Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 US Junior Team Qualifiers

Wanye Antone IV and Jordan Cooperrider, the USA Racquetball Champions in Boy's U18 and Girl's U18, respectively, will lead the USA Junior Team at the 2017 International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Championships in Minneapolis, November 4-11. The wins conclude Antone's and Cooperrider's respective junior years, so let's review those years.

Antone's development seems to have been slower than Coooperrider's, although there are more competitors in the boy's divisions than the girl's. Nonetheless, Antone was a semi-finalist in each of his last six years of juniors, and he was in the finals three times, but he didn't win a final until his U18 years. That is, Antone has shown a progression in his development that will hopefully see him continue to progress as a player.

Antone's results contrast from Mauro Rojas, who was his opponent in the U18 final this year. Rojas has been in six finals in the last six years, but only won once. He reached the U14 finals in 2012 and 2013, losing each to Jordan Barth. In 2014, Rojas beat Antone in the U16 final, and he was in both the U16 and U18 finals in 2015, when he was beaten by Barth the former and Sam Bredenbeck in the latter. Last year Rojas lost in the U18 semi-finals to Antone, and lost again to Antone in the U18 final this year.

Rojas seems like a power player, while Antone is scrappier, evidenced by several diving gets he made in the final. Also, Rojas had chances to win this year with four match points in the final, but Antone fought all of them off. Moreover, Antone won game two and three on his first game points; he didn't need second chances. In transitioning from a junior racquetball player to an adult racquetball athlete, you need to learn to win. Learning to win is a process, and Antone seems to be ahead of Rojas in that process.

Cooperrider has been in the finals the last four years, as well as being first in U14 in 2013, when it was a round robin, and third in U14 in 2012, when it was also a round robin. Prior to this year, Cooperrider had faced off with Erika Manilla each year, winning three of them and losing twice. Manilla was eligible for U18 this year, but a school commitment kept her from playing.

Does winning U18 twice mean success later? Maybe. Michelle De La Rosa (née Key) and Kelani Bailey both won U18 twice, as Cooperrider has now, and they have played with the USA National Team. Also, De La Rosa has been a top 10 player on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT). Bailey hasn't, but she is only a few years from her junior days (she won U18 in 2012 and 2013), and Bailey hasn't played many LPRT events. Indeed, De La Rosa, who won her U18 titles in 2006 and 2007, has only been a regular LPRT for the three seasons prior to this past one, and overall has only played 36 LPRT events over eight seasons. She didn't play at all in 2011-12 or 2012-13.

Thus, while Cooperrider winning two Girl's U18 titles is great, and should bode well for her future, she'll need to keep playing to fulfill the promise that those wins suggest. Not all players who have won Girl's U18 have kept playing (e.g., Aubrey O'brien and Devon Pimentelli).

Participation

There were 183 players at the 2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics in Stockton, which is down slightly from last year in Fridley, Minnesota, where 194 players participated. It's also down slightly from two years ago, when the tournament was also in Stockton and 194 players participated. But generally, the participation is steady over the last three years and up from 2014 and 2013, when there were 154 and 143 players.

Also the girls' participation is up slightly at 62 from 60 a year ago, and with the lower overall participation, girls are making up a slightly higher percentage of players (33.9% this year versus 30.9% last year). That's the highest percentage of girls in the Junior Olympics in the last 12 years.

While there's more girls participating, there doesn't seem to be a great depth of skill, as in the four quarterfinal U18 Gold division matches there were five 15-0 games, as well as a 15-0 game in the semi-finals with none of the games in semis going past 15-4.

Nonetheless, more girls playing is better overall for the game of racquetball in the USA.

