LPRT 2023-24 Season in Review Part 3

Maria Renee Rodriguez took a big step back touring this year while completing school. Photo 2022 Outdoor Nats via Steve Fitzsimons

In this last part of the 2023-24 season recap, we will highlight notables outside the top 20 and then wrap up with a list of the notable news items from a historical perspective.

– #22 Sheryl Lotts missed most of the season’s events after moving to Florida, but was a regular training partner there with Sudsy Monchik and Veronica Sotomayor and is seemingly well positioned to return to the tour and regain her mid-teens expectations.

– #25 @Maria Renee Rodriguez, a mainstay on tour for years, took most of this season off while she finished off a master’s degree at Liberty University. She remains on the Guatemalan national team and earns their stipend, but sources tell me she’s career focused going forward and will continue to be stepped back from the tour.

– #26 Martina Katz, just recently matriculating from the U21 ranks, traveled up from Argentina for a couple pro events this year. She’s held her own against the best of her age groups in international competitions for years and would fare quite well if she could join the Vargas/Mendez travel train up and down the Americas.

– #28 Frederique Lambert made it to two events, not bad for a full-time practicing physician. She continues to own the #1 spot for Canada.

– #30 @Valeria Centellas has completely stepped back from touring after being an incredibly promising junior coming out of Bolivia/Argentina. My sources tell me there might be money issues to fund travel for Centellas. My other sources tell me she’s expected to be back for the beginning of the next season.

– #32 @Veronica Sotomayor recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest, which would make it even tougher for her to commit to touring. Many believe her performance in limited appearances would warrant a return to the top 10 if she toured regularly; odds are we’ll never find out.

– #32 @Maricruz Ortiz has gotten great international wins, but has never really made that big of an impression on the pro tour.

– #32 @Adriana Riveros, a stalwart on tour for a decade, played in just one event this year.

– #32 @Victoria Rodriguez is one of the best US juniors to come up in years. The 16yr old just made the US Junior national team, has been a regular in outdoor events for a couple years now, and will be very interesting to see on tour if/when she can.

– #41 @Susana Acosta got one appearance in this year to extend her season streak to 26. She’s played in a pro event every season for 26 years in a row.

– #42 Annie Roberts , the reigning intercollegiate champ and three-time defending U21 champion, could only get to one pro event while going to college full time and getting married this year.

– #42 Lucia Gonzalez , who always seems to get wins against top 8 players at Mexican Nationals, made just one event t his year.

– #47 @Erica Williams , better known for her outdoor exploits and being one of the leading outdoor programming promotors in the sport in her home area of the Bay Area, entered one pro event.

Players who were unranked this season of note:

– Texan @Linda Tyler usually makes a couple events a year but missed this season.

– As noted above, top-ranked Bolivians @Jenny Daza, @Michele Meneses and @Yazmine Sabja missed this season entirely. All are top 15 quality players.

– @Adrienne Haynes failed to play an event this season for the first time in 23 years.

– Top Mexican Ana Laura Flores is reportedly going to Law School and has curtailed training.

– The #1 in Ireland @Aisling Hickey, who got a couple of solid wins last season while working in the US, did not play any pro events this year.

– It was an off year in general for the whole new generation of top Mexican junior girls coming up: where were the likes of Daniela Rico, Angela Veronica Ortega, Cynthia Gutierrez, Maria Gutierrez, Ximena Gonzalez, or the Aguilara clan?

– Quick follow-up from a previous post: Barrios struggled to make events this year because she’s going to medical school. So, that’s awesome for her personal career, but probably a Lambert-like dagger for her racquetball career.


Lastly, notable LPRT news items for the season,

– 6/21/23: Just ahead of the 2023 Central American & Caribbean championships, an article comes out that seems to indicate that Paola Longoria’s long-simmering conflict with Conade has reached a conclusion in her favor. She implies that the lawsuit that conade filed against the athletes for back payments has been dismissed.

– 10/18/23: Cristina Amaya releases a video ahead of the Pan Am games that details her struggles with the Colombian olympic committee, revealing that she was cut off

of her government salary in November 2022 and that furthermore even though Amaya and Riquelme had qualified for the Pan Am games that their spots were given away. Amaya still traveled to Chile to referee, but her dreams of competing in the Pan am games were shattered. This situation still infuriates me; clearly someone at the IRF allowed these two players, who do a ton for the game, to miss deadlines to enter the Pan Am games, and gave away their slots to other players from other countries. Someone at the IRF could have dropped a dime here to let Amaya/Riquelme know they had to file paperwork, but didn’t. It’s shameful.

– >12/11/23: With her semi-finals loss at the 2023 Xmas Classic, Paola Longoria will drop to #3 on tour. It is believed to be the first time since roughly October 2008 that

Longoria was not ranked #1 or #2 on tour. Vargas takes the event and moves to #2 ahead of Longoria and is now within strikign distance of #1 Mejia, who she’s beaten twice in the last three LPRT events.

– 1/14/24: Maria Jose Vargas wins her third straight tournament in a row, taking a commanding lead in the season to date points ranking.

– 2/11/24: LPRT #4 and USA #1 Erika Manilla is forced to retire the US National singles final due to what was thought to be a back injury at the time. Subsequent test and MRIs show that Erika suffered a hip labrum tear. She goes in for surgery to correct the issue mid March, but the injury costs her several LPRT stops, and she’ll be laid up for 6 months.

– 3/3/24: Despite losing in the semis, Vargas ascends to #1 on tour for the first time in her career. She now leads both the rolling 365 calendar and the season to date points rank and is the odds-on favorite to take the title. Defending tour champ Mejia drops to 2nd on tour, and now sits a distant 3rd in the season to date points race, having failed to win an event this season after her dominant 2022-23.

– 3/3/24: Paola Longoria announces her candidacy for the Mexican Chamber of Deputies (the US Equivalent of the House of Representatives) from District 5/Nuevo Leon. Elections are in June. Salas apparently is also running in teh same election.

– 3/24/24: Erika Manilla is featured in a full-page story in the <a href=”https://www.denverpost.com/2024/03/24/erika-manilla-pro-racquetball-player/”>Denver Post</a>.

– 4/28/24: Maria Jose Vargas wins her 5th event of the season at the Sweet Caroline grand slam, essentially wrapping up the 2023-24 title. It’s her first title, and

she dominated the tour this year. She topped Paola in the final 11-10.

– 4/28/24: After the 11-10 loss, Longoria’s new husband posted accusations on social media in the aftermath, claiming biased refereeing (one of the line judges was Argentine for the final) as the main reason that Paola lost this event. The issue does highlight the difficulties the tour has in finding “unbiased” refs for a group of women who all travel together to the same events. The IRF solves this by spending thousands of dollars flying in referees from a wide variety of countries, but nearly the entire LPRT tour comes from just a few countries, making it difficult sometimes to find neutral refs.

– 6/5/24: Neither Longoria nor Salas, both of whom were running for the Mexican chamber of Deputies, were directly elected in the National elections. They

can still be selected/appointed by the party.

– 6/9/24: Vargas officially wins her first ever pro title by entering the season’s final event in Chesapeake and advancing past the opening rounds. She had a large enough lead on Longoria to essentially have the title wrapped up after Greenville, so this was a formality to complete her dominant season. She becomes the third

different pro to win the last three LPRT seasons.

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