RENO, Nev. – Bryanna Coté of Tucson, Arizona, averaged more than 243 for her final eight games of match play Saturday at the 2021 Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour Championship to earn the top seed for Sunday’s stepladder finals.
The live CBS Sports Network broadcast will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern, with Coté looking to secure her first major championship, a $50,000 top prize and the 2021 PWBA Player of the Year award.
The 35-year-old right-hander posted a 16-8 record in match play to claim the top seed with a 6,095 total, including bonus pins for each victory.
She’ll be joined in the stepladder by Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio (6,026), Latvia’s Diana Zavjalova (5,853), Stephanie Zavala of Downey, California (5,768), and Shannon O’Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois (5,763).
The Tour Championship is the final event, and third major, of the 2021 PWBA Tour season. It also marks the conclusion of the PWBA Fall Classic Series, which featured the PWBA Reno Classic and PWBA Pepsi Classic.
Coté was the top qualifier for the all-match-play Tour Championship, which used the combined qualifying totals from the Reno Classic and Pepsi Classic (24 games) to determine the 24 athletes advancing to the season-ending major.
Pinfall dropped at the beginning of the Tour Championship, but the fresh start didn’t slow Coté’s roll this week at the National Bowling Stadium. She was in second place after the first two blocks of round-robin match play Friday and averaged more than 257 for her first five games Saturday to take over the top spot on the event’s 40-foot lane condition.
“I was pretty nervous this morning,” said Coté, who won her second career PWBA Tour title earlier this season at the PWBA ITRC Classic. “I still had eight games to bowl, and anything can happen in eight games, especially with how high the scores were getting. I wanted to make good shots, see the lane clear with my ball reaction and take advantage of the big games. You usually hit one or two pairs with big games, and I was grateful to have a few more where my ball reaction was great and my ball was going through the pins really well.”
Coté finished as the runner-up to Zavala on Tuesday at the Reno Classic and placed ninth at the Pepsi Classic on Thursday.
Her performance this week at the NBS, coupled with consistent showings throughout the 2021 season, have vaulted Coté to the top of the season-long points list, which determines PWBA Player of the Year and PWBA Rookie of the Year awards. She started the Fall Classic Series eighth on the points list.
Zavala, a three-time winner on the PWBA Tour this year, secured her spot as top rookie earlier in the week at the Pepsi Classic.
Coté will make her sixth championship-round appearance of the season Sunday and lock up the postseason award for the first time in her career with a victory in the title match.
It also would be possible for Coté to win the award before she even throws a shot Sunday, if O’Keefe loses the opening match of the stepladder to Zavala.
O’Keefe, the two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year, can win the award for the third consecutive season if she finishes in fourth place or higher and Coté finishes in second place.
All of the extra noise surrounding the player-of-the-year race and pressure of a major championship, television lights and big payday are things Coté plans to put out of her mind.
“I really can’t think about all the outside factors,” Coté said. “If I let my mind get there, my body is not going to know what to do. My mind needs to focus on the task at hand, and everything else will fall into place if I do that.”
As Coté secured her spot at the top of the standings, Zavala turned the leaderboard upside down.
Zavala started the event with five consecutive open frames on the way to a 96 game, but she averaged 229 for the rest of the opening block to finish the first round in 16th place.
She slipped to 20th place after Friday’s second eight-game round, but a memorable comeback Saturday earned her a sixth championship-round appearance of the year.
Zavala started Saturday’s final round 338 pins outside of the cut number but averaged more than 251 and went 7-1 to make an improbable run to the show. She rolled games of 286, 266, 269, 252, 231, 227, 265 and 217.
The 25-year-old right-hander entered Saturday’s position round in fifth place, but she was only four pins ahead of Poland’s Daria Pajak.
Zavala recorded a 217-205 win by rolling three strikes in her final frame and moved into fourth place overall. Pajak finished in sixth place with a 5,722 total.
Zavala will be making her second consecutive championship-round appearance at a major after finishing fourth at the U.S. Women’s Open in August.
Pluhowsky hopes to capture her second major title at the 78-lane venue. She won her lone PWBA Tour title at the 2006 United States Bowling Congress Queens. She also made the show at the U.S. Women’s Open this year, finishing in third place.
Zavjalova is the only athlete to advance to the championship round at each major this season.
She recorded fifth-place finishes at the USBC Queens, held at the NBS in May, and U.S. Women’s Open. She’s in search of her third major title (2013 and 2017 Queens) and fifth career PWBA Tour title.
O’Keefe is the defending champion at the Tour Championship and the only player to win the event twice (2017 and 2019). She won the season-opening PWBA Bowlers Journal Classic in January and is looking for her fourth major championship and 15th PWBA Tour title.
O’Keefe won the 2018 Queens at the NBS, defeating Coté in the title match, 221-189.
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