LPRT 2019-20 season Officially Complete

Longoria secures her 11th pro title. Photo US Open 2019 by Kevin Savory

With the last potential scheduled LPRT event on the schedule cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the LPRT has officially declared the 2019-20 season complete.

This is our season-ending post for the Ladies Pro tour.

Now updated at www.proracquetballstats.com for the end of the season:

– 2019-20 Rankings online: http://rball.pro/5DC5C8

– LPRT Tour History in bullet points: https://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/lprt_tour_history.html . Updated for the end of hte season

– LPRT List of Year End title winners: https://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/lprt_year_end_titles.…

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A note about the points at season’s end: there’s a rolling 12-month period of points, and then a season-to-date points total. In some cases they do not show the players in the same order. Thanks to the sudden end of the season there likely will be a decent reshuffling of player seeds upon the restart of next season. Where it mattered, I’ll note it in the write-up below.

See https://www.ladiesprofessionalracquetballtour.com/rankings for the current Singles rankings online.

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Congrats to Paola Longoria, who secures her 11th year end pro title. She went 32-1 on the season, winning 7 of the 8 events she entered and making the final in her sole loss (in Virginia in September of 2019). Her career W/L record on tour is now 472-31, an astounding 93.8 Winning percentage. She holds 99 tier 1 titles plus an additional six satellite titles for 105 pro titles for her career. She’s just turned 30 and seemingly has many more years of dominance ahead.

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Here’s some analysis of the rest of the top 10 and beyond.

– #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada dominated this season, making 6 of 8 pro finals and downing Paola Longoria in Virginia for her 5th career LPRT title. She holds a significant lead now over #3 Salas heading into next season.

– #3 Samantha Salas Solis had an inconsistent season, making just one pro final on the season after making the final 9 times in 9 tries last season. She still holds a significant points advantage over #4 though, but has to be facing some questions in this off-season as to why her season went off the rails and what she can do to get it back on track.

– Alexandra Herrera holds steady at #4 for the third straight season. She made 4 semis, 2 quarters and missed 2 events in the 8-event season.

– #5 Natalia Mendez improved her year end standing for the fourth straight season, just barely pipping #6 Rajsich for the 5th spot on tour. She made two semis on the season.

– #6 Rhonda Rajsich finishes off her 20th straight season on tour ranked in the top 6 or better. She had an up and down season, getting upset in the 16s four times, but also making two semis. She seemed to improve as the season went on.

– #7 Montse Mejia finishes 7th on tour despite only playing half the events, and she made statements whenever she did play. This is her first career pro top-10 finish. In each of her four appearances, she exited at the hands of #1 Longoria and has a slew of wins over top 8 players. She actually led #6 Rajsich in season-to-date points and will likely jump up quickly next season. It is relatively safe to say that if Mejia played the tour full time, she’d be pushing for #2 just behind Longoria.

– #8 Nancy Enriquez held onto the #7 seed for most of the season, getting knocked out of it thanks to two late-season round-of-16 upsets to finish ranked 8th.

– #9 Amaya Cris survives a mid-season injury without too much rankings damage thanks to the abrupt end of the season, but she loses her long-held foothold on the #8 spot for the time-being and would face a tough opponent in Enriquez in the 16s just to face Longoria. Its hard to get out of the 8/9 spot.

– #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto takes the 10th spot by the skin of her teeth, pipping #11 Parrilla by just four points. This is Rivera’s first career top 10 finish.

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#11 Jessica Parrilla just missed out on a return to the top 10, but she had a great 2nd half of the season to build upon in her attempt to regain her former lofty ranking. She also made up some of the most ground on tour rankings wise, finishing last year ranked 37th after missing most of the season with a serious knee injury.

A side note here; the difference in points from #12 to #15 is just 33 points this season; that’s basically one additional quarter final appearance. One result can vault these players up the rankings significantly.

#12 Carla Muñoz Montesinos also made a great jump this season after finishing #20 last year. She had a couple of solid wins this year over top-8 players and should push for a top 10 spot next year.

#13 Brenda Laime Jalil repeats at #13 from last year’s season ending rankings. She made two quarters on the season and proved to be a tricky opponent all year.

#14 Ana Laura Flores also repeats at #14; she had a couple of solid wins on the year after blowing through Mexican 18U last summer.

#15 veteran Adriana Riveros takes a step back from touring and falls from #10 to #15 this season.

#16 Sheryl Lotts played top 10 pros tough all season, was seeded as high as #10 at one point but settles in at #16 on the season.

#17 Erin Nocam had a couple of solid wins and made a pro quarter this year, improving to #17 for the season.

#18 Maria Renee Rodríguez grinded (ground?) her way through the season to improve from last year’s #23 finish.

#19 Cassandra Lee played 6 of the 8 events on the season and played top-8 seeds tough all year. She falls slightly from last year’s #15 finish.

#20 Bolivian turned Argentine Valeria Centellas only played 4 events but made a quarter and a semi. She had wins over four of the current top 10 players on tour as well as the reigning US national champ. She’s also got one more year in juniors, which should send shudders down the spines of ladies pro players as she gains confidence and power.

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Notables in the 20-30 range:

#21 Adrienne Fisher Haynes finishes ranked on tour for the 21st straight season. The tour veteran got a solid win at the US Open and played top 8 players tough all season.

#22 Kelani Lawrence played 6 of the 8 events on tour this season and made a quarter-final after a solid win over Enriquez in Florida. The reigning US National champ seems poised to make a run up the rankings.

#23 Susy Acosta Racquetball finishes her 23rd season on tour.

#24 Frederique Lambert falls from 9th last season and 2nd the season before now that she’s a practicing medical doctor. The tour misses having such a talent involved on a regular basis.

#25 Hollie Scott continues to tour part time while in college and is a dangerous player when she does play.

#27 Ana Gabriela Martínez came out of “retirement” to play a few events, but falls precipitously from last year’s #11 spot. I’m hoping she returns to full time touring when her school commitments allow and competes for a top 10 spot.

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Other Notables the rest of the way

#35 Cheryl Gudinas earns ranking points in her 27th straight season, every season since 1993-4.

#33 Graciana Wargo was a pro debutant this season, as was #37 Megan Shelton, #46 Kathy Nells, #54 Ayoko Hanashi and #54 Annie Roberts . Wargo and Roberts are US junior national team members who played pro events for the first time this season.

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What’s next for the LPRT?

The team is working on rescheduling the TeamRoot.com classic to be the opener for the new season. No word yet on when that might happen. But the next time the ladies take the court it will be to start the 2020-21 season.

