NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Just a month removed from winning the United States Bowling Congress Queens, Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova finds herself back in the spotlight at a major championship after taking the overall lead at the 2019 U.S. Women's Open.
The 24-year-old right-hander moved to the top of the leaderboard Wednesday at Texas Star Lanes and now has a two-round total of 3,414 for 16 games, a 213.38 average.
Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, sits in second place at the second major of the 2019 Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour season with a 3,404 total, and six-time U.S. Women's Open champion and USBC Hall of Famer Liz Johnson of Palatine, Illinois, is third with 3,384.
Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, is fourth with 3,382, and Jordan Richard of Tecumseh, Michigan, is fifth with 3,369. Richard also had the highest eight-game block Wednesday with 1,812, a 226.5 average.
Defending U.S. Women's Open champion Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, has maintained her position in the standings and is in 16th place for the second consecutive round, sitting with a 3,250 total.
Kovalova's win at the USBC Queens also served as her first PWBA Tour title, and her overall performance so far this season has vaulted her into the discussion as one of the front-runners for PWBA Player of the Year.
She just missed the stepladder finals at last week's PWBA Fountain Valley Open, finishing in fifth place, and she's continued to show her ability to execute on challenging conditions this week at Texas Star Lanes.
After posting the second-highest block during Tuesday's opening round (1,740) on a 37-foot oil pattern, Kovalova showed her consistency on Wednesday's 40-foot lane condition, rolling games of 238, 214, 226, 175, 214, 190, 213 and 204 for a 1,674 total.
Each of the three qualifying rounds at the 2019 U.S. Women's Open will feature a different lane condition, and a fourth oil pattern will be introduced during Friday's cashers' round and be used throughout the duration of the event.
She credited her patience Wednesday to helping her take over the top spot, and her focus has allowed her to minimize mistakes through two rounds.
"I definitely know that for myself, I have to focus on my target," Kovalova said. "Sometimes, I just like to follow my second step, so it's been really important for me to make sure I'm staring at it. These patterns have been really touchy with how you release the ball and how well you can control your speed, so I'm trying my best to stay really consistent with what I do and where I throw it."
Kovalova now will turn her attention to Thursday's 47-foot condition, which she believes will push her away from her comfort zone.
"I know I'll be forced farther to the right than I'm used to playing," Kovalova said. "I think I'll have to scuff up some bowling balls. I'll just have to try to stay on top of it and point it to the pocket, at least in the beginning. We'll see how the lanes transition from there."
All competitors will return to Texas Star Lanes on Thursday for the final round of qualifying, starting at 11 a.m. Eastern. Qualifying consists of three-eight game blocks over three days.
After 24 games, the field will be cut to the top 36 players for the cashers' round, which will include an additional eight games to determine the 24 players for round-robin match play.
Heading into Thursday's final round, USBC Hall of Famer Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, Texas, is 36th with a 3,147 total, a 196.69 average.
Match play will begin Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern with the first of three eight-game rounds. Match play resumes Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern with the final two blocks, including a position round. The five finalists will be determined by total pinfall, including bonus pins, for 56 games.
The stepladder finals will take place Sunday and air live on CBS Sports Network at 5 p.m. Eastern, awarding the champion the $20,000 top prize and coveted green jacket.
Each round of the 2019 event leading up to the stepladder finals will be broadcast live at BowlTV.com.