Wanted to do a quick preview of the Intercollegiates event going on this weekend. Play started Wednesday 4/3/19 and finishes up Saturday, so they’re already well underway, but wanted to get this out before the back end of the tourney.
In the Mens #1, the defending champ Erik Garcia from CSU Pueblo is back, seeded #1 and seems to be the overwhelming favorite. UTexas player Alejandro Almada is the #2 seed, Jeremy Dixon from BWU #3 and Oregon State’s Nick Buring #4. I’d imagine the draw will go chalk and Garcia will repeat. With all due respect for the rest of the Gold #1 boys draw, the 2nd best player in Tempe very well may be the #2 player out of CSU Pueblo Lukas Le.
In the Womens #1 draw though, we have a dog fight with at least 5 players who have pro or international experience. The #1 seed and defending champ from CSU-Pueblo is Carla Muñoz Montesinos, who represents Chile internationally and finished last year ranked #10 on the LPRT. To repeat though she’ll have to get through a draw that includes: – #2 Seed Erika Manilla of N.Arizona and who beat Munoz last month at the Pueblo shootout and was the 2016 world junior 18U champ – #3 Hollie Scott of UWashington, who beat LPRT top 10 player Amaya at a pro event in January and who was the 2014 US 18U champ. – #4 Lexi York from Oregon State, who was the 2015 USA 18U champ – #5 Melania Sauma, playing on her home courts at ASU and who represents Costa Rica internationally, lost to Manilla in the 2016 18U final and who has been playing in Adult IRF events for years. – #6 Elyse Duffie, who made the quarters of 18U world juniors last fall, losing to eventual champ Montse Mejia.
That’s a lot of good players, and the quarters will be fun. I predict that Munoz will top York in one semi, and Manilla will squeak by Scott in the other semi, and Manilla takes out Munoz in the final in a tiebreaker in a repeat of the PAC Shootout final.
In addition to Mexican Nationals and High School Nationals, there were a couple of lower-tier IRT events this past weekend. This is a wrap-up of the best of them, the Pueblo Athletic Club Shoot out, a Tier 4 held in Pueblo, CO that featured a few familiar names and a couple of surprising results.
Reminder: we don’t load non-tier 1 or higher events into the PRS database; this post is just a wrap-up as a fan of the game. I’ll pick up the draw reviews at the latter stages when the familiar pro names start playing each other.
———– Men’s Pro Singles:
The draw featured 30 players, and its top 4 seeds were tour regulars that included #1 Kane Waselenchuk. David Horn, defending champ Jake Bredenbeckand Nick Riffel formed the top four seeds. This is notable to me because I can’t recall seeing Kane play in a non Tier-1 IRT tournament in .. well a long time. It may be b/c I don’t generally track non-Tier1 events.
The 5th seed is the dangerous Erik Garcia, who beat touring pro Robert Collins before taking a game off of eventual champ Rocky Carson at the US Singles qualifier event in Tempe last month. The rest of the draw featured mostly local players, with a sprinkling of traveling players w/ enough IRT points to rate a seeding.
In the Quarters. a couple of surprises: – Erik Garcia got a solid win over touring pro Nick Riffel in a tiebreaker in the 4/5 match. He earns a match against the King in the semis. I’d like to see Garcia play more pro events; he’s got some good results lately and I think he could make some noise on tour. – Complete unknown (to me) Ruben Baez ousted #3 seed Jake Bredenbeck 10,(5),5. I can’t find Baez playing any match in any format that the PRS database tracks, and he was seeded 27th in this event, traveling up from El Paso to play it. I saw bits and pieces of this match: Baez plays a control game, has a very effective lob serve, and was completely non-plussed by Jake’s power, re-killing power DTL shots and anticipating power-pinches. He earns a match-up against #2 seeded Horn in the semis for his efforts.
In the Semis: – Waselenchuk took out Garcia 8,3. Garcia kept up with the champ briefly, but eventually fell in typical Kane dominance. – Horn took out the upstart Baez by the close scores of 13,14. Thanks to Matt Melster for streaming this one real-time; I watched part of this match as well to see how Baez matched-up with the different playing style of Horn, one which was much closer seemingly to his own … and as expected this was a very back-and-forth close match throughout.
In the Final, Kane turned up the heat and cruised by Horn 7,0, showing his typical dominance that the rest of the IRT tour sees on a regular basis.
