By Jennifer Roback
On October 31, the Professional Women's Bowling Association wrapped up the final leg of their 2020-21 season with the Fall Classic Series, which included the Reno Classic, Pepsi Classic and the Tournament of Champions.
Throughout the week-long event, the PWBA also crowed the 2021 PWBA Player of the Year and the 2021 PWBA Rookie of the year.
Here's a recap of how the event went.
PWBA Reno Classic
On October 26, California's Stephanie Zavala claimed her third title of the year after beating Bryanna Coté 207-194 in the final match of the PWBA Reno Classic.
This win also allowed Zavala to become the first bowler since PWBA and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg to win three titles during their rookie season.
"This means the world to me," Zavala said following the match. "This is all I've dreamed about for so long. I'm out here proving myself day in and day out, and I deserve to be here as much as anybody."
Earlier in the season, she also won the PWBA Greater Cleveland Open and PWBA BVL Open.
Just two days after Zavala's historic win, Team USA's Julia Bond also claimed her third title of the year after beating Colombia's Maria José Rodriguez 234-222, in the title match of the Pepsi Classic.
The win comes after Bond took home two medals at the 2021 PANAM Bowling Championships.
"I'm very proud of the way I finished that match," Bond said. "I think it shows who I am as a person. I don't care if I'm losing or down, I'm always going to attempt to throw a great shot, because every shot holds the same importance for me.
"This win makes me happy. It makes me feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be. I've learned a lot, and I'm continuing to learn, which makes me excited. There are things I still need to get better at and things I'm still learning, but being able to apply those things and succeed makes me excited for the future."
Earlier in the season, Bond won the PWBA Hall of Fame Classic and the USBC Queens.
Tournament of Champions
Following the Reno and Pepsi Classics, 24 bowlers then advanced to the Tournament of Champions on October 29.
After two days of qualifying, Bryanna Coté, Shannon Pluhowsky, Diana Zavjalova, Stephanie Zavala and Shannon O'Keefe, all advanced to the live show.
For the first time since 2006, Pluhowsky found her way back to the winners circle after defeating No. 1 seed, Coté, 244-178.
"I finally did it," Pluhowsky told USBC. "I finally got over that hump. I get asked that question a lot, and I can erase it now. Fifteen years is a long time, but it's worth the wait."
The No. 2 seed averaged 266.5 for the day after beating Zavjalova 289-199, she also claimed the $50,000 grand prize.
"They were a little different, which typically happens on TV," Pluhowsky continued. "My ball reps told me to bowl my A game. I was able to throw it a little harder, so I could stay a little closer to it, and it worked out. I caught a couple lucky breaks, and you need that to win. I've had some bad luck on TV, but today was different."
Pluhowsky's last win was at the 2006 USBC Queens.
PWBA Player of the Year
Following the end of the Fall Classic Series, the PWBA Player of the Year award and PWBA Rookie of the year award were also presented.
For the first time in her career, Bryanna Coté took home the Player of the Year award after topping the season-long points list.
"I had talked to my husband about it, and coming into Reno, we never even thought player of the year was on the table," Coté said. "I knew the points were very close, especially with two regular events and a major to go, and things could shift around pretty easily. You can't count out those ahead of you, though, because they're there for a reason. All I could do was just bowl and try to bowl great. When I realized I was getting closer and put myself in position to be player of the year, I just stayed the course and tried to stay focused. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be."
Going into the stepladder finals, it was a race between Coté and Shannon O'Keefe, who needed to record at least a fourth-place finish to force Coté to win the event in order to take home the trophy, however, she fell short to the PWBA Rookie of the Year, Stephanie Zavala 203-200.
Earlier this season, Coté also took home the PWBA ITRC Classic title and won two medals at the 2021 PANAM Bowling Championships.
PWBA Rookie of the Year
Rounding out the end of the year PWBA awards was Stephanie Zavala who finished her incredible season as the PWBA Rookie of the Year.
Over the course of the season, Zavala made six shows, two telecasts, and had won three championships, including the PWBA Reno Open, the PWBA BVL Open, and the PWBA Greater Cleveland Open.
"The last several months have been nothing short of amazing," Zavala wrote on Instagram. "I wouldn’t trade the the ups and downs, the mental and physical grind and overall experience for anything."
Prior to her rookie season, the right handed bowler was a standout athlete at Sam Houston State University.