Junior Team USA falls short in team event at 2019 World Bowling Junior Championships


Despite days of trial and error, ball and surface changes, playing in, playing out and adjusting speeds, Junior Team USA was not able to find the traction necessary to surge into the top four in the team event at the 2019 World Bowling Junior Championships.

The group entered Thursday's three-game qualifying round in fifth place, 36 pins below the cutline to the semifinals, and, after games of 891, 847 and 843, the quartet remained fifth with a two-day, six-game total of 5,246.

Anthony Neuer paced Junior Team USA with a 1,455 total over the six team games and was joined by Kamerin Peters (1,309), Mabel Cummins (1,258) and Solomon Salama (1,224).

"Honestly, it was a little frustrating because they were trying their hardest, and we just couldn't seem to get anything going or find a way to throw enough strikes, simple as that," Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe said. "There's still more bowling to look forward to, so it's time to regroup and get back out there."

Korea was dominant in the team event, averaging more than 234 on the way to a 5,619 pinfall total. Singapore qualified second with 5,477 and was followed by Mexico (5,460) and Finland (5,454).

In the team semifinals Thursday afternoon at Plaza Bowling Saint Maximin, Korea downed Finland by scores of 204-201 and 245-223, and Mexico defeated Singapore, 220-212 and 199-180, in the four-player Baker format.

Korea and Mexico now will face off Saturday in the team final, which will be part of an all-day extravaganza that will include the doubles, team and Masters finals of the inaugural World Junior Championships, all contested on two lanes being specially installed inside Paris' Institut du Judo.

The custom venue will be ideal for accommodating in-person spectators and countless bowling fans around the world who will be able to tune in to the television broadcast.

All of Saturday's gold-medal matches will be livestreamed on BowlTV.

Junior Team USA will be part of the action after advancing to the doubles final in both divisions, so regrouping after falling short in the team event will be a priority.

Along with Saturday's doubles finals, three of the four Junior Team USA members still are in contention in the Masters event, which started with the top 24 boys and top 24 girls from the all-events standings, based on their 18-game totals for the week - six games in singles, doubles and team.

Salama advanced as the No. 24 seed with a 3,956 total, a 219.78 average. He defeated No. 9 Eugene Yeo of Singapore, 2-0 (255-232, 235-212) in the first round of best-of-three single-elimination matches to advance to Friday's second round, where he'll join Neuer, a fellow left-hander.

Neuer finished fourth in the all-events standings this week with a 4,243 total, a 235.72 average. Being among the top eight earned him a first-round bye for the Masters.

The boys all-events gold medal went to singles champion Ji Geun of Korea, who posted a 4,387 total for the week. Pyry Puharinen of Finland claimed the silver medal with a 4,331 effort, and Park Donghyuk of Korea took the bronze with 4,289.

"I thought we worked pretty well together as a team today, and that's the big thing, because it helps build our bond for the rest of the week and future events," Neuer said. "We kept the ball in play and gave it our all, and that's all you can do.

"Individually, I'm feeling very solid with my game mentally and physically. I know how I need to throw it on this pattern (41-foot World Bowling Montreal), and I'm comfortable. Going into the Masters, I know I'm as good as anyone else here. I just need to take it one shot at a time and do my best."

When competition at Plaza Bowling Saint Maximin resumes Friday morning, Neuer will face Alex Yu of Hong Kong, and Salama will take on Ji.

On the girls side, Peters (3,857) and Cummins (3,750) finished 10th and 17th respectively in the all-events standings.

Korea's Hong Soree earned the all-events gold medal with a 4,172 total and Finland's Mila Nevalainen (4,013) and Peppi Konsteri (3,987) won the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

In the opening round of the girls Masters, Cummins defeated Germany's Natalie Groll, 2-0 (223-200, 194-190), and Peters fell to England's Rhian Dobinson, 2-1 (278-202, 181-195, 232-242).

The Peters-Dobinson match came down to the final frame. After Peters left a 3 pin on her first offering, Dobinson tossed a strike to secure the victory.

Cummins advances to Step 2 and will face Mexico's Iliana Salinas on Friday morning.

While Thursday's team performance was fresh, and the Masters event and doubles final were becoming Junior Team USA's focus, O'Keefe noted the resilience of the young players, something he sees regularly as the director of bowling for McKendree University.

All four Junior Team USA members this week are 16 years old and very experienced with both the ups and downs of top-tier competition. All four also have experienced bowling on television as part of the Junior Gold Championships and USA Bowling National Championships.

"I think their age actually helps in this case because they're usually able to shake it off quicker and refocus," O'Keefe said. "I'm sure I'll feel it for longer than they will, but we'll talk about and game plan for what's next, and we'll be ready. They gave it their best the whole way, and I'm proud of them for that."

All qualifying rounds and semifinals at the World Junior Championships are being held at Plaza Saint Maximin and livestreamed by World Bowling. The event includes more than 100 bowlers, ages 13-18, from 35 countries.

Another twist for the first edition of the tournament is the use of the Current Frame Scoring system, where a strike counts for 30 pins, a spare counts for 10, plus the first-ball count and an open frame counts for actual pins knocked down. The 10th frame counts the same as all other frames, and with only 10 first balls each game, the maximum score still is 300.

For complete details about the World Bowling Junior Championships, visit WorldBowling.org.