———– My take-away here: it isn’t often that a player just shows up without any prior pro experience and plays so well against two of the top 20 players in the world. I hope to see more of Baez in the future.
Men’s Pro Doubles:
The Pueblo supporters were also blessed to have with them one of the two best doubles teams in the world. Kane teamed up with Ben Croft, and they’ve won more than a few major doubles titles in their day. They were the #1 seed, with Jake & Horn teaming up to be the #2 seeds and Riffel/Garcia being the #3 seeds.
In the semis, Bredenbeck/Horn took out Riffel/Garcia 11-9, while Kane/Ben took out the team with the surprising Baez teamed with Daniel Bautista.
In the Saturday night final, the #1 team did not disappoint and won in two 10,5 over the #2 seeds.
Here’s a fun one to discuss during this slight break in the rball tourney schedule; what’s the best Father/Son combo in our sports’ history? How about Husband/Wife or Brother/Sister?
Here’s some opinions on each category from yours truly, with others that I considered. Did I forget someone? Am I totally wrong? Feel free to chime in.
1. Best Husband/Wife combo: Jack Huczek and Christie Van Hees Only husband-wife team where both sides have won tour championships. Both retired way too soon; I would bet money Jack in particular could still be making the back end of pro tournaments if he was still playing (he was born in 1983, so hes younger right now than Kane/Rocky/Alvaro).
There’s actually a slew of Racquetball playing couples with pro experience on both sides … i limited this to just the best and the top 3 honorable mentions. If you want to include the Pratts, Fowlers, Wachtels, Kirches, Hawthornes, or others, I wouldn’t blame you.
Another category where there’s lots of honorable mentions; I left out the Paraisos, the Doyles, Kerrs, and Odegards in particular. I sense there’s a lot of younger players in the junior ranks that could qualify here too.
Lots of good examples of brothers playing right now. Bredenbecks, Murrays, Kurzbards, Garays, Kellers, Acunas, etc. And there might be more in the Latin Americas that i’m not aware of, since there’s so many players with common surnames.
I thought of a few other father/son combos where at least we knew both sides played at a high level (examples: Schopiearys, Ullimans, Elkins). But I couldn’t think of a single instance of a top pro from our entire sport’s history who has a son playing at a high level right now.
Here’s a preview of the Men’s and Women’s National team draws.
In the Men’s Doubles draw: 9 teams competing. One half of the defending champ team is missing this year ( Sudsy Monchik), meaning defending champ Rocky Carson has a new partner: he’s playing with Charlie Prattand they’re seeded #1.
In the semis … – I’ll go with #1 Carson/Pratt over #4 Manilla/Riffel. – I’m predicting an upset by seed: #3 Bredenbeck/Diaz get revenge for last year’s match-up and down Horn/Rojas at this stage instead.
In the finals: Carson/Pratt earn their National team spot with a win over Jake/Diaz in a brutal tiebreaker. ——————-. In the Women’s doubles draw; just 5 teams competing. Last year saw somewhat of a changing of the guard, when 11-time champ Aimee Roehler Ruiz got upset in the semis with her partner Janel Tisinger-Ledkinsand 14-time winner Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson also getting upset in the semis with her partner Erika Manilla.
In the semis: – #1 and defending champs Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson have their work cut out for them, having to face the (nee) Key Sisters. I’m going to go with Lawrence/Jackson in a tiebreaker to advance back to the finals. – #3 Ruiz and Tisinger face off against the same team that beat them last year at this juncture: #2 seeded Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts. Rajsich & Lotts have been playing together nearly all season in LPRT pro doubles and have been playing tough; I think they’ll use that familiarity with each other to advance past the veteran Ruiz/Tisinger team.
In the final: – A rematch of last year’s final, won by Lawrence & Jackson 11-8 in the breaker. I think Rajsich/Lotts turn the tide and take the title.
——————-. There’s also Singles Qualifying draws this weekend (similar to the Canadian National event from last weekend). Here’s a quick preview for this draw, which will help select the Singles team members who represent USA this year at PARC and (more importantly) at the Pan American Games. A big year for International Racquetball Federation – IRF this year.
On the Men’s Singles side: 14 guys playing and some very interesting match-ups. If you wondered what the IRT would look like without any foreign players … take a look at this draw. 10 of the top 11 ranked Americans on the IRT and ever American in the top 25 (save one; Jansen Allen) is here playing.
