There's been a lot of racquetball played over the past five days at the 20th World Junior Racquetball Championships in Tempe, Arizona. Only two players are now left in the draws, as the finals will go on Saturday.
The Racquetball Blog has been highlighting Girls 16 & under but the final match will have two players we haven't highlighted, as Danielle Key of the USA had a great day on Friday. She defeated Canadian Frédérique T. Lambert in the quarters, 15-11, 15-12, then beat top seed Maria Paz Munoz of Ecuador, 15-11, 15-6.
But unlike what we might have thought, it won't meet team-mate Aubrey O'brien in the finals, as Yazmine Sabja of Bolivia defeated her, 15-11, 5-15, 11-8, gaining a measure of revenge for losing to O'brien in the preliminary round, when the 11-8 tie-breaking game went in O'brien's favor.
The Girls 14 & under final is also a Bolivia-USA contest, as Maria Jose Vargas will face Courtney Chisholm Saturday. In the semis, Vargas defeated American Devon Pimentelli, 15-10, 15-9, while Chisholm defeated Adriana Riveros (Bolivia), 15-8, 15-10.
As expected Paola Longoria (Mexico) easily reached the Girls 18 & under final, beating Sharon Jackson of the USA in the semi-finals, 15-2, 15-8. Bolivian Jenny Daza will have the unenviable task of trying to beat Longoria on Saturday, as Daza defeated Canadian Denise Haynes in the other semi-final, 15-9, 15-9.
On the men's side, we'd expected the American boys to be tough, and 4 of the 6 finalists are Americans. In Boys 14 & under, both finalists - Marco Rojas and Jose Diaz - are American. Rojas defeated Daniel De La Rosa of Mexico in one semi-final, 15-10, 15-11, while Diaz won the other by default over Oscar Arias of Bolivia.
We expected Jose Rojas to get to the final of Boys 18 & under, and he has. Erick Sandoval of Mexico will be Rojas's opponent on Saturday. In the semi-finals, Sandoval defeated Bolivian Roland Keller, 15-8, 15-9, ending Keller's good run in the tournament, while Rojas beat Mexican Jose Martinez, 15-5, 15-9.
Finally, Boys 16 & under will also be a Mexico-USA stand-off, as Alejandro Cardona will play Bradley Kirch in the final. Cardona beat American Taylor Knoth, 15-11, 15-5, in one semi-final, while Kirch easily defeated Carlos Keller of Boliva, 15-1, 15-5, in the other.
Thus, Mexico's possible gold medal total will be three at most. We'd pencil in gold for Longoria, but not for Sandoval, with Cardona-Kirch being a toss up. So, Mexico will perhaps get two golds, which would match their total from last year.
It's been a good year for the USA, who will get one gold for sure in Boys 14 & under, and likely another with J. Rojas in Boys 18 & under, as well as chances for gold in three other divisions. Two Americans won gold last year: Jose Rojas in 16 & under, and Marco Rojas in 14 & under.
Girls 18 & Under - semi-finals
Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. Sharon Jackson (USA), 15-2, 15-8
Jenny Daza (Bolivia) d. Denise Haynes (Canada), 15-9, 15-9
Girls 16 & Under - semi-finals
Danielle Key (USA) d. Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador), 15-11, 15-6
Yazmine Sabja (Bolivia) d. Aubrey O'brien (USA), 15-11, 5-15, 11-8
Girls 14 & Under - semi-finals
Courtney Chisholm (USA) d. Adriana Riveros (Bolivia), 15-8, 15-10
Maria Jose Vargas (Bolivia) d. Devon Pimentelli (USA), 15-10, 15-9
Boys 18 & Under - semi-finals
Erick Sandoval (Mexico) d. Roland Keller (Bolivia), 15-8, 15-9
Jose Rojas (USA) d. Jose Martinez (Mexico), 15-5, 15-9
Boys 16 & Under - semi-finals
Alejandro Cardona (Mexico) d. Taylor Knoth (USA), 15-11, 15-5
Bradley Kirch (USA) d. Carlos Keller (Bolivia), 15-1, 15-5
Boys 14 & Under - semi-finals
Marco Rojas (USA) d. Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico), 15-10, 15-11
Jose Diaz (USA) d. Oscar Arias (Bolivia), default
Follow the bouncing ball....