Crawley is top qualifier for Greater Detroit finals

Al Willman
The Detroit News
From left, Verity Crawley, Diandra Asbaty, Juliana Franco and Daria Palak advanced to next weekend’s stepladder final in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Canton — The television finalists of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Greater Detroit Open at Super Bowl are set.

Verity Crawley, of England, is the top seed in the TV finals. She has a double-bye. Diandra Asbaty, of Chicago, is the No. 2 seed. She’ll take on the winner of the match between No. 3-seed Juliana Franco (Columbia) and No. 4-seed Daria Palak (Poland).

The TV finals will take place next Sunday at the Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in Green Bay, Wisconsin, before the tournament airs on the CBS Sports Network on July 18 at 8 p.m. Only Crawley has made a TV appearance so far this season.

Crawley and Palak, teammates at Webber International University, a NAIA school in Florida, shared an emotional moment after Palak took down Leanne Hulsenburg of Pleasant View, Utah, in their group stepladder final on Saturday.

“It just feels surreal because my performances were not that good this season,” Palak said. “It’s my first season, but they’ve not been that great, especially last weekend. It was the worst tournament I’ve had in a very long time. Snapping out of that mindset, I think that 300 game I shot (Friday night) changed everything. It actually made me believe in me again the way I believed in myself before the tour started.”

Fighting back tears, Palak said the first thing she had to do was call her parents, who are back home in Poland.

“I need to talk to them,” Palak said. “It’s 1 or 2 in the morning, and they’re watching and excited. Having them here would be amazing because I did it for them. I’m happier for them, for the way I played, than I am for myself.”

Palak and Crawley said they have a close relationship with the tour’s third Webber International alumna, Diana Zavjalova, who finished fifth after losing to Franco in their semifinal. All three, with Crawley going between lanes during the finals, were vocal in their support for each other.

“I spent quite a lot of time with them,” Crawley said. “We spent four years in college together, so obviously we’re very close.”

The bond between Palak and Zavjalova is perhaps more meaningful since it started 10 years ago when both participated in youth tournaments in Europe.

“The support is great, because if I didn’t make it right now, of course it would be disappointing,” Palak said. “But the fact that (Crawley) made it, and Diana had a chance to do so, it changes the experience. It changes the way I would think about the tournament.”

Crawley, Asbaty win Match Play

Crawley, who is believed to be the frontrunner for the tour’s Rookie of the Year award, qualified earlier in the afternoon with Asbaty, the lone American in the top four, after winning their individual match play games.

Asbaty, a former bowler with Team USA who lives in Chicago and grew up in Indiana, said qualifying was a little more special because her mother and two children were in attendance.

“To have them behind me, I turned around and thought, ‘How could I lose? I can’t lose,’ ” Asbaty said. “They made it a lot easier for me this week. Most of the time, I’m traveling alone. I feel like I need to bring them to every event.”

Second final comes down to last ball

Franco’s weekend changed in the span of 2.65 seconds on Saturday afternoon.

In the first of two group ladder finals, Franco and Zavjalova, were down to the last ball in the 10th frame of the first of two final matches.

Zavjalova and Franco each threw two strikes in the final frame with the frontrunner leading 266-260 after throwing her last ball. Franco responded by knocking down nine pins, winning the match by three.

“I don’t know how I threw that ball,” said Franco, who advanced to the TV finals for the second time in as many weeks. “I didn’t know I needed seven (pins) to win.”

Franco said she hopes to follow her mentor and fellow Columbian Rocio Restrepo, who won the event last year.

“I’m going to try to do the same this year,” Franco said.

Michigan finishers

16th: Julie Ocepek, Saginaw

28th: Cheryl Daniels, West Bloomfield

32nd: Brandie Reamy, Livonia

T-65th: Jenna Law, Milford

93rd: Sheri Verespej, Monroe

98th: Jaclyn Meldrum, China Township

99th: Sara Schulz, Novi

100th: Megan Macunovich, Canton

103rd: Donna Zellar, Flint

105th: Leslie Brown, Commerce Township

Al Willman is a freelance writer