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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Phoenix Fury collected a dramatic victory in a one-ball roll-off Sunday during the quarterfinals of the 2020 Professional Bowlers Association League to continue its quest toward the Elias Cup, defeating the Silver Lake Atom Splitters.
The Miami Waves also saw things end with a roll-off, but it was the Brew City Ballers prevailing at Bowlero Centreville in Centreville, Virginia.
Both quarterfinal rounds of the 2020 PBA League were broadcast live Sunday on FS1. The Fury and Waves are made up entirely of Professional Women’s Bowling Association champions and made their PBA League debut in 2020.
The Fury recorded a 2-1 win over the Atom Splitters after two rounds of roll-offs, with Maria José Rodriguez delivering the game-winning strike to send the Fury to the semifinals of the Carter Division.
The Waves fell to the Ballers, 2-1, in the Anthony Division, after Danielle McEwan was unable to strike in the first round of the roll-off.
The quarterfinals featured a two-game Baker match, with teams earning one point for each victory. If the match was tied after the second game, a one-ball roll-off, or series of roll-offs, would determine the winner.
In the Baker format, each player only gets to bowl two frames each game.
Sunday’s quarterfinal losers were eliminated from the 2020 PBA League.
The Fury’s lineup, which included Rodriguez, Stefanie Johnson, Jordan Richard, Shannon O’Keefe and Liz Johnson, looked locked in from the start Sunday, rolling strikes on eight of their first nine shots to claim Game 1 against the Atom Splitters, 243-214.
After Saturday’s qualifying round, the team focused on finding the right surfaces for their equipment on this week’s 42-foot Mark Roth oil pattern.
“We made a lot of surface adjustments, trying to find the right look to match up and strike,” said Fury manager Kim Kearney. “I think everybody can get to the pocket, but it was just a matter of making the ball go through the pins the right way. Everyone spent some extra time experimenting and talking to the ball reps. There was a lot of communication to make sure we were prepared going into the TV show.”
The team continued strong into Game 2, striking on its first four shots. The Fury only added one more strike after the fast start but stayed clean and headed into the final frame with the lead. Atom Splitters’ anchor Jesper Svensson struck on his first shot in the 10th frame, before leaving a 3 pin on his second delivery, forcing the Fury to mark to win.
Liz Johnson’s first shot went high on the headpin, leaving a 3-6 combination. She missed both pins on her spare attempt to give the Atom Splitters a 216-212 win and a chance to claim the match in the roll-off.
The Atom Splitters sent Tom Daugherty up for the first round of the roll-off, with the two-time PBA Tour champion rolling a strike and forcing the Fury to match. O’Keefe, a two-time PWBA Player of the Year, matched the effort with a strike of her own.
In the second round, Chris Via of the Atom Splitters got to the pocket but left a 10 pin. Rodriguez, a two-time major winner, stepped up with a chance to send the Fury to the divisional semifinals and rolled a strike to seal the match.
“You try to turn on auto pilot and let the training speak for itself in those moments,” Rodriguez said. “I knew I had good ball reaction and the ball was doing the right thing. I knew if I made a good shot, it would be OK.”
Rodriguez admitted to not feeling at her best during Saturday’s qualifying, and she spent some extra time getting ready for Sunday’s match, which resulted in her striking on each of her five deliveries against the Atom Splitters.
“I didn’t feel great yesterday, so I came in early and practiced with Kim,” Rodriguez said. “I was trying to get my body going again, since I felt like I was a little off. When we practiced as a team later in the day, I was able to focus on what the right ball would be, instead of trying to fix my game.”
The Fury will face the Dallas Strikers on Monday in the Carter Division semifinals.
“We’re going to try and do the same thing tomorrow,” Rodriguez said. “The communication has been great between all of us, so we’ll trust our process and try to keep the same momentum.”
The Atom Splitters included Svensson, Daugherty, Via, Chris Barnes and AJ Chapman.
The other quarterfinal match in the Carter Division was won by the Las Vegas High Rollers, who swept the Brooklyn Styles, 2-0, and will face top-seed Philadelphia Hitmen on Monday.
The Waves, featuring Missy Parkin, Clara Guerrero, Liz Kuhlkin, Dasha Kovalova and Danielle McEwan, started off slowly against the Ballers, opening in four of the first six frames. The Ballers took advantage with six consecutive strikes, starting in the fourth frame, and cruised to a 234-182 win.
Miami made some late adjustments toward the end of Game 1, which translated to a quick start in Game 2. The Waves started the second game with five consecutive strikes and took the early advantage.
“We got off to a rough start,” said Waves manager Bob Learn Jr. “It was an unlikely turn of events that we didn’t plan, but we turned things around mentally and went into the second game with a clean slate and intent on winning and getting to a roll-off.”
An open frame from Parkin in the sixth frame allowed the Ballers to narrow the margin, but Miami maintained its lead heading into the final frame. Needing a mark to win Game 2 and force a roll-off, McEwan delivered a strike to seal the victory, 234-219.
Brew City selected 15-time PBA Tour champion Sean Rash to start the roll-off. Rash delivered a strike, forcing McEwan to match the effort to force another round. McEwan’s shot came in light on the pocket and left the 2-4-5-8 combination.
“I thought Danielle’s shot was on target, but it just didn’t read as much as we would have liked,” Learn said. “This team has a lot of heart. After the slow start, they settled down, played their own game and showed how well they worked together as a team.”
Brew City, which joined the Waves and Fury as one of the four new franchises in the PBA League in 2020, included Rash, Dick Allen, Zeke Bayt, Chris Sloan and Ryan Ciminelli. The Ballers will face the Motown Muscle, the top qualifier in the Anthony Division, in Monday’s semifinals.
In the other Anthony Division quarterfinal Sunday, the L.A. X swept the NYC KingPins, 2-0, and will face defending PBA League champion Portland Lumberjacks in the semifinals.
In 2020, the 12-team PBA League is made up of the top players from both the PBA Tour and PWBA Tour. The Waves and Fury feature athletes who competed on the PWBA Tour during the 2019 season, finished in the top 35 in the season-long points list and were selected in a formal draft.
Qualifying took place Saturday at Bowlero Centreville and determined the seeding for the match-play brackets. Qualifying consisted of 12 Baker games, including bonus pins, with the top two teams in each six-team division receiving byes into the semifinals.
The Waves qualified fifth in the Anthony Division, while the Fury finished sixth in the Carter Division.
The semifinals in the Anthony Division and Carter Division will be Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern and 9 p.m. Eastern, respectively, live on FS1. The division finals will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern, and the PBA League finals will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern, all on FS1.
The semifinals will feature the same two-game Baker format as the quarterfinals, while the championship round will be contested using a best-of-five Baker format to determine the winner of the 2020 Elias Cup.