Diamond standings have new look at 2018 USBC Women's Championships

RENO, Nev. - The overhaul of the Diamond Division standings at the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships continued Tuesday at the National Bowling Stadium as new leaders emerged in doubles, singles and all-events.

USBC Hall of Famers and 2014 Diamond Doubles champions Robin Romeo of Newhall, California, and Jeanne Naccarato of Tacoma, Washington, relied on a torrid finish to return to the top of the doubles standings with a 1,405 total.

Joely O'Grady of Rahway, New Jersey, bounced back from a tough start in team and doubles at the NBS to take the Diamond Singles lead with a 754 series, and her teammate, Team USA member Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, made the most of her USBC Women's Championships debut to claim the top spot in Diamond All-Events with 2,128.

In addition to the excitement in the Diamond Division, Bond's collegiate teammate at the University of Nebraska, Briana Zabierek of Lockport, Illinois, improved each set on her way to the lead in Ruby All-Events with 1,862.

Romeo and Naccarato needed a huge effort heading into their final game of doubles Tuesday to catch the 1,398 posted earlier in the day by former Junior Team USA members Gazmine Mason of Cranston, Rhode Island, and Jadee Scott-Jones of Newport, Rhode Island.

After struggling in the team event, Romeo switched to the ball she used towards the end of Monday's competition and began to feel more comfortable as her doubles set went on. The three-time USBC Senior Queens champion started with 194 and 248, while Naccarato posted scores of 230 and 200, leaving the longtime friends 526 pins away from the lead.

Both players started Game 3 with strikes on eight of their first nine deliveries, and Romeo struck on her first shot of the 10th to keep them in contention. Naccarato covered the 1-2-7, meaning the duo just needed count to take the top spot. Romeo finished with 278 for a 720 series, and Naccarato had 255 for 685.

"It's a little funny because after a few strikes in a row, we really didn't say much," said Romeo, a five-time Women's Championships titlist. "We get tunnel vision in those moments. My heart started to pump a little quicker and the adrenaline started flowing, but we didn't know what was leading. We just kept striking, and we really fed off each other. If she strikes, it's easier for me to get up there and do the same. We've been friends for 40 years, so to be able to experience that excitement together was great, even if it doesn't hold up."

Romeo and Naccarato's run in 2014 included a 300 game from Naccarato in Game 2 and a 279 finish from Romeo on the way to a 1,479 winning score.

Naccarato's impressive run in 2018 continued as she also moved into third place in Diamond All-Events (2,027) and fourth in Diamond Singles (709). She kicked off the year with a win at the National Golden Ladies Classic and followed it with a runner-up finish at the Senior Queens.

"We did this in 2014, so we knew we could do it if we stayed focused," said Naccarato, a four-time winner at the Women's Championships. "We've bowled doubles so many times over the years, and I just love it. It's so much fun being part of a team. Practicing isn't always the easiest owning two bowling centers, but I get in as much as I can. We practiced with Mike (Jasnau) the last two days, and that really helped, too."

JoelyOGrady_637O'Grady admitted her fifth Women's Championships appearance didn't start the way she hoped with sets of 533 in team and 513 in doubles, but a ball change and the support of her teammates and husband, Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion Matt O'Grady, helped her quickly turn the page in singles.

The 28-year-old right-hander started singles with nine consecutive strikes on the way to a 275 game, and she continued strong with games of 246 and 233. Sharon Powers of Lakewood, Colorado, started the day in the Diamond Singles lead with 701.

"A ball change was really important for me," said O'Grady, who helped Fairleigh Dickinson win the 2010 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title. "It finally helped me see the lanes the right way, I saw the ball go through the pins the right way and my confidence went up from there. I expected more from myself in team and doubles, but luckily, I was with a group of girls that kept me motivated. They were really, really supportive when I needed them."

The 2018 campaign already has been a banner year for the O'Gradys, as Matt won the PBA Tournament of Champions in February for his first career title, and they relish the opportunity to share in each other's success.

"It's really a team effort for Matt and I," Joely said. "I cherish his wins just as much as he does, because we both put in the work at home and at the gym. We're trying to do the right things for our bodies, and it's been paying off. Every success we achieve individually, we really do enjoy as a team. If the score holds up, it would be awesome. Just the fact that I could put myself together again after those two sets gives me a lot of confidence moving forward, especially with the Queens coming up."

JuliaBond_637Bond shared the lanes with O'Grady for her big run in singles and moved into second place in Diamond Singles with a 720 series. She added sets of 710 in team and 698 in doubles to cruise into the lead, previously held by Powers with 1,955.

Bond has followed all of the steppingstones leading into her Women's Championships debut. She found success at the Junior Gold Championships, winning the 20-and-under division at the 2013 event, which started a four-year tenure on Junior Team USA.

The 22-year-old right-hander would go on to win more than a dozen medals in international competition during her time on Junior Team USA, and she moved up to the adult team after winning the 2017 United States National Amateur Bowling Championships.

During this run, she also excelled on the lanes for Nebraska, helping the Cornhuskers to the 2015 NCAA title and earning National Tenpins Coaches Association All-America honors in each of her four years.

Coming into a new experience at the Women's Championships, Bond hoped to have a good time on the lanes with her teammates - O'Grady, Team USA's Danielle McEwan and Stephanie Casey.

"I knew the event was something that people always had a lot of fun with, so when Danielle asked me to join the team along with Joely and Stephanie, I was really excited," Bond said. "To come here with such a great group of girls really helped me feel relaxed, and I kind of let them be my moms for the weekend since this was my first trip to this event."

On her way to averaging more than 236 for her nine games, Bond trusted what she saw and relied on her teammates.

"I really tried to stay open-minded," Bond said. "Sometimes, I tend to be a little hesitant with my moves and ball changes, so I think I really trusted myself this week. I had help from my teammates and Matt (O'Grady), too, so the communication was great. I really trusted my gut and tried to stay open to what I was seeing. It would be special if it held on. I don't think I could put it into words, because I just expected to come out here and have a good time. It's a bonus to have a performance like this."

Diamond Doubles features bowlers with combined entering averages of 380 and above, while Diamond Singles and Diamond All-Events includes bowlers with entering averages of 190 and above.

BrianaZabierek_637Zabierek, a 23-year-old right-hander, enjoyed the opportunity to reunite with several of her fellow Cornhuskers after finishing her collegiate bowling career in 2017. Being able to share in the group's success at the NBS made her Women's Championships debut one to remember.

In addition to Bond, Zabierek also competed alongside Mason, who sits in second in Diamond Doubles, and Kelly Belzeski, who helped Golden Approach Pro Shop of Dayton, Ohio, to the lead in Diamond Team on Monday with 2,703.

Zabierek rolled sets of 649 in singles, 615 in doubles and 598 in team. Margo Beck of Richmond, Virginia, previously led Ruby All-Events with 1,765.

"It was really fun to be reunited with my teammates," Zabierek said. "I was surprised to cross with Gazmine this morning, so it brought back a lot of memories."

After graduating from Nebraska, Zabierek stepped away from the sport for a little bit, but she's been training to get ready for this week and focused on the basics on her way to the top of the leaderboard.

"I really just tried to focus on staying behind it and staying in my shots," said Zabierek, who also was part of the 2015 NCAA championship team for the Cornhuskers. "I focused a lot on the fundamentals, like we always did. I needed to take a little break from bowling after college, and when I started getting back into it, things weren't going as well as I would have hoped. These last three months have included a lot of hard work on the lanes, so it's a nice reward. Whatever happens, I'll be happy with the outcome."

Ruby All-Events includes bowlers with entering averages of 175-189.

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