Welcome to US Nationals! This weekend, the men and women will have US National team qualifiers to determine who represents the USA at the PARC and World tournaments later this year (in Bolivia and Guatemala respectively), and the Juniors will be competing to win Junior National titles and earn the honor to represent the USA at Junior Worlds in Guatemala later this year.
Lets preview the draws.
R2 Sports App link:https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=37673
12 players entered, highlighted by the top 2 seeds who made the finals of the last national qualifier we held, along with a number of IRT regulars.
In the play-in, look out for #12 John Goth, a solid player who made the US National final in 2012 and the round of 16 in the last pro event he played, who faces #5 Charlie Pratt Racquetball, he himself a frequent US National team member and the current US Junior national team coach. Whoever Goth faced in the opener would face a tough challenge.
In the Quarters, whoever survives Goth/Pratt has a good chance against #4 Thomas Carter to make the semis. The projected #3/#6 match between Jake Bredenbeck and Maurice Miller could be interesting as well.
In the end, I expect the top two seeds #1 Rocky Carson and #2 Alex Landa to advance to the final and battle it out for the US title. That match would be a coin flip for me; in the last qualifier Rocky came out on top, but the last time they faced off professionally Landa squeaked by with an 11-10 win in the final of the Los Compadres open in Fullerton in Nov 2019.
The top 4 women in the US keep running into each other in the back end of these tournaments, and I expect the top 4 seeds to advance to the semis again this year.
In the semis, I look for two upsets by seeding; look for #4 Kelani Lawrence to top #1 Erika Manilla in the top half, and for Hollie Scott (who won the last National team qualifier and thus i’m not quite sure how she’s only ranked #3) to top #2 Rhonda Rajsich in the other semi.
In the final…i’ll go with Kelani, who just faced (and beat) Scott in the LPRT Sweet Caroline open in May rather easily to beat her again and claim her second national title.
The big news here was the last minute positive Covid test that defending US doubles champion Sudsy Monchik suffered, which has taken him out of traveling and thus out of the tournament. He’s really bummed, but also has been dealing with the illness, and we’re glad he’s recovering. With the news, USAR reworked the draw and four teams remain to compete.
In one semi, look for the new #1 seed Carson/Pratt (the 2019 champs) to take out the local favorites of Goth/Blake Hansen, while the 2/3 match should feature some fireworks between two good teams of the Bredenbeck brothers (Jake and Sam Bredenbeck) playing Miller and Troy Warigon.
In the final look for Carson/Pratt to prevail over the Bredenbecks to take the title and send Rocky back to an international competition for the 14th year.
The defending champ from the last national qualifier ( Aimee Roehler Ruiz) is out while battling Breast Cancer, so the teams are relatively jumbled from the last time we saw them. There’s 5 teams playing, and I expect the top two seeds to advance to the final.
In the final, look for the team of Scott/Lawrence to take out the team of Rajsich/Manilla to take the title.
It has been two years since we had Junior Nationals and we’ve lost an entire class to matriculation, so its the first time we’ve seen some of these kids in quite a while. I won’t spend a ton of time previewing the draw or making predictions since, well, we just have no idea what will happen.
In the Boys 18U; the top two seeds of Timmy Hansen and Andrew Gleason are seasoned junior international vets and will be hard to beat. Gleason is playing on home soil and could be an upset favorite, but he’ll have to get by a tough #3 seed in Krish Thakur, who has 3 junior titles to his credit. Nonetheless, I like Hansen, who has looked just dominant in local Florida events as of late, to take the title.
In the Girls 18U, #1 Annie Roberts is a favorite to make the final, but she has no simple pathway there. On the bottom side, the 2/3 semi should be great between Erin Slutzky and Shane Diaz. All three have been regularly popping up in LPRT events and moving their careers forward. Look for Roberts to take the title.
In the Boys 16U, a stacked draw at the top, featuring two top seeds in Vedant Chauhan and Nikil Prasad, two Norcal kids who face off a lot. But look out for New Yorker Josh Shea, who has been hanging out at the Kelley court competing against pretty significant competition and might make a run here. The last time these three faced off, Chauhan topped Shea in the 2019 14U, and Prasad topped Chauhan in the final … we’ll get rematches of both this weekend.
In the Girls 16U: it is the Heather Mahoney show; she’s won 8 junior titles and is the defending World 14U champ. It will be difficult to top her in Iowa this weekend.
For the 14U and younger draws … as fans we’ll have to wait and see how the draws play out. I find it hard to even make predictions on kids who were 12 the last time we saw them.
Look for Streaming on USA Racquetball’s page, with Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike as always! Plus, this year USAR has brought in none other than the IRT’s main streaming guy Dean DeAngelo Baer to help out.
Thanks to the Tourney Director and USAR national events coordinator Connor Shane or putting this event on!
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