Dasha Kovalova rolls two frames per game for Wichita State, and that’s probably all her mother can handle.
Oksana Fanygina covers her eyes almost every time Kovalova’s turn comes up, letting the sounds of those without as much anticipation dictate her reaction.
For someone who doesn’t get to see her daughter bowl too often, Fanygina can’t bring herself to watch.
“I’m nervous because I want her to do the best job and I want her team to succeed,” Fanygina said through Kovalova’s translation.
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Fanygina and Kovalova’s dad, Sergiy Kovalov, usually attend one of Kovalova’s tournaments per year, a December event in Las Vegas. This year, though, they’ve made it to two.
They arrived in Wichita from Russia on a 15-hour expedition this week to watch Kovalova and WSU compete in the intercollegiate bowling championships at Northrock Lanes.
“The fact that they came here to watch me, it makes me feel really special,” said Kovalova, a native of Ukraine who left home three years ago to attend WSU. “It’s just awesome that they’re here.”
The Shockers won one best-of-seven match on Thursday before losing in the winners-bracket quarterfinals 4-3 to Robert Morris. WSU begins play in the losers bracket on Thursday morning.
The WSU men emerged from Thursday’s match play as one of four undefeated teams, earning victories over Clarke University and Notre Dame College. They play Robert Morris in the winners-bracket semifinals of the double-elimination tournament at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Kovalova, the nation’s top scorer who was named college player of the year at a Wednesday banquet in Wichita, couldn’t quite get the Shockers past Robert Morris despite being a near automatic strike in the frames she bowled.
Kovalova, a WSU junior, rarely looked to her parents for encouragement during Thursday’s play as Fanygina and Kovalov were in a large group of Shocker fans that supported the top-seeded women’s team.
Fanygina sat stoically for most of both matches, dropping her face to her hands when Kovalova bowled and clapping above her head when her daughter rolled a strike. She held up a sign that said, “Hey Sup Girl.”
“I actually feel really nervous, because my mom is my coach,” Kovalova said. “She doesn’t see me too often, so I want to show her that I’m still working even though she’s not taking care of me anymore. Every time I want to be really good when she’s looking at me.”
Fanygina looks at her daughter enough to know when something needs to be fixed. After WSU beat Emmanuel in Thursday’s first round, Kovalova stopped for a chat with her mother.
While well-wishers greeted Kovalova and hugged her mom, Fanygina remained steadfast toward getting her daughter’s emotions balanced, an ironic twist since it was mom who was overwhelmed most often.
“I was nervous,” Kovalova said. “This is my first time playing at nationals as an anchor (the player who bowls the fifth and 10th frames), so I got really nervous my first set. Then she kind of calmed my down and she said, ‘All right, now you’ve got it.’ She patted my shoulder, then I got it.”
Kovalova was eliminated from the singles tournament on Tuesday but can still help the Shockers win their first championship since 2009 in spite of longer odds after Thursday’s loss.
Her parents would love to see her win a national championship, and have her concentrated on that goal, even if it means Fanygina has to cover her eyes for the next two days.
“I’m hanging out with them a little bit,” Kovalova said. “But they say that I should be with my team because team is more important now.”
1, Midland, 4,944. 2, Wichita State, 4,880. 3, Robert Morris-Illinois, 4,824. 4, McKendree, 4,758. 5, Purdue, 4,699. 6, San Jose State, 4,650. 7, Notre Dame-Ohio, 4,649. 8, Calumet, 4,606. 9, Webber International, 4,605. 10, Lindenwood, 4,569. 11, Davenport, 4,549. 12, Wisconsin-Whitewater, 4,539. 13, Pikeville, 4,501. 14, Urbana, 4,499. 15, Clarke, 4,270. 16, Lindenwood-Belleville, 4,194.
1, Wichita State, 4,837. 2, Webber International, 4,646. 3, McKendree, 4,583. 4, Pikeville, 4,515. 5, Grand View, 4,495. 6, North Carolina A&T, 4,483. 7, St. Francis-Illinois, 4,463. 8, Wisconsin-Whitewater, 4,457. 9, Robert Morris-Illinois, 4,451. 10, Midland, 4,428. 11, Wright State, 4,426. 12, Delaware State, 4,356. 13, Bowling Green, 4,321. 14, Stephen F. Austin, 4,266. 15, Lindenwood, 4,263. 16, Emmanuel, 4,176.
(Best-of-7, double-elimination match play)
(1) Midland def. (16) Lindenwood-Belleville, 4-0
(8) Calumet def. (9) Webber International, 4-3
(12) Wisconsin-Whitewater def. (5) Purdue, 4-2
(4) McKendree def. (13) Pikeville, 4-2
(2) Wichita State def. (15) Clarke, 4-1
(7) Notre Dame-Ohio def. (10) Lindenwood, 4-2
(6) San Jose State def. (11) Davenport, 4.5-1.5
(3) Robert Morris-Illinois def. (14) Urbana, 4-0
Midland def. Calumet, 4-2
Wisconsin-Whitewater def. McKendree, 4-1
Wichita State def. Notre Dame-Ohio, 4-1
Robert Morris-Illinois def. San Jose State, 4-1
(1) Wichita State def. (16) Emmanuel, 4-3
(9) Robert Morris-Illinois def. (8) Wisconsin-Whitewater, 4-3
(5) Grand View def. (12) Delaware State, 4-1
(4) Pikeville def. (13) Bowling Green, 4-1
(15) Lindenwood def. (2) Webber International, 4-3
(7) St. Francis-Illinois def. (10) Midland, 4-1
(6) North Carolina A&T def. (11) Wright State, 4-0
(3) McKendree def. (14) Stephen F. Austin, 4-2
Robert Morris-Illinois def. Wichita State, 4-3
Pikeville def. Grand View, 4-3
St. Francis-Illinois def. Lindenwood, 4-2
North Carolina A&T def. McKendree, 4-3