Team play helps Illinois bowler at 2014 USBC Open

RENO, Nev. - After two months of practice, John Slavich IV of Schaumburg, Ill., and his teammates decided on a strategy they hoped would help them find success at the 2014 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, and they left the National Bowling Stadium very pleased with the outcome.

A well-bowled team event gave them confidence and momentum heading into doubles and singles Saturday morning, and six more games of teamwork lifted them into ninth place in Team All-Events with a 10,040 total. Janz's H.I. of Beaver Dam, Wis., leads with 10,363.

Slavich fueled the surge with a 300 game en route to a 753 singles series, and his JB Mechanical 1 team of Brookfield, Ill., averaged more than 239 as a group in singles to make up for what only can be described as a grind during doubles.

The 45-year-old right-hander had a 619 doubles set, and the entire team was between 598 and 630.

"We were focused on team play from start to finish this week, and our plan in doubles was to play to the right and break the lanes down around 4-5-6," said Slavich, whose 300 was the 26th of the this year's USBC Open Championships. "We had a pretty good look in doubles but just didn't have the carry. We stayed with it and crept left, and then it really started to develop."

A ball change at the end of doubles helped Slavich find the carry he was looking for, and he actually was two 10 pins away from perfection in his first game of singles, finishing with 258.

Taking the lead in Regular Singles was a distant thought during his singles finale, but individual success is nothing compared to bowling well as a team.

Along the way, the group joked about having an outside shot at Team All-Events, and then the strikes started adding up.

"I was still not so settled down after the 300, but I wanted to keep throwing good shots during the last game of singles," said Slavich, who finished with a clean 195 game. "You always want to win an eagle. We've been around it and close a few times, but you really have to catch lightning in a bottle. We were joking about it, and after a while, we started striking. To shoot 3,596 as a team in singles and move into the top 10 is something we're really proud of."

Preparing for the Open Championships is a year-round process for Slavich and his teammates, who regularly participate in Sport Bowling leagues and met at least once each week for the last two months to figure out how they were going to attack the event's two Sport-certified lane conditions.

"If you're not bowling in a Sport league, you're really doing yourself a disservice when it comes to events like the Open Championships," Slavich said. "You have to put in the work. We practiced at least once a week for two months, and I practiced on my own, too. We broke it down a few different ways at home and then decided on what we thought was the best way."

The preparation and teamwork helped JB Mechanical 1 to a 3,361 team total Friday, which is just inside the top 30 this year.

John Bradford led the overall effort with a 2,097 all-events total and was followed by Brad Novak (2,082), Mike Strnad (2,059), Slavich (1,958) and 2008 Team All-Events champion Walter Schaub II (1,844).

"The 300 is nice, but I'm really happy we all bowled well as a team," Slavich said. "We picked each other up when we needed to, and it ended up being a really fun weekend."

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Presenting sponsors for the 2014 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.