Team USA men and women advance to doubles semifinals at 2021 IBF Masters World Championships in Dubai

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -
Success on the lanes is about more than just ball selection and surface preparation. There even may be things talent and coaching can't overcome.

As doubles resumed Sunday at the 2021 International Bowling Federation Masters World Championships, it was teamwork that helped two Team USA tandems find their way to the semifinals.

Chris Barnes and Tom Hess were dominant on the men's side, posting a 3-0 record in match play to lock up a spot in the quarterfinals. They then defeated France's Pierre Luc Sanchez and Philippe Andre, 257-182, to claim their place in Tuesday's doubles semifinals.

In the women's quarterfinals, Team USA's Tish Johnson and Sharon Powers rolled past Canada's Jill Friis and Lisa Morabito, 246-193. Johnson and Powers used a 2-1 match-play record to earn the meeting with the Canadians.

The other quarterfinal winners for the men were Denmark, Kuwait and Finland. The women's semifinals will include Malaysia, Germany and Sweden.

Based on the leaderboards so far this week in Dubai, there's no doubt the Senior Team USA members have the ability to excel on a stage like the IBF Masters World Championships, where all four doubles teams advanced to match play, and all eight players made the first cut in singles.

At the same time, three of the team members are making their debuts at the event, and there often are unfamiliar feelings that come with wearing a Team USA jersey for the first time.

Hess is fresh off a memorable year on the Professional Bowlers Association 50 Tour, where he won two major titles and took home the PBA50 Player and Rookie of the Year awards, but he knows success does not make him immune to the nerves.

"A lot of the credit for today needs to go to Chris for helping me settle down," Hess said. "I was fine in practice this morning before our three matches, but once the lights came on, the nerves hit like never before. The first shot today, it felt like a 20-pound ball, and I didn't throw it very well. It wasn't much different than my start in singles, but I was able to calm down with help from Chris."

Barnes also is making his debut at the Masters World Championships, but he brings nearly two decades of Team USA and World Championships experience with him.

He was able to share some of the things that have worked for him in handling different situations over the years, while winning dozens of international medals and multiple world championships.

"He just kept reminding me to go through my process, which is a little easier to do when you're bowling for yourself," Hess said. "Now, I'm bowling for my country, and I'm bowling with one of the greatest bowlers of my time, and I didn't want to let him down. I put a little too much pressure on myself, but we got through the first game and bowled really well the rest of the day."

Once everything was under control behind the foul line, Barnes and Hess did what they've done for most of 2021, and that's strike a lot and push each other to strike more.

Down to the final game of the 2021 PBA50 Tour season, the two were among the front-runners for the tour's postseason awards, and they met in the title match of the season's final two majors.

Hess ended up winning both the PBA Senior U.S. Open and United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters, and his first medal with Team USA now is another memory he'll share with Barnes.

The doubles semifinals and finals will take place Tuesday afternoon. All four semifinals will start at noon local time (3 a.m. Eastern), and the first final will begin almost immediately after.

"We did everything we could today and accomplished our goals," Barnes said. "We won our four games, we bowled pretty well and we worked through a couple of scenarios we hadn't seen before with adrenaline and what have you, but we got through the other side of that without any penalties. That'll help us with better strategies moving forward in doubles and in the other events."

The 16 teams that advanced to match play were divided into four groups, each with four teams, and they bowled three games of round-robin matches.

Points were awarded for each win, and the top two teams in each group, based on points, advanced to the bracket-style quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal, semifinal and the final matches all are one Baker game each.

In the two-player Baker format, one team member bowls the odd frames, and the other team member bowls the even frames. They were required to alternate throughout qualifying.

Team USA's Parker Bohn III and Bob Learn Jr. posted a 2-1 record in match play and finished the round tied with France and Denmark with six points. The three teams bowled a one-game roll-off to determine which two would advance.

Denmark's Kenneth Ankerdal and Lars Nielsen won with 236 and were followed by France's Sanchez and Andre (220). Bohn and Learn shot 205 and were eliminated.

For Johnson and Powers, success Sunday was more about picking each other up when things didn't feel quite right physically, as both are veterans at the World Championships and comfortable in the spotlight.

Johnson won the doubles event in 2019 with fellow USBC Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg, and they teamed with Powers and another hall of famer, Lucy Sandelin, to win the team gold medal.

"I'm just excited and glad I was able to come through today," Powers said. "This morning, I wasn't throwing it so well, or yesterday, so it was nice to get something going. It's more excitement than nerves for me, but I had to remind myself to take deep breaths, slow down my feet, stay down and follow through. To be here and have the chance to do this again is so special. To be in the medal round again is amazing."

Johnson, a 25-time Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour champion, won 10 medals in four previous trips to the Masters World Championships. When it comes to competing, she's ready for anything.

Each time they face the week's 44-foot oil pattern, it changes just a little bit, so that required a last-minute change of equipment Sunday just before match play got underway.

Johnson picked up a ball she hadn't thrown and intended to keep shiny, but she adjusted the surface and found a look she was happy with. She added some surface to one of Powers' bowling balls, and they used the first couple frames to finish getting lined up.

"We got the job done, and which medal we get is all in our hands," Johnson said. "I don't know who we're bowling, and that's not even important. We'll go out and do what we've been doing, and it hopefully will be enough. Today was a lot of teamwork, and we held each other up when we needed to. I'm definitely happy leaving here today."

Debbie Ayers and Tracie Calfee, the other first-time participants for the United States, posted a 1-2 record in match play Sunday and failed to advance to the quarterfinals.

All eight members of Senior Team USA will be back on the lanes Monday for the continuation of singles. The day will include match play, the quarterfinals, semifinals and the gold-medal matches.

The 32 men and 32 women who advanced to match play will be divided into four eight-player groups, and they will bowl seven games of round-robin match play. The format and point system will be the same as doubles.

Two dozen countries are being represented at the 2021 IBF Masters World Championships, and they are competing across two age classifications - 50 and older and 65 and above. Team USA only is competing in the 50-and-older division.

Each country at the 2021 IBF Masters World Championships can have a maximum of four men and four women in each age classification.

The week in Dubai also will include team and mixed team competition. All team bowling will feature a modified Baker format, too.

The tournament is following a structure similar to what was used for the recent IBF Super World Championships, the first of the three events being held in Dubai this month. The inaugural IBF Para Bowling World Championships shared the spotlight.

IBF is providing livestream coverage and results at StrikeCloud.com.

This week, Team USA is looking to defend the men's singles, men's doubles and men's team titles, as well as doubles and team on the women's side.

The United States has swept the team gold medals for the last three editions of the event (2019, 2017, 2015).

For more information about IBF, visit bowling.sport.