In the 16s, we see a number of first round match-ups against IRT touring regulars: – Diaz takes on Riffel – Manilla takes on Justus Benson – Rojas takes on Carter – … and we get a unique brother-on-brother match-up between the Bredenbecks (which I’m sure has happened in local tourneys before, but this is a first for a top-level tourney in PRS).
In the Quarters, I’m projecting these matches: – #1 Carson over #9 Collins in their third meeting in as many months. – #5 Diaz over #4 Manilla – #3 Horn vs #6 Jake: these guys have met no less than 16 times in the various pro tours: Jake leads h2h 9-7 in my database and won their most recent meeting … which was more than a year ago. Horn’s been struggling with fitness this year, while Jake has been struggling with results. I’ll go with Jake over Horn in this event in a tie-breaker, thinking perhaps Horn still isn’t 100%. – #2 Pratt over #7 Rojas; they met in December, a straight forward win for Charlie; no reason not to think it’ll happen again.
Projected Semis: – Carson over Diaz in a typical dog-fight. – Pratt over Jake in a tactical masterpiece.
Final: doubles partners face off, with Rocky handling Pratt for the title.
————————- On the Women’s Singles Side, 9 players face off in the Team singles event.
Quarters: – #1 Rajsich over Manilla (who should advance from the sole play-in) – #4 Lotts over Scott – #3 Lawrence over Adrienne Fisher Haynes in what could be a bit closer than you’d think. – #2 Jackson over Tisinger in an interesting match … this might be closer than you’d expect from the 2/7 match=up.
Projected Semis: – Rajsich over her doubles partner Lotts – Lawrence over her doubles partner Jackson.
Finals: we get the final we were robbed of in this singles event last year, when Lawrence’s flights couldn’t get changed and she had to forfeit. These two also met in the US National singles final in May. Rajsich wins, but Lawrence gets valuable points towards qualifying for IRF events later this year.
Historically I have only pursued full match results for 16U and 18U juniors events only. 16U has been my “dividing line” for tracking match results, thinking that tracking younger kids match results was slighly unsavory. However, the winners of these tourneys become part of permanent racquetball history no matter what their age, and there’s value in having it all in one easy to consume report.
So now the PRS database has every junior tourney winner from every USA and IRF juniors championships for all of time loaded up into the database. Furthermore, I’ve created a new “Junior Champ Matrix” report that shows all the junior winners in one place. Here’s the IRF Boys Junior’s champion matrix for all IRF Junior Worlds dating to 1989:
We also have this same data completed for all of USA juniors history, dating to 1974.
Canada is a work in progress; I’ve got limited data from 2013 on-wards online and need to do r2sports and archive.org work to build history. Mexico is in even worse shape, with online records in r2sports only to 2013 and the former Mexican federation website that would have held such data having been left to pasture at some point in the 2013 time-frame. As always with Amateur FMR data … any help is appreciated.
To run these reports yourself, go to the www.proracquetballstats.com home page, click on the “Juniors” icon and scroll down to the section titled “Select category for All Results Matrix.”
One great side-effect of having this matrix is this: we can now get great trivia questions answered quickly!
Here’s some IRF Juniors trivia:
– Who holds the most Junior Worlds Boys titles? A tie between Jack Huczekand David Ortega, each of whom won 11 World Juniors titles. b is next, with 8.
– Who won the most Junior Worlds Girls titles? Adrienne Fisher Haynesholds the record with 10 international titles; she missed out on an 11th by getting upset in her final 18U event by Samantha Salas in the 2004 world championships. Paola Longoria is 2nd with 8 junior world titles.
– Both Sudsy Monchik and Rocky Carson won three successive 18U world junior titles. The only other player to hold 3 successive titles in any age bracket was Sudsy’s now wife Veronica Vero Sotomayor, who held the 12U title from 2003 to 2005.
– American Erika Manilla had an interesting Junior Worlds career; she won 6U-multi bounce in 2005 … then didn’t win another World Junior title until her last eligible tourney, taking 18U in 2016.
In the quarters:
– Top seeds and winners of the last four LPRT doubles events Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas Solis advanced in two over Susy Acosta and Kelani Kelani Lawrence (the reigning USA amateur doubles champ)
– Sabja and Enriquez continued their upsetting ways, taking out #4 seeds Argentinian national team of Maria Jose Vargas and Natalia Mendez. Vargas & Mendez are the defending 2018 South American champs and were quarterfinalists at worlds; this is a solid win.