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Tags

International Racquetball Tour
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UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships
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Reaching Your Dream Foundation

US Nationals Wrap-Up

Landa secures the National team Doubles spot in his first US competition since switching countries. Photo Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Men’s Doubles: Sudsy Monchik & Alejandro Landa
– Women’s Doubles; Aimee Ruiz & Erika Manilla

And the winners of the Singles qualifiers:
– Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson
– Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott

Sudsy/Landa win three straight 11-9 breakers over former USA National doubles championship teams to take the title. Ruiz secures her 12th title (13th won on the court) and brings along Manilla for her first ever National Doubles title.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Doubles draw.

Men’s Doubles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/989C2B

All three round of 16 matches were two game wins that weren’t necessarily that close: #9 MoMo Zelada/ Robert Collins “upset” the #8 seeded team of Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt 13,3 as the round’s closest match.

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In the Quarters, we saw some fun matches.

– #1 Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball dominated the #9 seeded team of Zelada/Collins 9,3 to move on.

– The #5 team of Alex Landa and Sudsy Monchik barely got by a very good #4 seeded team of Tony Carson and Jansen Allen (13),12,9. Carson/Allen jumped out to a huge lead in game one and it looked for a time like the match would be a blow-out, but Landa/Monchik battled back and lost game one on a disputed call. Game two was more in Landa/Monchik control towards the end, leading to the inevitable tiebreaker.

In the breaker, a very tense match reached its crescendo. There was almost nothing between these teams and throughout the 3rd game rallies often ended with spectacular pinch winners or debatable hinders. Carson’s backhand was lethal throughout the match, and his backhand hard Z gave Sudsy fits all night. At the end, Landa was able to find a serve that Allen couldn’t (or didn’t) attack, which led to scoring opportunities that they didn’t miss to pull away and get the last two points to win 11-9.

– After dropping the first game, #6 David ” Bobby” Horn] and Erik Garcia] were able to get the upset over #3 Adam Manilla] and Nick Riffel (7),3,5.

– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.

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In the Semis
– #5 Landa/Monchik dethroned defending champs Carson/Pratt in a fascinating match that went down to the wire. After dropping the first game rather easily, the #5 seeds regrouped and forced a tie-breaker. There, it went down to the a couple of critical rallies, just as their match in the quarters. Carson & Pratt looked like they had the match in hand, up 8-4 with the serve … they missed two opportunities to push it further, giving the serve back. There, a skip, a funny bounce a mis-communication and a crack-ace quickly got the match to 8-8. From there, Landa crushed a service return for a half out, then Rocky buried a pinch kill from 39 feet for 9-8. Sudsy then crushed a pinch kill to get a side out … called a skip for 10-8 but overturned by both line judges for a critical side-out at 8-9 for Landa/Monchik. From there … destiny took over; Pratt got hit by a call heading for a setup for 9-9, Landa buried a kill shot for 10-9 and then Pratt skipped a service return for an anti-climactic end to a great match.

– #2 Jake/Diaz overcame a first game defeat to cruise to the win, advancing to the final for the third time in five years, defeating #6 Horn/Garcia (11),5,3.

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In the Finals, Sudsy/Landa looked for a time to be cruising to the title, jumping out to a big game one lead before Jake/Jose fought back to make it a game. Game two was one-way traffic, setting up yet another nail biting tiebreaker. There, the veterans jumped out to a big lead, only to have Jake/Jose grind back to 9-9. Then, as with the two previous matches, Landa/Monchik faced 9-9 down without the serve, got it back and served it out for the match.

The cardiac kid veterans beat three former champs, each time 11-9 in the breaker, to secure the title and claim National team spots.

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Women’s Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/846600

In the quarters, two matches:
– The young #4 seeds Jazmin Trevino and Erin Slutzky prevailed in a breaker over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion 11-8.
– the #3 seeds of collegiate stars Hollie Scott and Lexi York dominated the team of Graciana Wargo and Jessica Chen 4.3.

In the Semis:
– #1 seeds Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Erika Manilla cruised to the final over the #4 team of Trevino/Slutzky 7,7
– #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York] outplayed the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence and Sheryl Lotts, winning in two games 8,13 to move into the final.

In the Finals: the #1 seeds dominated, led by Ruiz’ experience and cruised to the title 6,9.

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Men’s Singles Qualification:

(No match report in PRS database b/c we’re not loading this data right now).

Here’s a review of the singles qualifier:

round of 16 notable matches:
– #8 Maurice Miller got a solid win over #9 Erik Garcia 12,(6),5.
– #12 MoMo Zelada got the biggest upset of the night, playing a solid match to down #5 Charlie Pratt 12,11. Pratt made the semis of the last two US Nationals event, and Zelada has really been playing well lately.
– #6 Thomas Carter came back from a 15-0 first game defeat to down #11 Robert Collins (0),7,9 in a battle of lefty IRT tour veterans. Collins really couldn’t do anything wrong in the first, but Carter made some adjustments to advance.
– #7 Manilla took two solid games over the improving #10
Sam Bredenbeck 8,12 to move on.

In the Quarters: all four top seeds advanced in two games in the near-chalk draw:
– #1 Carson over #8 Miller
– #4 Horn over #12 Zelada
– #3 Bredenbeck over #6 Carter
– #2 Landa over #7 Manilla

In the Semis:
– #1 Carson remained undefeated against #4 Horn, but was pressed to a tie-breaker to advance.
– #2 Landa also remained undefeated against #3 Bredenbeck, winning in two straight.

In the final, a fatigued Landa fell to Carson in two games; it looked for a bit like Landa could rally for a breaker in the second game, but a couple of curious calls went against him at the tail end of game two, he lost focus and the match was over; Carson wins 6,14.

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Women’s Singles

Round of 16 notables:
– #8 Jessica Chen took out her doubles partner #9 Wargo in two.
– #6 York dropped the first game against junior Slutzky before advancing.

In the quarters: all four top seeds advanced.
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich over #8 Chen
– #4 Erika Manilla went tiebreaker to advance over #5 Lotts, dropping the first game 6 then winning (6),7,3.
– #3 Scott downed her doubles partner York 8,9
– #2 Lawrence took out fellow LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee 6,1.

In the semis:
– #4 Manilla got a career win, topping #1 Rajsich in a tie-breaker.
– #3 Scott upset #2 Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s US National singles final.

I said my peace on the seeding issues here in the preview; this event was mis-seeded, and these semis match-ups demonstrate why it was mis-seeded and why Lawrence in particular probably feels hard done by here.

In the final…Scott prevailed over Manilla in the breaker to put herself in the driver’s seat for a National team spot.

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National Team Standing Implications of these results.

(see https://www.teamusa.org/…/Team-U…/Qualifying-for-the-US-Team
for qualifying guidelines and point scoring here).

On the Men’s side, if my calculations are correct, then the top for candidates in the race for the two National team singles spots are:
1. Landa: 36
2. Carson: 32
3. Jake: 20
4. Horn.20

Despite losing the final here, Landa is in the lead for a national team spot thanks to the vast difference in US OPen results. Landa and Carson have a pretty sizeable lead over Jake and Horn; the only way Jake or Bobby could surpass Landa or Carson is to win US Nationals this coming May and have one of Landa/Carson upset prior to the semis.

