Diana Zavjalova credits “a magic ball” for her remarkable performance during the first round of match play in the 2021 PWBA Tour Championship Friday, but the magic she captured far from the lanes leading into this event is at least as big a factor in her success this week.
That place — a tiny cabin in the woods a couple hours from her home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — is one where the sound of rainfall outside a huge window into the woods replaced the crash of bowling pins.
The snap and sparkle of a campfire at which she roasted s’mores with boyfriend EJ Nenichka helped bring her to a place of peace she had spent a long time yearning for.
And let us not forget Maggie, her pitbull mix.
“She’s my emotional support dog. She just doesn’t know it,” said Zavjalova, who led the 2021 PWBA Tour Championship field after eight games with a 6-2 match-play record and averaged 230.5 with a 2,024 pinfall.
Emotional support is something Zavjalova has not been afraid to seek lately.
“I’ve been going through a depression for over a year,” explained the four-time PWBA Tour champion. “Life has been crazy, especially mentally for me. I’ve been struggling big time. So I am trying to do everything I can to get out of this dark place where I once was. It’s getting a lot better.”
Getting out of that dark place required just that — getting out. Literally.
“I started working with a psychologist, and one thing that she advised was to go out in the fresh air more. So I’ve been walking my dog a lot, biking, just being outside.”
Enter a cabin rental company called Getaway House, which Zavjalova discovered on Facebook.
“It’s a tiny little cabin in the middle of nowhere in the woods. It was very good for the soul. I felt very refreshed. They have hiking trails. Over the bed, there was this massive window, and you just see the trees, and it was also raining at night and you could see all the lightning. The fire pit. The s’mores. It was just amazing.
“It’s something I plan to do more often, to just get away from life and reconnect with my soul,” she adds. “That was the main reason for that getaway.”
At the National Bowling Stadium this week, she is connecting with the pocket, too. Often.
“I had a magic ball that just ran out of energy after game five, so I’m going to recharge my ball and make sure it strikes a lot again,” she joked as she looked back on her performance during round 1 of match play Friday. “It was just a phenomenal day on the lanes.”
With a mental reboot she says makes her feel like she is “close to being me again” and 16 games of match play to go, there may be much more magic to come from this two-time USBC Queens champion in the days ahead.