Maria Rodriguez poses with the trophy, tiara and check after winning the 2014 Queens.

July 4, 2014

RENO, Nev. - A 2011 graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) Maria Jose Rodriguez (Ibague Tolima, Colombia) took home the 2014 United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Queens championship Thursday evening at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev. Considered the most prestigious women's event in bowling, Rodriguez outlasted PBA Title winner Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J. in dramatic fashion, 190-189 to take the coveted tiara and a check for $20,000.

The event, sponsored by Storm, saw Rodriguez go a perfect 5-0 and earn the top-seed in the stepladder finals which aired live on Thursday night on ESPN2. She improved that to 6-0 in the event with the defeat of Kulick, who had to win three matches to get to Rodriguez, perched in the top seed. The match could have gone the other way however, as Maria Rodriguez missed the 2-4-5-8 combination in the tenth frame, forcing Kulick to throw a double (two strikes) in order to win and become just the third woman to ever win three Queens titles (2007 & 2010).

It wasn't to be however as Kulick, who hadn't struck since the fourth frame of the championship match, left the ten pin on her first ball of the tenth frame. She was coming off of a 7-10 split in the ninth frame, a mark then could have meant Rodriguez had to strike in the tenth, but she didn't and she survived to win the title.

"I couldn't believe it," said Rodriguez. "I opened, and I still won. I wanted everything to be perfect, and it wasn't, but it turned out exactly how I hoped it would. I am so happy right now."

Rodriguez struggled early in the event, especially when the lanes were freshly oiled. There already had been three matches before she took to the championship lanes, so Rodriguez was able to get into her comfort zone and play deeper on the 39-foot oil pattern.

"I tried to follow the transition while I was practicing and while I was watching on the TV," said Rodriguez, who helped UMES to three national championships from 2008-2011. "I knew I would be able to play my A-game, and that was important. You never know with Kelly, though. She's a great bowler. She was having trouble carrying the 10 pin, but it could've gone either way at the end."



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With the win, Rodriguez became the second consecutive foreign-born player to wear the Queens tiara. Last year, Diana Zavjalova of Latvia became the first foreign player since 1989 to win.

Kulick, who was looking to join USBC Hall of Famers Millie Ignizio and Wendy Macpherson as the only three-time Queens winners, averaged 257 in her first three matches, but was unable to strike in her final six frames. She also finished second at the Queens in 2001 and 2009. This time, she earned $10,000 as the runner-up.

In the semifinal, three consecutive splits in the first four frames left second-seeded Tannya Roumimper of Indonesia 55 pins behind and unable to recover as Kulick cruised to a 248-137 victory.

Kulick advanced to the semifinal with a 268-209 win against Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio. Kulick started the match with seven consecutive strikes before a 2 pin ended her run and her shot at an additional $10,000 from Storm Bowling Products. Higgins struggled with carry throughout the game and finished fourth for the second year in a row.

In the day's opening match, Kulick and Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, Calif., were even halfway through the game, but Kulick pulled away, posting strikes in seven of the first eight frames on the way to a 255-220 win over the 2011 Queens champion.

The Queens is open to all female USBC members, and this year's event featured 178 players from 11 countries, vying for the major title and top prize from the more than $91,000 prize fund, which included a $20,000 contribution by presenting sponsor Storm. Earlier in the event, another former Hawk and four-time National Champion T'nia Falbo (Greensburg, Pa.) took ninth place in the event.

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