2017 USA Racquetball Junior Team Qualifiers
Based on 2017 Junior Olympic Results in Stockton, California

Boy's U14
Singles
- Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) & Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA)
Doubles - Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) & Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA)

Boy's U16
Singles
- Cayden Akins (Keller, TX) & Sahil Thakur (Tracy, CA)
Doubles - Julian Singh (Pleasanton, CA) & Mitchell Turner (Salem, OR)

Boy's U18
Singles
- Wayne Antone IV (Eugene, OR) & Mauro Rojas (Stockton, CA)
Doubles - Lukas Le (Arlington, TX) & Mauro Rojas (Stockton, CA)

Girl's U14
Singles
- Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR) & Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA)
Doubles - Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) & Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA)

Girl's U16
Singles
- Briana Jacquet (Port Arthur, TX) & Nikita Chauhan (San Ramon, CA)
Doubles - Brian Jacquet (Port Arthur, TX) & Graciana Wargo (Clearwater, FL)

Girl's U18
Singles
- Jordan Cooperrider (Palm Harbor, FL) & Hollie Scott (Lynden, WA)
Doubles - Megan Carver (Spokane, WA) & Hollie Scott (Bellingham, WA)

Follow the bouncing ball….

Monday, June 26, 2017

2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics - Singles Finals

Wanye Antone IV and Jordan Cooperrider won the Boy's and Girl's U18 divisions, respectively, on Sunday at the 2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics at the In-Shape Sport West Lane Club in Stockton, California, so they each successfully defending the title they won a year ago. And both needed tie-breakers to get it done.

In the Boy's U18 final, Antone faced match point against Mauro Rojas, but managed to squeak out the victory, 4-15, 15-14, 11-10. In game two, Rojas was up 11-7, but Antone came back to tie it at 11-11 and then go up 14-11. However, Rojas then came back to tie it 14-14, but on match point #1, he skipped a forehand pinch shot from deep in the court. Antone calls TO, and then came in with the lob serve close to the right wall that he used to get back in the match. Rojas returned it with a ceiling ball, and Antone hit a forehand pinch shot to win the game.

In the breaker, they were back and forth early, and tied 4-4. Then Rojas went ahead 9-4, and looked to good to win it. But Antone came back to make it 9-8, but Rojas got a side out, then he hit a drive serve that cracked out off the left side wall to make it 10-8, setting up his second match point.

Rojas went for the crack ace again, but it was short, and on the ensuing rally Antone hit a forehand winner to get the serve back. But Antone couldn't score on his serve, so Rojas served for the match a third time. Again Rojas couldn't convert, as Antone hit a backhand winner. Antone made it 10-9 with a forehand pinch winner, but Rojas prevented him from tying it by hitting a backhand winner down the line. So, Rojas served for the match for a 4th time. Again he hit a drive serve on first serve, but it was short. Rojas's second serve was a lob to the right side that nicked off the right wall early, allowing Antone space to hit a forehand pinch shot for a winner.

Serving at 9-10, Antone hit a straight lob on the right side that Rojas skipped on his serve return, which set up Antone's first match point at 10-10. Antone again served a lob down the right wall that started a long rally during which Antone hit three shots - one from his knees and one from a dive into the left wall - that just kept the ball in play, and it ended as Rojas skipped a forehand shot from the middle of the court perhaps feeling that he had to hit the ball even lower to prevent Antone from keeping the ball in play.

Akul Ramayani was a double winner Sunday, as he took both the Boy's U14 and U16 titles. In U14, Ramayani beat the boy who beat him last year, Antonio Rojas, 15-11, 15-10, while in U16, Ramayani defeated Sahil Thaker, 15-11, 15-7.

In the divisions, Cooperrider won the U18 title by defeating Hollie Scott in three games, 15-4, 12-15, 11-2, for her second title in as many years. The Girl's U14 final also went to a tie-breaker, as Annie Roberts defeated Heather Mahoney, 15-5, 9-15, 11-3. But no breaker was needed in Girl's U16, where Briana Jacquet beat Nikita Chauhan in two straight games, 15-4, 15-2. Jacquet was runner up in U16 last year, and Chauhan won U14 last year.

The boy's and girl's finalists in the U14, U16 and U18 divisions all qualified for the 2017 USA Racquetball Junior National Team that will compete at the 2017 International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Championships in November in Minneapolis.

If you missed any of the action from Stockton, or want to see it again - especially that 11-10 tie-breaker between Antone and Rojas - check out the USA Racquetball LiveStream channel.

