Four Sam Houston State University bowlers competed at the 2017 Unites States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials in Henderson, NV on Jan. 9 and junior Stephanie Zavala shined, earning a spot on both Team USA and Junior Team USA.
Before earning her spot on the national team, Zavala had to endure five days of qualifying matches. In the stepladder finals the junior entered as the No. 2 seed and defeated Sydney Brummett of Wichita State University 220-210, advancing Zavala to the finals and earning an automatic spot on Team USA.
“Having the [Team USA] head coach place the medal around my neck was the most surreal moment ever,” Zavala said. “It is something I have wanted since I was a little girl, and to finally be able to say I did it is a dream come true.”
While in Nevada, Zavala was also in the running for first place at the US Amateur Championship Tournament, but fell second to Julia Bond of Nebraska University in the finals. In frame 10, the junior had an opportunity to close out the match if she bowled a pair of strikes, but unfortunately, Zavala was not able to do so and resulted in a 2-4-10 split.
“I hadn’t been feeling confident about my game two weeks prior to the event,” Zavala said. “But after long days on the lane I was able to workout the quirks and was able to throw the ball to the best of my ability.”
Joining Zavala in Nevada was sophomore Madysen Keller, who finished in 38 place, freshman Taryn Gray who placed 65 and senior Randi Speiler who took home 69 place. Fellow teammate junior Heather Penatzer will join Zavala on the Junior Team USA after she earned her spot on the team at the 2016 Junior Gold competition.
Zavala will begin practice as a member of Team USA in the summer, and from there, head coaches of the national team will select who will represent the country in tournaments abroad. If Zavala is chosen she will compete in countries such as: Japan, Puerto Rico and Australia.
Zavala and the SHSU bowling team have had a strong start to the season. In the latest National Tenpin Coaches Association Poll the team had jumped from No. 6 to No. 2 in the country, and they also have the highest winning percentage in the nation. The ranking is the highest for the team since 2014 when they won the national title and the highest ever for the first half of the season.
“It’s a nice mental boost for the girls,” head coach Brad Hagen said. “ But we can’t get complacent with our record. We still have a lot of bowling left because we are only half way through the season.”
The second half of the season will open for the Bearkats on Jan. 27 at the Prairie View A&M Invitational at the International Training and Research Center for bowling in Arlington, TX.
The invitational is set to start at 12:15 p.m. CT and will run through Jan. 29.