On the Women’s side, here’s the current standings:
1. Scott: 31
2. Manilla: 24
3. Rhonda: 20
4. Kelani: 19

Hollie pretty much has a spot sewn up at this point: The second spot will come down to how 2 thru 4 play at Natioanls in May.

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Other notable draws from National Doubles:

– Miller and Warigon took the Men’s Open Doubles title.
– Trevino and Slutzky took the Women’s Open Doubles title.

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Next up?

There’s no major tournaments anywhere in the world (pro or amateur) until the first week of March. So we have a bit of a break.

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USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

US National Doubles (with Singles qualifier) Preview

Carson to go for the double this weekend as the #1 seed in both Singles and Doubles. Photo Portland 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the first major Amateur Nationals event of Fy2020. Its the US National doubles event, being held in Tempe, AZ on the campus of Arizona State University.

This is the 53rd iteration of US National doubles: The first was held in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin and the first Men’s US national title was won by the team of Simie Fein and Jim White. The Women’s event doesn’t seem to have started until 1972; the first winners I have on record were Jan Pasternak and Kimberly Hill, who won the title in Memphis in 1972.

Click here for a full list of all Men’s titlists: http://rball.pro/8862E4

Click here for a full list of Women’s titlists: http://rball.pro/A7F6CA

Rocky Carson holds the Men’s record for most National Doubles titles; he has 11 titles in 13 appearances. Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson holds the record on the Women’s side with 14 titles in 15 appearances.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets preview the Men’s Doubles draw:

The Men’s draw has 11 teams, highlighted by both of last year’s finalist teams as the #1 and #2 seeds. The big news of course this year is the entry of one team in particular: Alex Landa , the current #2 player on the IRT has entered with 5-time pro tour champ and Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik.

Landa, who has represented Mexico his entire career, famously was left off the Mexican delegation to the Pan American Games last year despite winning the 2019 Mexican Nationals event. The Mexican federation made this decision based on rather “debatable” guidelines to say the least, and in the aftermath Landa asked for (and was granted) his release from the Mexican team. He’s a dual citizen and has resided in Texas for many years, and quickly was able to obtain clearance to enter in US national events. He’s an accomplished doubles player, currently ranked #3 on the IRT doubles ranking, and is a right-side (forehand) player. He’s teamed a legend and a great left-side (backhand) doubles player in Sudsy to make a pretty formidable team. They’re handed the #5 seed, meaning they’ll have to play through both top seeds to win it.

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Lets preview the Men’s doubles draw:

Round of 16: there’s three play-in round of 16 matches, with some interesting match-ups

– In the 8/9 matchup; an east coast flair: North Carolina native Brent Walters teams with top Virginia player Thomas Gerhardt to take on Maryland native MoMo Zelada and his partner, Hawaiian-turned-NorCal guy Robert Collins: Collins as a lefty gives that team an advantage here over the two east coast veterans.
– The solid #6 team of David ” Bobby” Horn and reigning intercollegiate champ Erik Garcia takes on #11 team of Arizona youngsters Ben Baron and Preston Tribble.
– #7 team of good friends from the east coast Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon take on #10 team Justus Benson and Sam Bredenbeck. Four semi-regular IRT players here battle it out and a ton of hard hitters.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Defending champs Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball likely take on Zelada/Collins and should control the floor.
– #5 Monchik/Landa get started against the #4 team of Jansen Allen and Tony Carson, the 2013 champions. Both former top-10 IRT pros, Carson is just coming back from a year-long injury to his achilles heel and had to forfeit out of the last pro event he entered, while Allen has taken a step back from touring full time. This will be a good first test for Monchik/Landa and a tough draw for the former champs.
– #3 Adam Manilla and his college buddy Nick Riffel likely play Horn/Garcia. Manilla as a lefty gives this team a big advantage, but Garcia can be the x-factor here. Look for the upset.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ likely face the #7 seeds Warigon/Miller and should advance.

Semis:
– I like Monchik/Landa to upset the #1 seeds Carson/Pratt here. My simple theory in predicting doubles matches is to look at the match-up on the right-hand side to predict matches; If there’s a weak link on the court, it often presents on the forehand side of the weaker team. Pratt is by no means a “weak” player, but Landa isn’t #2 in the world by accident. I think Sudsy hangs with Rocky on the backhand and Landa makes the difference on the forehand.
– I like #2 Jake/Diaz to make the final again; they’re just too experienced playing together and too good of a team.

Finals:
– Landa didn’t switch to the USA to not make the team; he’s on a mission in Arizona, and I like them for the upset win.

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Lets preview the Women’s Doubles draw:

Just 6 teams entered here. #1 seed includes one member of last year’s on-the-court champion team in Aimee Roehler Ruiz, who is second all-time to Paraiso-Larseen in career US National doubles titles with 11. She was part of the winning team last year before having the title vacated, but now she’s back with a new partner as the top seed. The #2 seeds from last year (the Key sisters Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Maddox) are not entered, thus we’ve got a wide-open field.

In the Quarters i’m predicting chalk:
– #4 Jazmín Treviño and Erin Slutzky over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion
– #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York over #6 Graci Wargo & Jessica Chen.

In the semis:
– i like the #1 team of Ruiz and Erika Manilla to advance to the final.
– I think the #2 seeds of Kelani Lawrence] and Sheryl Lotts, two LPRT regulars who are impressing this season, will have their hands full with Scott and York but will prevail.

Predicted final: I like Lawrence/Lotts over Ruiz/Manilla. Ruiz’ leftiness helps, but I suspect that the overall talent level of the #2 seeded team will overcome the #1 seeds in the final.

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Singles qualifier Review:

The USA added the singles event to National Doubles in 2016 as part of a revamping of the way the National team is decided. US players now compete in three events to gain “points” towards team qualification; the US Open in October, National doubles in February and National singles in May. One may argue that using US Open pro results is unfair (it is; you’re often playing non-US players while competing towards a US team spot), but it is the only other “major” event we have at the moment.

A reminder: I have captured these non-Nationals events in my staging area, but they are NOT loaded into the database and are not currently queryable. I’ve had requests to add this data for a better head to head representation (especially for Canadians, who have been holding these types of events for years), or to get winners of these past events … but it would take significant retrofitting of the reports to do so, so its back burnered for now.

That being said, its a great draw in Tempe and I look forward to it as a fan.

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Men’s singles draw review:

Some questions have arisen related to the seedings here: if Landa just converted to USA … how is he seeded 2nd? Well that’s because USAR uses their internal rankings and Carson is ahead of Landa. See https://www.usaracquetballevents.com/rankings.asp . The USAR rankings do include basically all pro players, and is driven mostly by head to head match-ups. But, just because playerA beats playerB doesn’t automatically move them ahead; the last time Landa played Carson was in the final of the Nov 2019 Fullerton event, a Landa win … yet he remains behind Rocky until he beats him again.

