for the Pan American Games, scheduled for July 26-Aug. 11 in Lima, Peru.
"I was so happy yesterday because I had been bowling so bad," said Guerra, who defeated Shannon Sellens of Long Beach, New York (703-662), and Singapore's New Hui Fen (659-654). "My execution wasn't flowing, but I was able to find it on the burn and was happy to shoot a score. So, making it to match play was gravy."
Branka will return to Northrock Lanes on Monday and face the Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova. A new bowling ball helped Branka average more than 233 in her two wins Sunday, and she's feeling confident in continuing her run through the winners bracket.
"During qualifying, I never really found a ball I was comfortable with, so last night we drilled a new ball," said Branka, who finished tied for seventh place at the 2018 Queens. "I came into today with a new mindset and really tried to trust my gut and play to my game. Tomorrow is a new day, though, but I do feel confident about my game after today."
Guerra will take on Malaysia's Esther Cheah on Monday morning, and she's going to start adjusting her outlook heading into the rest of the event. She also took advantage of some new equipment Sunday after struggling with ball reaction earlier in the event.
"The ball reps were kind enough to help me with a new ball that allowed me to find some ball reaction on the fresh," said Guerra, a two-time QubicaAMF World Cup champion. "Now that I've put myself in this position, I think I need to change my mindset. Instead of thinking how I'm happy to be here, I need to start to think that if I continue to execute, I can be a threat the rest of the way."
Joining Branka and Guerra in the winners bracket are Malaysia's Shalin Zulkifli and Colombia's Clara Guerrero, who each rolled perfect games Sunday.
Zulkifli will take on her Team Malaysia teammate, Sin Li Jane, in the next round, and Guerrero will face Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York.
Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, is the only past champion of the 11 who advanced to match play to remain in the winners bracket. The 2006 winner, Pluhowsky will face Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas.
Past champions still remaining in the elimination bracket include defending champion Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois; Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, Texas (2001); Latvia's Diana Zavjalova (2013 and 2017); and Colombia's Maria José Rodriguez (2014).
All players in this year's field bowled 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the 63 bowlers joining O'Keefe in match play.
This week's event is the first major on the 2019 Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour schedule.