SMYRNA, Tenn. - Russia's Maria Bulanova found herself in familiar surroundings Friday at the Professional Women's Bowling Association Greater Nashville Open as she moved to the top of the leaderboard after the opening two rounds.
Bulanova, who was a collegiate standout at nearby Vanderbilt University and is a rookie this season on the PWBA Tour, took the lead in the final game at the Smyrna Bowling Center and finished the day with a 12-game total of 2,661, a 221.75 average.
Two-time PWBA Tour champion Bryanna Coté of Tucson, Arizona, is second with 2,643, and Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, is third with 2,637.
Opening-round leader Birgit Noreiks of Germany is fourth with 2,635, and Alexis Neuer of Milton, Pennsylvania, is fifth with 2,634.
The 73-player field was cut to the top 32 players after Friday's second round, with two-time champion Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, moving into the cut in Friday's final game with 214 for a 2,440 total, a 203.33 average.
Bulanova starred for Vanderbilt from 2016-2020, and she helped the Commodores win the 2018 NCAA Women's Bowling Championship. The 2019 National Tenpin Coaches Association Division I Player of the Year spent plenty of time at the Smyrna Bowling Center during her time on campus, and she was able to stay ahead of the moves on this week's 39-foot oil pattern during both of her six-game blocks.
The 22-year-old right-hander was able to lean on her previous experiences at the center to know some of the tendencies of the pairs across the 52-lane venue in posting consistent sets of 1,318 and 1,343 on the way to the lead.
Bulanova is joined in the top five by two other rookies heading into Saturday's third round. Clemmer is fresh off back-to-back third-place finishes at the PWBA BVL Open and PWBA Albany Open, and Neuer posted her best performance of the season last week at the Albany Open, finishing in eighth place.
Saturday's third round will consist of an additional six games, with the top 12 returning to the lanes for one more six-game round to complete qualifying. The top four players, based on total pinfall for 24 games, will advance to the stepladder finals.
The stepladder will be Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern and broadcast live on BowlTV.com. The champion will earn $10,000.