Here’s some notable matches from the 16s I look forward to:
– 8/9 Erik Garcia vs Maurice Miller should be a great match; I think the collegiate champ moves on.
– 5/12 Zelada vs Pratt is interesting: Zelada doesn’t play every pro event but can hang with the players regularly in the 9-16 range. Pratt used to make noise in nearly every event he entered, but as he winds down from full time touring he’s been taking more and more earlier early round losses; in his last 7 pro stops over the last two years he’s made just 3 main draws.
– 6/11: Collins vs Thomas Carter: love the lefty on lefty matches.
– 7/10: Adam Manilla vs Sam Bredenbeck: could be an interesting match here; can Sam get the upset?

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Carson over #9 Garcia
– #4 Horn over #5 Pratt: Bobby beat Charlie in last year’s US Nationals and recently in a local event on his home court and I think he prevails again.
– #3 Jake Bredenbeck over #6 Carter
– #2 Landa over the Manilla

Semis:
– #1 Carson moves on over Horn; he’s 4-0 lifetime over Bobby.
– #2 Landa tops Jake Bredenbeck; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Jake.

Final: tough one to call; I think Landa is super motivated to win and get a big leg up on qualifying for the team. If this was actually Nationals i’d go with Landa, but here Rocky takes the title since by Sunday I perceive Rocky will be out of doubles while Landa will be shooting for two titles.

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Women’s singles draw review:

First, can someone explain the seeding in this event to me? Right now, on USAR’s ranking page Kelani Lawrence is ahead of Rhonda Rajsich. Kelani BEAT Rhonda in Nationals last year en route to the title and is the defending champ. How is Kelani not seeded #1? I don’t get it. You may say “oh seeding doesn’t matter you have to beat everyone to win” … but as you’ll see, Kelani now has a significantly harder semis match than the #1 seed has.

Nonetheless, here’s a preview of this draw. Notable early matches to watch:
– 8/9 Wargo vs Chen: young doubles partners square off early.
– 6/11: York vs Slutzky: can the junior Slutzky (just finishing her 16U year and making her adult debut) challenge York?

quarters projection:
– #1 Rajsich over Wargo
– #5 Lotts over #4 Manilla; this should be a great match.
– #3 Scott over #6 York, again doubles partners squaring off.
– #2 Lawrence over #7 Lee.

The rubber meats the road in the semis.

– #1 Rajsich vs #5 Lotts: Rhonda has had a tough pro season so far: four times she’s lost in the 16s, but she’s also made two semis. Lotts has competed well against top-8 players but has yet to break through with a round of 16 win. Rhonda has never lost to Lotts, and this may go deep but Rhonda prevails.
– #2 Lawrence vs #3 Scott: this is a rematch of last year’s final (which is why seeding accuracy is so important); Kelani prevailed there 11-10 but it could have gone either way. Since then, Lawrence has made a concerted effort to play the LPRT more, and has a slew of solid results. I think Lawrence has grown more in the last year as a player than Scott, and prevails here.

Final:

Lawrence and Rajsich again. These two met in US Nationals events in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They’ve also met in this qualifier event every year since it started: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. So its only fitting that they meet in the 2020 iteration.

In all of these 7 matches, Rhonda is 6-1. But that one win was in last year’s Nationals event. Lawrence got that break through win and hasn’t looked back. Lawrence for the win here too.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow USA Racquetball on Facebook and register for live video notifications. Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike all weekend as usual.

Tags

International Racquetball Tour
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LPRT Year End Rankings, Player Analysis and Season in Review

Longoria finishes up an undefeated season, her 10th pro title.

With the last event in Kansas completed, the LPRT 2018-19 season is officially complete.

With the completion of the season, we’ve updated a number of files and data within the database:

– http://rball.pro/05916A is a direct link to the Year Ending standings

– http://rball.pro/B0643F is the Season Summary report per player, a nice query summarizing the Wins/Finals/Semis/etc per player on tour.

– http://rball.pro/A020CA is the Season Seed Report, a great report showing how players’ seeds varied throughout the year.

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The Static links are now updated with 2018-19 results (all of these are located at the bottom of the Report Selection Page for each tour):

– List of Year End title winners: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/lprt_year_end_titles.h…

– Tour History: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/l…/lprt_tour_history.htmlhas been updated for significant events this season.

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Analysis/thoughts on Year End Rankings and notable player movement.

#1 Paola Longoria finishes the year undefeated, 37-0 It is the 5th time she’s accomplished this feat, and she now has just four on-court losses in the last 8 professional seasons. She sews up her 10th career pro title. With her win in Kansas City, she gets her 91st career title in the Database (we’re aware of the discrepancy between our systems and her records and are working to figure out the delta actively).

She now sits as an astounding 439-30 in her pro career, a .936 winning percentage. She still trails Michelle Gould in this metric, whose database W/L percentage currently sits at 147-9 and which will only improve as we eventually fill in tournament detail in the mid 1990s. By way of comparison, both of these marks are better than Kane Waselenchuk‘s career mark of .918, which is considered in awe on the men’s pro racquetball circles.

#2 Samantha Salas Solis had as good of a season as you could have given that the #1 player went undefeated: she made 9 finals in 9 tries (missing one event due to travel issues mid-season). She’ll be kicking herself she didn’t claim the title in the one event that Paola missed … that being the Bolivian Grand Slam and the big check that comes with it. But a great season for Salas, who started the season ranked outside the top 10 due to injury comeback and is now firmly entrenched at #2 for the forseeable future.

Salas is now just 3-50 against Longoria though, and needs to find a way to beat her long-time rival if she wishes to put her name in the record books. She did stretch Paola to 5 games once this season, in Syosset, but most of their finals were 3-game affairs.

#3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada, like Salas, also started the year still working her way back into touring status thanks to a hiatus to have a kid. But thanks to her title in Bolivia, she ascended to #3, where she stayed the rest of the way out. She maintains a slight lead for 3rd over Herrera. Vargas is just 2-8 career over #2 Salas, which includes the win in Bolivia, so she has her work cut out for her if she wishes to ascend any higher.

#4 Alexandra Herrera had a very consistent season; she started it ranked 3rd, finished it ranked 4th, made a bunch of semis, never got upset prior to the qtrs … but really only had one break through tourney, making the final when the #2 seed Lambert got upset very early in Laurel. On the bright side, at season’s end she broke a career duck against Rajsich, finally beating her head to head in the season’s final event to secure #4 on the season.