2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics
Stockton, California

Boy's U14


Final

Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) d. Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA), 15-11, 15-10

3rd place

Nikhil Prasad (Fremont, CA) d. Krish Thakur (Tracy, CA), 15-11, 15-13

Boy's U16

Final

Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) d. Sahil Thakur (Tracy, CA), 15-11, 15-7

3rd place

Cayden Akins (Keller, TX) d. Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA), forfeit

Boy's U18

Final

Wayne Antone IV (Eugene, OR) d. Mauro Rojas (Stockton, CA), 4-15, 15-14, 11-10

3rd place

Justus Benson (Austin, TX) d. Kevin Vazquez (Miami, FL), forfeit

Girl's U14

Final

Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR) d. Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA), 15-5, 9-15, 11-3

3rd place

Estefania Perez (Corvallis, OR) d. Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA), 15-14, 15-13

Girl's U16

Final

Briana Jacquet (Port Arthur, TX) d. Nikita Chauhan (San Ramon, CA), 15-4, 15-2

3rd place

Kaitlyn Boyle (Beaverton, OR) d. Megan Carver (Spokane, WA), 15-2, 15-1

Girl's U18

Final

Jordan Cooperrider (Palm Harbor, FL) d. Hollie Scott (Lynden, WA), 15-4, 12-15, 11-2

3rd Place

Hannah Carver (Spokane, WA) d. Kristine Holman (Salem, OR), forfeit

Follow the bouncing ball….

Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics - Saturday summary

Players will have a chance to repeat and to make amends for losses last year Sunday at the 2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics at the In-Shape Sport West Lane Club in Stockton, California. Both the Boy's and Girl's U18 2016 champions, Wanye Antone IV and Jordan Cooperrider, respectively, have a chance to repeat as champions. But Akul Ramayani and Briana Jacquet will have a chance to win this year after losing in finals last year.

Ramayani is in both the Boy's U14 and U16 finals. He lost the U14 final last year to Antonio Rojas, and Rojas will be his opponent again in the U14 final. In U16, Ramayani will be up against Sahil Thaker. Ramayani is already a 2017 Junior Champion, as he and Rojas won the Boy's U14 Doubles title together.

For her part, Jacquet lost the U16 final last year (to Ingrid Robledo), but has a chance to win it this year, when she plays Nikita Chauhan on Sunday. Chauhan was the U14 champion last year.

In the Girl's U18 final, Cooperrider will play Hollie Scott, while in Girl's U14, Heather Mahoney will play Annie Roberts in the final.

In Boy's U18, Antone faces Mauro Rojas in the final. Rojas won the Boy's U18 Doubles final with left-hander Lukas Le, as they defeated Ricadro Diaz and Dane Elkins, 13-15, 15-6, 11-8.

The Boy's U16 Doubles title went to Julian Singh and Mitchell Turner, who beat Ben Baron and Micah Farmer, 15-6, 15-9, in the final.

The 2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics concludes Sunday at the In-Shape Sport West Lane in Stockton, California.

2017 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics
Stockton, California

Boy's U14

Semi-finals


Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA) d. Nikhil Prasad (Fremont, CA), 15-0, 15-2
Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) d. Krish Thakur (Tracy, CA), 15-11, 15-2

Final - Sunday

Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA) v. Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) - 9:30 AM

3rd place - Sunday

Nikhil Prasad (Fremont, CA) v. Krish Thakur (Tracy, CA) - 11:30 AM

Boy's U16

Semi-finals


Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) d. Cayden Akins (Keller, TX), 15-13, 15-6
Sahil Thakur (Tracy, CA) d. Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA), 15-7, 7-15, 11-8

Final - Sunday

Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) v. Sahil Thakur (Tracy, CA) - 11:30 AM

3rd place - Sunday

Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA) v. Cayden Akins (Keller, TX) - 1:30 PM

Boy's U18

Semi-finals


Wayne Antone IV (Eugene, OR) d. Justus Benson (Austin, TX), 15-12, 15-12
Mauro Rojas (Stockton, CA) d. Kevin Vazquez (Miami, FL), 14-15, 15-6, 11-4