– The Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios upset another favored team in the quarters, taking out Colombian National team reps and #3 seeds Adriana Riveros and Amaya Cris. Riveros/Amaya were semi-finalists at IRF worlds earlier this year and have been representing Colombia as a team for two years now.
– The reigning Mexican national champs and 2018 World runners-up Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia advanced easily over Masiel Rivera Oporto and Daniela Molina.
In the semis:
– Top seeds Longoria and Salas put an end to the upset run of Sabja and Enriquez 7,9
– #2 seeds Herrera and Mejia destroyed the Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios 10,2.
The final represented a match-up of in-arguably the two top doubles teams in the world. This was a re-match of the World Open Doubles title in May, the Mexican National Selection event in June, and the first LPRT pro event in August.
In the end, the #1 seeds prevailed in a tight match 10,14 to capture the title.
Paola Longoria and Salas are now an astounding 65-3 together in pro doubles dating to Sept 2013 (the beginning of ladies pro doubles tracking) and have added numerous amateur and international titles on top.
Here’s a review of Thursday LPRT singles action and a preview of Friday’s quarters.
LPRT round of 32 surprises:
– Argentinian Maria Jose Vargas (the #7 seed) was upset in the 32s, losing to Bolivian veteran international player Jenny Daza Navia.
– Brenda Laime Jalil got an upset win over American Sheryl Lotts in 4.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera was stretched as far as you can go by Michelle De La Rosa , winning 12-10 in the 5th. These two spent an awful long time on the court; the first game was 16-14 and two other games went “extra time.” Tough match.
– Montserrat Perez came from 2 games down to upset #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– Ana Laura Flores got a upset win over #15 Susy Acosta in 4.
– Bolivian star Yazmine Sabja took out #10 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in 5 games, opening a pathway to the quarters.
– #1 Paola Longoria put two donuts on Erika Manilla … then was stretched to 13-11 in game three to advance by the odd-looking score of 0,0,11.
LPRT round of 16 notables:
– Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez had a much easier time with Enriquez this time around, advancing in four (they went 12-10 in the 5th earlier this season).
– Herrera rebounded from nearly being upset in the 32s to advance past Laime in 4.
– Mexican junior phenom Montse Mejia took a game off the #1 Longoria before the champ advanced in 4.
– In a battle of Bolivians, Sabja downed country-mate Daza in a battle of upset seeds to advance to the quarters.
– #1 Longoria v #8 Natalia Mendez: Longoria 2-0 lifetime on LPRT against Natalia and does not seem likely to fall at this stage.
– #12 Martinez v #4 Herrera: Martinez is the underdog here by seed, but has been on a tear lately and is the favorite to advance.
– #3 Salas v #6 Rhonda Rajsich: Salas is just 6-11 lifetime against Rhonda, but has one 4 of the last 6 meetings on the LPRT. Salas has nearly completed her comeback from surgery last season and is the favorite to advance here.
– #2 Frederique Lambert vs #23 Sabja; They’ve met twice; once in an IRF event, once last year on the LPRT. Sabja took both. I sense her continuing her upset streak at this event. Sabja in 4.
The Ladies pro singles event at the 23rd annual US Open kicks off Wednesday afternoon with one round of qualifying. A solid draw of 40 professionals matches the 2017 draw and continues a solid showing at this event for the Ladies pros. 17 of the top 20 women in the world are present, and 24 of the top 30 players. Notably absent is #8 Jessica Leona Parrilla, still recovering from a major knee injury. Also missing from the top 20 is Guatemalan vet Maria ReneeRodriguez and #19 Mexican Eleni Guzman Velgis.
– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh off two finals appearances at the 2018 3WallBall WOR event held last weekend in Vegas, will take on fellow Southwestern US player, Texan Linda Tyler.
– An IRF-flavored qualifier awaits Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz and Bolivian Angelica Barrios.
– Two younger Mexican players Denisse Maldonado and Daniela Rico face off for a shot at 4-time US Open winner Rhonda Rajsich
– Kelani (Bailey) Kelani Lawrence, who made the finals of US nationals earlier this year but had to pass on the ticket to Worlds because it conflicted with her wedding, is back in action post nuptuals and faces off against the veteran Korean player Young Ock Lee. Lee is playing in her 8th straight US Open, making the trip halfway around the world every year.