– #5 Rhonda Rajsich kept chugging in her 20th pro season, finishing in the top 5 for the 18th time. A couple of early season upsets dropped her to the 6th-7th seed, but then stronger results as the season went on got her back. She treads water from last season, finishing 5th for the second season in a row. Rajsich overtook Cheryl Gudinas this season and now has the most ever appearances in pro tour history, a streak she seems set to continue for the forseeable future.

– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein started the season seeded 6th and ended it 6th, and made 8 quarters in 10 pro tourneys. She had an interesting 2nd half of the season, where her specific seeding drove four consecutive quarter-final match-ups with countrymate and doubles partner Vargas … resulting in four of her eight quarter final defeats on the season. There’s a significant points gap from Rhonda to Natalia, one that only a breakthrough tourney will solve. Her four-straight match-ups against Vargas has me thinking that maybe the LPRT should consider seed flipping like the IRT does; there were also a number of other repeated qtr final match-ups (Herrera-Rajsich, Salas-Enriquez) that would be mixed up and give the 5-8 seeded players a different look in the qtrs.

– #7 Nancy Enriquez took a slight step back from last season, taking a couple of early upsets and dropping from 6th last season to 7th this season. Her 7-seed routes her to #2 Salas each quarterfinal, a tough spot to be in considering how well Salas is playing and considering that Salas has just one career loss to Enriquez (way back in 2011).

– #8 Amaya Cris finished ranked 8th for the 2nd season in a row, and had a similar performance this year to last. She was able to fight back into the top 8 by season’s end, having dropped out of the top 8 mid-way through the season. She made 5 quarter finals in 10 tourneys but wasn’t able to break through to the semis.

– #9 Frederique Lambert missed half the season and dropped from #2 last season to finish 9th. As is well known, she completed Medical school this year and graduated in May, and even making half the tourneys this year seems like a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone finishing such a rigorous academic schedule. This breaks a streak of four straight seasons ranked in the top 4 for Frederique. One has to wonder what the future holds; after you finish medical school usually medical training commences and I have a hard time believing Lambert will be able to do a time-intensive internship and frequently take off 4-day weekends to compete in tourneys. We all await to see what happens as it pertains to the tour; nobody likes losing a top player.

– #10 Adriana Riveros finished 10th on the season, improving from 12th last season and now is the fourth straight season in this 10-14 range for the Colombian. She made two quarter finals in 10 tourneys on the year

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11th-20th ranked players:

– #11 Gaby Martinez earned enough points from early events to finish 11th despite announcing her retirement from the sport to focus on school earlier this season. She made two semis in three events this year and got a career win over Longoria in 2018’s worlds final, making this observer wonder if she wasn’t the heir-apparent to the crown (or at the least, a good competitor for the top spot going forward). I hope she can find time to continue to play and compete at some point in the future, because (as with Lambert) its a bummer to lose a top competitor.

– #12 Masiel Rivera Oporto played a full season and was rewarded with her top ever finish. She made one quarter on the year thanks to probably her best win on the season, over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam on home turf.

– #13 Brenda Laime Jalil made 6 main draws in 9 events, a big improvement from last season (when she failed to advance to the 16s all year) and enough to get her into the top 16.

– #14 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra made one quarter with a solid win over Mendez in the season opener, and played in 6 of the 10 events on the year.

– #15 Cassie Lee improved from #21 last year, making 5 main draws out of 9 tournaments attended.

– #16 Yazmine Sabja Aliss played just 4 events, being based in Bolivia, but made two quarters and got some solid wins along the way. One has to think that her playing the tour FT would have her challenging for a top 8 spot. too bad Bolivia is so far away.

– #17 Montse Mejia had an interesting season: she played 5 pro events and lost in the 16s each time (3 times to Longoria, once each to Lambert and Vargas). But, outside of the pro tour she won World 18U juniors (beating Gaby Martinez twice along the way), then at Mexican Nationals beat in order Enriquez, Salas and Longoria to take the title. She faltered at the PARCs as the #1 seed (losing to Mendez in the qtrs), but one has to wonder what she’s capable of if she can get out of the 14-16 seed range and get some deeper runs on the pro tour. I think she’s one of the top 5 women in the world right now and hope she can play a full slate next season.

– #18 Adrienne Fisher Haynes dropped in the season ending rankings for the 3rd successive season, getting upset in the 32s 5 times in 8 events this season.

– #19 Angelica Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian grand slam, beating two top 8 players along the way, which propelled her to a top 20 finish despite just three appearances. She’s also put her name into the mix for the Bolivian national team, representing her country at PARCs earlier this year.

– #20 Carla Muñoz Montesinos had a qtr and two main draws in 6 appearances this year, a busy one for her as she finished up school in Colorado, made the finals of NCAA intercollegiates and represented Chile at three different IRF events.

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commentary on players ranked 21st on-wards:

– #22 Susy Acosta finished 22nd … in her 21st pro season.

– #24 Michelle De La Rosa made a semi and played top ranked pros tough in limited appearnces this year.

– #25 Kelani Lawrence finished 25th in limited appearances but won the US National title.

– #27 Hollie Rae Scott finished 27th but won the NCAA Intercollegiate title.

– #29 Laura Brandt finished 29th … at the age of 56.

– #31 Valeria Centellas finished 31st … and is the reigning World junior 16U champ. She played #1 for Bolivia at the PARC games in April and made the quarters … in her age 17 season.

– #37 Jessica Parrilla finished 37th after missing basically the entire season recovering from a bad knee injury. She will fight back to regain her status on tour starting next season after finishing 3rd last season.
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That’s it for the season. We look forward to seeing what next year has in store. I sense a step up in events, I hope to see more dual tour events like what is done in Minneapolis and Bolivia, and I hope to see more events in Mexico that draw the local player base.

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LPRT USA Racquetball International Racquetball Tour International Racquetball Federation – IRF

LPRT Teamroot.com Grand Slam Wrap-up

Longoria finishes up an undefeated season with two wins.

Congrats to your winners in the final LPRT event of the season:

Singles: Paola Longoria
Doubles: Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30791

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Here’s a summary of the event on the singles side:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/2D8EB8

In the play-ins/round of 32: 
– #17 Montse Mejia took out #16 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in three games.
– #12 Cassie Lee was stretched to five games by #21 Marie Gomar, winning 11-8 in the 5th. 
– #20 Jessica Parrilla‘s first match back was a win over LPRT vet #13 Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– #12 Sheryl Lotts was stretched to a 12-10 5th game win over #19 Erin Rivera.
– #15 Susy Acosta got a solid win over #18 Maria Renee Rodríguez to advance.

In the round of 16,, results went exactly chalk. All top 8 seeds advanced. There were a couple of notable results though.
– Unlike in Syosset, the Paola Longoria – Mejia match was a 3-game blow out, Longoria winning 3,1,4. 
– #8 Amaya Cris dropped the first game against #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto but won in 4.
– Similarly, #4 Alexandra Herrera dropped the first game to Parrilla before winning in 4.
– In a battle of Mexican LPRT vets, Susy Acosta Racquetball took a game off of Samantha Salas Solis before falling in four.

