WICHITA, Kan. - Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova won her first career Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour title and major championship Tuesday by delivering a double in her final frame at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Queens.
The 24-year-old right-hander defeated Malaysia's Sin Li Jane, 226-216, at Northrock Lanes to claim the tiara and $20,000 top prize, which was broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.
Kovalova, who garnered the support of the crowd as a former collegiate standout at Wichita State University, grabbed the lead at the halfway point of the match after Sin left and was unable to convert a 6-7 split in the fifth frame.
Kovalova followed Sin's open frame with her first double of the title match to push the lead to more than 20 pins, and she maintained the advantage by staying clean through the ninth frame.
Working on a strike and finishing the match first, Kovalova needed a strike and nine pins on her first two shots to shut out Sin and rolled a pair of strikes to secure the victory.
In that pressure-packed moment, Kovalova kept everything quick and simple.
"I kept noticing the shot clock," Kovalova said. "When I get really nervous, I tend to slow everything down, but the clock helped me. When it got to 10 seconds, I knew I had to go. I just focused on that and went to throw the best shot I could."
Heading into the title match, Kovalova also admitted to being nervous, but her plan to play the lanes farther left than her opponent allowed her to settle in after seeing a similar look during qualifying and match play throughout the week at Northrock Lanes.
"I was freaking out," said Kovalova, who's previous best finish in her PWBA career was eighth at the 2018 PWBA Louisville Open. "I wondered what would happen if I wasn't able to make good shots. But once I stepped up on the approach, I saw a really clear picture and was able to stay focused.
"We talked about keeping everything farther left than everybody else, but to be honest, I felt like I was playing this line during some of qualifying and match play, so I was familiar with it. We also drilled a new bowling ball, so that helped, too."
Kovalova was a four-time National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association All-American while competing for Wichita State, and she now resides just minutes away from Northrock Lanes.
She helped lead the Shockers to the finals of the Intercollegiate Team Championships at the 48-lane venue in 2016, but the team was unable to win the Helmer Cup, falling to Webber International.
Tuesday's win serves as some redemption for Kovalova.
"We weren't able to deliver the title to Wichita State in 2016," said Kovalova, the 2014-2015 NCBCA Player of the Year. "So, I hope this counts. I wanted to give something back to my coaches, teammates and friends. It feels great. It's kind of surreal."
Sin, who was looking for her second career PWBA Tour title, was happy to see her persistence pay off after almost missing the cut into the match play earlier in the week.
The 27-year-old right-hander was out of the number heading into the final round of qualifying but quickly turned things around in match play, posting the highest match-play average in USBC Queens history on the way to the No. 2 seed, averaging 248.72 over six matches.
"Honestly, I'm very happy with my performance," Sin said. "The scores were low for me during the first two days, so I had to fight really hard to qualify for the top 64. I bowled really well in match play, and it's anybody's game in a one-game match. So, no regrets."
Sin started with eight consecutive strikes on her way to the title match, defeating Colombia's Clara Guerrero, 267-224. A 4 pin in the ninth frame ended Sin's run at 300.
Guerrero advanced to the semifinal after recording a thrilling 242-232 win over Indonesia's Tannya Roumimper.
Guerrero, finishing the match first, had the chance to shut out Roumimper with three strikes in her final frame but left a 10 pin on her final delivery to allow Roumimper the chance to tie with three strikes of her own. Roumimper struck on her first shot but left a 3-6 combination on her second to finish in fourth place.
In Tuesday's opening match, Roumimper struck on six of her first seven shots in a 231-195 victory over Singapore's Daphne Tan.
A total of 192 bowlers from 17 countries competed in three five-game blocks of qualifying over three days this week to determine the 63 players who joined defending champion Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, in the bracket.
O'Keefe, the 2018 PWBA Player of the Year, made a strong run through the elimination bracket Sunday and Monday, before falling to Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, 651-566, to finish in ninth place.
Each bracket match leading up to the stepladder included three games, with total pinfall determining which player advanced.
All rounds of competition leading up to the stepladder finals were broadcast at BowlTV.com.