Pluhowsky, Russo top field on second day of 2019 USBC Team USA Trials


Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, has been on Team USA since before many of her fellow competitors this week at 2019 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials were born, and her passion for the program and representing her country are as strong as ever.

Now 36 years old, Pluhowsky is looking to make Team USA for an unprecedented 19th consecutive time, and she wants to earn her spot outright, rather than endure the nervous wait to see if she'd be among the players chosen by the National Selection Committee based on her performance or resume.

The left-hander admitted she did not physically perform her best on the way to a 36th-place in Thursday's opening round, but things fell into place Friday at the Gold Coast Bowling Center as she cruised to the top of the daily standings with a 1,406 six-game total, a 234.33 average.

Fellow southpaw and two-time Team USA member Matt Russo of Millstone Township, New Jersey, closed Friday's round with nine consecutive strikes and a 246 game to edge longtime Team USA member John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Florida, for the daily lead, 1,373-1,370.

Like Pluhowsky, Russo also bounced back from a frustrating first day, where he finished 59th.

RussoMatt2019TeamUSATrialsForWeb250x140"Yesterday was tough because I threw the ball well and hit the pocket a lot, but I couldn't knock them all down," said Russo, who posted a 1,250 total in the opening round. "I never really got down, though, because it only was the first day. It's a marathon with five days on five patterns. Everyone has their best pattern, but I think I can cover them all well enough to where I'm near the top at the end of the week. Today's strategy was to go out there and bowl and go with whatever the lanes gave me, and it worked out."

Past Junior Team USA member Wesley Low Jr. of Palmdale, California, landed in the top five for the second consecutive day, finishing third with a 1,332 total. He was fourth on Thursday's 36-foot oil pattern.

Chris Via of Springfield, Ohio, a team gold medalist at the 2017 World Bowling World Championships, finished fourth Friday with 1,290 and was followed by Andrew Dekowski of Linden, New Jersey (1,285). Zachary Mitchell of Farmington, Minnesota, who rolled the first 300 on the men's side this week, and second perfect game of the event, was sixth at 1,282.

Pluhowsky's Team USA teammates Sydney Brummett of Wichita, Kansas, and Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas, finished second and third on the day's 38-foot oil pattern with 1,360 and 1,314, respectively, and were followed by Lauren Pate of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota (1,305), and Erin McCarthy of Omaha, Nebraska (1,276).

"Yesterday, I just didn't bowl very well, and I missed too many spares, which is unlike me for the most part, and I really never got into a groove," Pluhowsky said. "Today, I was able to get into a groove, I had really good ball reaction and I was able to finish strong. It's nice to have a day like this against such a talented field. The young players are so much more talented and experienced compared to what I feel we were almost 20 years ago at that age."

Pluhowsky's wardrobe has included red, white and blue apparel since her Junior Team USA debut in 2000, the first of four consecutive years on the team. She has been a member of Team USA since 2001, and her success from the two stints includes nearly 50 medals and a pair of QubicaAMF World Cup titles.

"The first year I bowled in the Junior Gold Championships, the first time the event was held, I missed the first cut by one pin, which you can find anywhere, and it was heartbreaking," Pluhowsky said. "The goal from there was to make the team, and the Team USA Trials has become one of my favorite events of the year. It's challenging and a real test, and it's very prestigious."

Despite the potential lack of closet space from two decades of polo shirts, jerseys and Team USA jackets, Pluhowsky has expressed on and off the lanes this week that she's not ready to relinquish her spot anytime soon.

"I don't have any plans to stop trying to bowl my way on to this team because there's nothing like bowling for your country," Pluhowsky said. "It's crazy to think it has been half my life. There's so many medals, memories and friendships. I've met people from around the world and been to places I don't think I would've visited if it weren't for bowling."

But, while daily success at the USBC Team USA Trials is a great confidence booster, it's just a small segment of a five-day marathon that tests competitors on their mental toughness and versatility.

The event's champions are determined by ranking points earned during the five rounds, contested on five different oil patterns. The leaders each day earn one ranking point, second place earns two, etc., with the lowest total of ranking points at the end of the week determining the winners.

Both champions earn automatic spots on Team USA and the chance to represent the United States at the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup.

The women's overall leader after two days is Taylor Bulthuis of Coral Springs, Florida, with 22 points. Sierra Kanemoto of Dayton, Ohio, is second with 23, Brummett is third with 28, longtime Team USA member Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, is fourth with 30 and her Team USA teammate Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, California, is fifth with 35.

Low is the overall leader on the men's side with seven ranking points and is joined in the top five by Day 1 leader Andrew Hall of Westborough, Massachusetts (10), Janawicz (11), Junior Team USA member Michael Martell of Chicago (32) and Solomon Salama of Beverly Hills, California, a two-time winner at the Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite (34).

Russo is 13th overall after two days with 60 ranking points, and Pluhowsky is seventh with 37 points.

Competition at the 2019 Team USA Trials resumes Saturday with squads at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern on the longest oil pattern of the week at 45 feet. The sold-out 175-player men's field will bowl in the morning, and the record 152-player women's field will hit the lanes in the afternoon.

The top four men and top four women at the 2019 Team USA Trials, based on ranking points, will earn automatic spots on Team USA, while two additional men and two additional women will be selected by the National Selection Committee from the pool of players that competed during the week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center.

The National Selection Committee also will select a maximum of five men and five women for the team based on submitted resumes. Those applicants must have been Team USA or Junior Team USA members within the last 10 years or among the top 25 in earnings during the 2018 PBA Tour season or top 25 in points during the 2018 PWBA Tour season.

After the final qualifying round at the Team Trials, the top three amateur men and top three amateur women will advance to a stepladder to determine the U.S. Amateur champions. Both winners will earn spots on Team USA.

If the U.S. Amateur champion already has earned a spot on the team, the spot will be awarded to the next-highest Team USA Trials qualifier based on ranking points.

To be eligible for this year's U.S. Amateur, a bowler must not hold or have held a professional membership (PBA or PWBA) in 2018. Also, anyone who has won a professional title (regional, national or senior) as a professional is not eligible to compete as an amateur.

For youth competitors, the top four boys and top four girls, based on ranking points, automatically will earn spots on Junior Team USA 2019. Two additional boys and two additional girls also will be selected by the National Selection Committee based on performances from either the 2019 Team USA Trials or 2018 Junior Gold Championships.

They will join the youth competitors who already earned their spots on Junior Team USA 2019 through qualifying at the 2018 Junior Gold Championships.'s BowlTV will provide wire-to-wire coverage of the events, including the announcement of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2019.