In the quarters, the draw went chalk … but not with out some tough matches:
– #1 Paola Longoria trounced #8 Amaya in 3
– #4 Herrera got her first ever win over #5 Rhonda Rajsich, breaking a long-running streak and solidifying her top 4 finish on the year.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to a 5th game against doubles partner #6 Natalia Mendez before advancing.
– #2 Salas came from 2 games down to win a very close one against #7 Nancy Enriquez, 11-9 in the 5th.

The semis and finals went chalk; Longoria over Herrera in 4, Salas over Vargas in 4. In the final Salas took the first game off of Longoria but Paola prevailed, completing an undefeated season.

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Doubles wrap-up:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/5BAB23

– All four top seeds advanced to the semis … but the #2 seeded Argentinian team of Vargas/Mendes had to save match point against before advancing against the all-Mexican team of Parrilla & Enriquez.

In the semis, both the top Mexican teams cruised to two game wins to face off in the finals.

In the final, the top seeded Longoria/Salas team dropped game 2, but held on for the title.

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that’s it for the season! A dominant season for Longoria, and for Salas, who have really established themselves as the #1 and #2 players in the world. Once the final rankings post to lprtour.com, I’ll scrap them and do all the year end processing and send out a separate post summarizing the season.

Next up: we’ll wait for the final points standings to post and then do typical PRS end of season work and will send out a seasonal summary after that.

next up on the rball calendar? US Junior Nats, then WOR outdoors, then Mexican Jr Nats, ,then the Pan Am games in august.

LPRT

2019 Teamroot.com LPRT Grand Slam Preview

Jessica Parrilla returns to the pro tour for the first time in more than a year.

The last event on the LPRT slate is a big one: the 2019 Teamroot.com Grand Slam, held at the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas.

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30791

In a rarity; there are basically only pro draws in this event; singles and doubles (with a smaller Open singles draw). This is definitely a high-light event for the women’s pros. 21 pros are in Kansas to compete in the last event of the year.

A couple of interesting entrants here that i’d like to point out:
– Former top-10 pro Jessica Parrilla has finally returned to the tour after badly injuring her knee last spring: her last appearance was in April of 2018. She did play Mexican Nationals this year in March as her first tourney back, and now starts from square one. She’s seed 20th out of 21 entrants here (only Gomar is lower) and will have to fight starting next season to get back into the top 8.
– Guatemalan Marie Gomar is entered; she’s got just one previous LPRT appearance (in 2014), and didn’t have any international appearances for more than 5 years. With the retirement of Gaby Martinez, Gomar has ascended to #2 in Guatemala and is representing her country for the first time in years.

What’s at stake from a rankings perspective? The top 2 are locked in for the year, and there’d have to be a pretty big upset of the 3-5 players for any change to happen there. The players ranked 6-10 however are each separated by smaller numbers of points, where a run to the semis could make a big change in the rankings thanks to the double points in this Grand Slam event.

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Lets preview the Singles draw:

Round of 32:
– In the 16/17 match, current Mexican champ and reigning world 18U champ Montse Mejia takes on Chilean #1 Carla Muñoz Montesinos. A tough opener for both, with Mejia favored to advance.
– #21 Gomar takes on regular touring pro Cassie Lee in her return to the tour.
– #20 Parrilla takes on regular touring pro Adrienne Fisher Haynes in her return to the tour. 
– the 15/18 match looks tough as well: Susy Acosta versus Guatemalan #1 Maria Renee Rodríguez.

Interesting round of 16 projected matches:
– #1 Paola Longoria likely takes on Mejia in the 16s … again. They’ve met in the 16s two times already this year, including in the most recent pro event in Syosset (a brutal 5-game win for Paola Longoria). They also met in the finals of Mexican Nationals, an upset win for Mejia. Mejia seems to be in a points rut and needs a round of 16 win to get out of the 16-17 rankings range. Will it happen here? I favor Longoria, but i sense it’ll be a 5-gamer again.
– The 8/9 match looks compelling: Amaya Cris versus Masiel Rivera Oporto . Colombia vs Bolivia, and two players who have very little history playing each other (just one match-up in 2014). Should be a good test for both.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera vs Parrilla; Interestingly, Parrilla’s first match back from her knee injury in March was also against Herrera, in March at Mexican Nats. They’re 4-4 career h2h, but Herrera has won the last three. Parrilla’s had 3 months to improve fitness and knee stability; can she get the upset here?

Otherwise, i’m mostly predicting chalk in the round of 16.

Projecting the quarters: 
– #1 Longoria over #8 Amaya; Longoria is 9-0 versus Amaya on the LPRT, 13-0 including IRF events. 
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Herrera; despite their ranks, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera, holding a 10-0 career h2h record. They’ve met in the quarters of the last two pro events too, both Rajsich wins … but they’ve both been 5-game marathons. I think Rajsich advances again, and once again its 5 games.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #6 Natalia Mendez; these two just can’t get away from each other; after never playing prior to March … they’ve played each other 4 times in the last 3 months, including in the qtrs of the last three pro events. The two Argentinians (who are also doubles partners) likely face off again …and Vargas likely wins for the 5th straight time.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #7 Nancy Enriquez; they are projected to meet for the 3rd time this season. Enriquez has a couple of career wins over Salas, but they’re forever ago and Salas advances here.

projected Semis:
– Longoria over Rajsich; this would be the 5th semis meeting between these two this season … Paola’s got the first four, but it was a 5-gamer in Syosset.
– Salas over Vargas: they’ve met in the last three pro events; Vargas won on home soil in Bolivia, but Salas won the last two meetings rather easily.

Predicted final: Longoria over Salas. This has been the final in 7 of the 9 pro events this season … so might as well be the final in the last one too.

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Doubles preview

This event is serving as a warm-up event for a few national doubles teams for the forthcoming Pan Am games: the two top Mexican teams, the Argentinian team, and the Guatemalan team are all competing here (interestingly it seems like the Ecuadorian women’s team went to the Black Gold event instead of Kansas City to practice, competing in the Men’s open doubles event).

I’m going with #1 Longoria/Salas vs #5 Lotts/Munoz in one semi, #3 Herrera/Mejia vs #2 Vargas/Mendex in the other semi, and an all-mexican final with the top team winning.

Fun fact: LPRT commissioner Tj Baumbaugh is signed up, her first playing appearance on the pro tour since Aug 2016.

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Follow LPRT on facebook for streaming; veteran broadcaster Timothy Baghurst is making the short drive from OK to KS to help broadcast this weekend.

LPRT Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol International Racquetball Federation – IRF

USA National Singles Wrap-up

Kelani (Bailey) Lawrence with the break-through win.