Final - Sunday

Wayne Antone IV (Eugene, OR) v. Mauro Rojas (Stockton, CA) - 1:30 PM

3rd place - Sunday

Kevin Vazquez (Miami, FL) v. Justus Benson (Austin, TX) - 12:30 PM

Girl's U14

Semi-finals


Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) d. Estefania Perez (Corvallis, OR), 15-9, 15-14
Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR) d. Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA), 15-10, 15-12

Final - Sunday

Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) v. Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR) - 1:30 PM

3rd place - Sunday

Estefania Perez (Corvallis, OR) v. Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA) - 8:30 AM

Girl's U16

Semi-finals


Briana Jacquet (Port Arthur, TX) d. Megan Carver (Spokane, WA), 15-3, 15-2
Nikita Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) d. Kaitlyn Boyle (Beaverton, OR), 15-13, 15-10

Final - Sunday

Briana Jacquet (Port Arthur, TX) v. Nikita Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) - 10:30 AM

3rd place - Sunday

Megan Carver (Spokane, WA) v. Kaitlyn Boyle (Beaverton, OR) - 9:30 AM

Girl's U18

Semi-finals


Jordan Cooperrider (Palm Harbor, FL) d. Hannah Carver (Spokane, WA), 15-1, 15-0
Hollie Scott (Lynden, WA) d. Kristine Holman (Salem, OR), 15-4, 15-3

Final - Sunday

Jordan Cooperrider (Palm Harbor, FL) v. Hollie Scott (Lynden, WA) - 12:30 PM

3rd Place - Sunday

Hannah Carver (Spokane, WA) v. Kristine Holman (Salem, OR) - 1:30 PM

Boy's U18 Doubles - Round Robin - Sunday matches

Final

Lukas Le (Arlington, TX) & Mauro Rojas (Stockton, CA) d. Ricadro Diaz (Stockton, CA) & Dane Elkins (Los Angeles, CA), 13-15, 15-6, 11-8

3rd Place

Jeremy Dixon (Downers Grove, IL) & Gavin Usher (Bozeman, MT) d. Wayne Antone IV (Eugene, OR) & Kevin Vazquez (Miami, FL), forfeit

Boy's U16 Doubles

Final

Julian Singh (Pleasanton, CA) & Mitchell Turner (Salem, OR) d. Ben Baron (Phoenix) & Micah Farmer (Trophy Club, Texas), 15-6, 15-9

3rd Place - Sunday

Krish Thakur (Tracy, CA) & Sahil Thakur (Tracy, CA) v. Cayden Akins (Keller, TX) & Brian Barberis (McKinney, TX) - 10:30 AM

Boy's U14 Doubles - Round Robin Final Standings

1. Akul Ramayani (Poughkeepsie, NY) & Antonio Rojas (Stockton, CA)
2. Cole Hartman (Plymouth, MN) & Nathan Soltis (Plymouth, MN)
3. Kamahele Britos (Honolulu, HI) & Julius Ellis (Stockton, CA)

Girl's U18 Doubles - Round Robin - Final Standings

1st - Hollie Scott (Bellingham, WA) & Megan Carver (Spokane, WA)
2nd - Jordan Cooperrider (Palm Harbor, Fla.) & Kaitlyn Boyle (Beaverton, OR)
3rd - Kristine Holman (Salem, Ore.) & Madison Kerzel (Salem, Ore.)

Girl's U16 Doubles - Round Robin - Final Standings

1st - Brian Jacquet (Phoenix) & Graciana Wargo (Clearwater, FL)
2nd - Nikita Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) & Elena Dent (Estero, FL)
3rd - Hannah Carver (Spokane, WA) & Megan Carver (Spokane, WA)

Girl's U14 Doubles - Round Robin - Final Standings

1st - Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) & Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA)
2nd - Elena Mathew (Corvallis, OR) & Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR)
3rd - Alondra Canchola (Stockton, CA) & Tess La Rue (Morada, CA)

Follow the bouncing ball….