by Aaron Smith and Ryne Navarro USBC Communications

RENO – The members of Southern Ladies 10 of Covina, California, used a fast start and strong finish to win the Sapphire Team Event at the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships.

Led by Yolanda Williams’ 555 series, Southern Ladies 10 posted games of 652, 591 and 654 at the National Bowling Stadium to move to the top of the standings with a 1,897 total. Anderson Agency No. 2 of Lakeville, Minnesota, had held the Sapphire Team lead since May 7 with 1,891.

Williams was joined in the performance at the NBS by Gwendolyn Bridges (474), Bonita Hampton (448) and Yvonne Iruke (420).

“This made our trip,” said Hampton, who made her fourth USBC Women’s Championships appearance. “I’m so happy it happened to us.”

The team members knew they bowled well, but they didn’t think they bowled well enough to win.

“Bonita told us our (team) name was on the leaderboard,” said Bridges, who also made her fourth tournament appearance. “But, she’s always joking around, so we didn’t believe her. When we were told by someone else, we were in shock.”

The 2018 event marked the first year the foursome bowled together at the Women’s Championships. It also was the first time any of them had found such success at the event.

“None of us really come consistently,” said Iruke, who made her third trip to the tournament. “Now that we have tasted success, we feel like this is something we should come to every year.”

The members of Southern Ladies 10 credit their captain and organizer, Jacqueline Kennison, for convincing them to travel to Reno and get away from Southern California for a bit. Kennison brought 14 teams to The Biggest Little City this year.

“Jacqueline does an amazing job getting all these ladies together to bowl,” said Williams, who made her second appearance. “We’re so happy.”

Sapphire Team features four-player teams with combined entering averages of 574 and below.