Congrats to your USA Racquetball 2019 Singles Champions:

Men’s Open: Jake Bredenbeck
Women’s Open: Kelani Lawrence

They take big steps towards putting themselves onto the plane to represent the USA at this August’s 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRFPan American Games, the biggest event in our sport. See this link: https://www.teamusa.org/…/2018-19-US-National-Team-Qualific… for the current Men’s and Women’s team standings. USA Racquetball plans on making an announcement soon on the official team delegation to Peru.

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

Here’s a recap of the draw, noting results I found interesting:

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Men’s Singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/C39AD2

In the 16s:
– In the 8/9 game, Robert Collins got a solid win over Luis R Avila in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Adam Manilla took out hometown veteran favorite Woody Clouse and has a streamlined shot at the National Semis thanks to …
– #4 seed Jose Diaz, who I thought could win this event, was a no-show, giving Utahian Anthony Martin a walk-over into the quarters.
– Two IRT regulars met in Thomas Carter and Nicholas Nick Riffel, with Carter coming out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck cruised past fellow IRT top 20 player Collins 4,2
– #5 Manilla similarly cruised past Utahian Anthony Martin 3,2
– #3 David Horn was stretched by #6 Carter, going 11-7 in the breaker. Another solid result for Carter, but a good step towards keeping his National team spot for Horn.
– #2 Charlie Pratt took out his local playing rival Dylan Reid 14,5.

In the Semis:
– #5 Manilla played lights out for stretches, but not enough of them to take out #1 Bredenbeck, falling in an 11-5 tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn got a great win over #2 Pratt, 11-7 in the breaker, to advance to the final and attempt to repeat as US Champion. Pratt has made the finals of the last two international events in which he’s represented the US … but a national title continues to elude him.

In the Final … Jake could do no wrong, and Bobby couldn’t do much to stop him. In an amazingly compete performance, Bredenbeck beat Horn 1,1 to take the US title. Its his third overall and he returns to the podium after a 3 year absence. Horn finishes runner-up for the 4th time.

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Women’s singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/3DB373

There was just one play-in/round of 16 match: 
Annie Roberts, the current 16U National champ and who still has 3 years remaining in the junior ranks, took on regular LPRT touring pro Cassie Lee in the 8/9 match and came out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the qtrs:
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich took out the precocious Roberts 6,2
– #5 Kelani Lawrence, drastically underseeded in this event, made a statement with an 11,1 win over #4 Sheryl Lotts
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott took out LPRT touring vet Adrienne Fisher Haynes 7,10
– #2 Seed Erika Manilla was a no-show, depriving the draw of one of its top players and making the lopsidedness of the seeding errors involving Lawrence even more severe.

In the Semis:
– #5 Lawrence got a career win, beating the 8-time defending US national champ Rajsich in an a tiebreaker. These two had met in the singles finals of the last three major US national team qualifying events, and Lawrence got this breakthrough win on the same weekend that her mother Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey was inducted into the US Racquetball hall of Fame.
– #3 Scott downed the legendary LPRT pro Cheryl Gudinas in two. Scott is going for a rather rare double: Intercollegiates and National titles in the same year. It’s only happened once before … in 1976, when Memphis State University’s Sarah Green won both events in the same year.

(side note: the 3rd place game, which we often don’t mention, thus is Rajsich vs Gudinas. Holy cow. That’s a combined 19 (!) US National titles between them to go along with 8 pro titles. In case you’re wondering … they’ve played no less than 50 times across pro, US nationals and IRF events now, with Rajsich leading 32-18. See http://rball.pro/A7470B).

In the Finals, Lawrence came from a game down and saved match point against to take the title 11-10 over Scott by running off two points at the end of the tie-breaker.

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Congrats to all who played. Later this week we’ll review the Canadian singles and Mexican Junior events form last week.

Next up on the rball schedule? There’s some lower tier IRT events in early June, one last LPRT Grand Slam in mid-june in Kansas, then the US Junior Olympics in late June in Portland.

USA National Singles Preview

Rajsich looking for her 9th straight title this weekend. Photo Src: © Mike Boatman 2010

Its the week before Memorial Day Weekend, which means that its time for USA Racquetball National Singles!

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).

Here’s a list of every Men’s Open champ since 1968: http://rball.pro/896B5B.

In 1970, the first Women’s national champion was crowned: Fran Cohen won the first Women’s national title in St. Louis.

Here’s a list of every Women’s Open champ since 1970: http://rball.pro/A75737

Record holders for Most National Titles?
 Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.

– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.

Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.

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Men’s Singles:

Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for:
In the 16s:
– #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both.
– #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match.
– #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. 
– #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.

Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.

Projecting the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? 
– #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games.
– #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.

So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.

Semis:
– #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. 
– #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.

Final:
– #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.

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Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:

In the Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee
– #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now?
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes
– #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas

In the semis:
– #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be
– #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.

In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.

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Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):

2019: 191 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2018: 221 Pleasanton
2017: 243 Tempe
2016: 268 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2015: 377 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2014: 292 Fullerton
2013: 435 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2012: 559 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2011: 514 Fullerton (also IRT stop)
2010: 535 Houston
2009: 501 Houston
2008: 523 Houston
2007: 528 Houston
2006: 515 Houston

The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.

I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.

LPRT Syosset Open Singles Preview

In addition to the huge International Racquetball Tour draw in NY this weekend, there’s also a big LPRT draw AND a solid mixed doubles events combining both pro tours for just the 3rd time in the last few seasons (that i can see).

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30716

Lets preview the ladies singles draw. 21 ladies present, including 14 of the top 15 ranked players (only missing the newly-retired Gaby Martinez, who still sits in the top 10 from results earlier this season) are here and the draw is solid.

Qualifying/round of 32 matches to watch:
– #16 Montse Mejia vs #17 Hollie Rae Scott; an interesting match between the reigning 18U junior world champ and the reigning USA RacquetballIntercollegiates champ. Mejia is favored here but Scott has wins over top 10 players in the past and won’t go easily.
– #20 Maricruz Ortiz, a finalist in the World 16U juniors in 2018 and who just represented Costa Rica at the 2019 PARCs, faces off against #13 LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee.
– In the 15/18 match, 18yr old Ana Laura Flores takes on Ceci Orozco Pratt, an infrequent but long-time LPRT player.

round of 16 matches to look for:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs Mejia: wow, what an opener. Paola Longoria beat Mejia at the 2018 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships, but then Mejia topped her in the final of the 2019 Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals to claim the #1 seed at the 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRF PARC championships. This is a semis or finals quality match right out of the gate. While Longoria remains the undisputed #1 player in the world, Mejia has the talent to be there some day. But on the pro tour, in the best of 5 format, Longoria’s superior fitness will win out and she’ll win on the day.

– #8 Frederique Lambert vs #9 Adriana Riveros; newly minted MD Lambert returns to the pro tour fold having shedded a ton of points as she finished off medical school. Lest anyone forget, Lambert was the #2 player on tour in both of the last two seasons … so she’s a threat to win whenever she plays. But how rusty is she? I think she advances here.

– #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada vs #14 Yazmine Sabja Aliss; they’ve only played twice, both in the back end of IRF tourneys in 2018. Vargas held serve to top Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol to win the 2018 South American Games, then beat her again in the quarters of 2018 Worlds. Both native Bolivians, they meet in NY where Vargas has been playing really solid lately and advances.

– #6 Natalia Mendez vs #11 Masiel Rivera Oporto; Rivera has been playing well this season, making a quarter in her home country Bolivian Open. Natalia Mendez Erlwein has been pretty consistently advancing to pro tournament quarters and had a great run at the PARCs, making the semis.

Projected Quarters; this is almost identical to last weekend’s Quarters, with only Lambert replacing Amaya.

– #1 Longoria over #8 Lambert: well, if Longoria wants this event, she’ll be earning it, facing last year’s 2nd best player here in the quarters. That being said, Longoria is 26-1 career on the LPRT over Lambert, so she likely moves on here.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Alexandra Herrera ; despite their seeds, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera (9-0 lifetime) and held on for a 5-game marathon win last weekend. I think she makes it 10-0 here.
– #3 Vargas over #6 Mendez: Argentina’s #1 and #2, long-time doubles partners, and now facing each other for the fourth time in the last six weeks. Vargas should triumph again.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis over #7 Nancy Enriquez; they met in the quarters last week, a 3-game win for Solis who improved to 7-1 career on LPRT over Enriquez and should advance here again.

Semis and Finals: I’m predicting the exact same results as San Antonio; Longoria over Rajsich, Salas over Vargas, and for the 7th time this season a final featuring Longoria and Salas.

LPRT Sweet Caroline Grand Slam Preview

World Champ Ana Gabriela Martinez returns to the LPRT for the Sweet Caroline event.

r2sports.com tourney home page: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30141

The LPRT is back in action, with its 6th event of the 2018-19 season. So far, #1 ranked Paola Longoria has made it 5 for 5 in wins, with four of those wins coming over her frequent doubles partner Samantha Salas Solis.

The annual event in South Carolina is a Grand Slam, and as such has drawn back into play a couple of intriguing players, which should make this draw more interesting than most. There’s 26 pros in the draw, tying a season non US Open high.

Top 20 players missing: #5 Frederique Lambert who has fallen to her lowest ranking on tour since Nov 2015 as she juggles school and some early upsets in previous events. #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos misses just her 2nd tourney in the last two seasons. #13 Jessica Leona Parrilla remains on the sidelines recovering from her knee injury suffered last spring. And lastly #18 Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol did not make the long flight. So we have 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 in the event.

Notably present is reigning World Champ Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, who is back and ranked #9 (likely seeded 8th) after making the semis in the first two events of the season and then missing the next three.

Lets preview the draw.

Notable round of 32 matches; there’s a ton of tough openers in this tourney.

– #16 vs #17 Masiel Rivera Oporto versus Brenda Laime Jalil; tough match for both ladies right out of the gate. Both players are playing the tour full time this year and are both looking for a breakthrough win. And … they’re playing doubles together. 
– #14 vs #19: Maria Renee Rodríguez faces Kelani Lawrence in another tough opener for both. Lawrence has less pro experience but has proven her mettle in the USA amateur draws, while Rodriguez has a ton of international experience and has represented Guatemala in Juniors and Adult draws for nearly a decade.
Cassandra Lee vs Laura Brandt: youth versus experience here in an intriguing first rounder.
– #10 Adriana Riveros versus #23 Cecilia Ceci Orozco Pratt: Riveros should prevail but she probably would have hoped for an easier first rounder.
– #15 Susana Susy Acosta vus #18 Ana Laura Flores : two Mexican lefties representing the two major Rball-playing communities (Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi) in the country battle it out in the first round. They met at the US Open with the youngster coming out on top and I’d lean that way again.

Round of 16 interesting matches:
– #8 vs #9: Cristina Amaya Cris vs Ana Gabriela Martinez: tough match-up for both players. They met at this stage in this event three years ago, an Amaya win, but Martinez has a whole lot of silverware since. 
– #3 Alexandra Herrera vs the Rodriguez/Lawrence winner: i’m not sure who comes out of the feed-in match, but Herrera will have to hustle to advance out of the 16s. Ironically, Herrera topped both possible players in successive rounds as she was winning the 2011 Junior Girls 16U championship.
– #7 Natalia Mendez vs #10 Adriana Riveros: these two top 10 players have only met once on tour; a 4-game Mendez win in June 2017. 
– #2 Samantha Salas vs #18 Flores: assuming Flores comes out on top in the 32s, she gets a first shot at Salas in any competition. Flores can beat top talent, but i’m not sure she can beat one of the top 2 players in the world.

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Gaby Martinez; These two have met no less than 15 times in pro and IRF matches … but it was last summer’s World Championships that gave Martinez her one win in the series. Since then, they’ve met twice in the LPRT, both straight-forward Longoria wins. I see the same result here; Paola is just so dominant in the 5-game format.
– #4 Maria Jose Vargas vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; these two have now met 28 times (26 on LPRT) and are dead even. 14 and 14 each. Along that same line, they’ve met twice this season … and split, Vargas winning in Chicago and Rhonda winning in Laurel. I’ll predict Rajsich makes it two tourneys in a row.
– #3 Herrera vs #6 Nancy Enriquez; Despite being the higher seed, Enriquez faces the easier path to the quarters in this event. But Herrera owns the career h2h record 5-1, just beat her in Boston, and should advance again.
– #2 Salas vs #7 Mendez; they’ve got a scant 3 career match-ups, all three straight-game wins for Salas. She makes it 4 of 4.

Semis:
– Longoria over Rajsich. Despite Rhonda’s demonstrated ability to still be able to top Paola, their only meeting on the pro tour in the last two seasons was a straight-game semis win in December. Expect the same here.
– Salas over Herrera; they’ve already met twice in the semis this season, and both times Salas advanced.

Finals: Longoria over Salas. You hate rooting for #1 vs #2, but these two players have represented the final in 4 of the 5 events so far this season … and the only one where it wasn’t Longoria v Salas was an event where Salas couldn’t make the tourney b/c of travel issues.

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In the doubles, we have some frequently-seen teams playing, including the reigning USA national champs Lawrence/Sharon Jackson, the US National runners-up in Rajsich and Lotts, The top team of Longoria & Salas, the Argentinian national team of Vargas & Mendez, and the Columbia team of Amaya & Riveros. Interestingly the top Guatemalans are not playing together this event.

I’m going with the top Mexicans versus the Argentinians in the final, with Longoria & Salas continuing their dominance with the win.