Monday, December 14, 2009

World Junior Racquetball Championships - Preview

Some of the finest young racquetball players are in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for the International Racquetball Federation's (IRF's) World Junior Racquetball Championships. This is the 20th World Junior Championship, and the first in the Dominican Republic. There are 234 players in the event.

In Boys 18 & under, Jose Rojas should be the player to beat. He won the title last year, and is the #23 ranked player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). Those trying to prevent Rojas's repeat will include Mexicans Alejandro Cardona and Oscar Arroyo, Canadians Conrad Cole and Colin Mohr as well as Rojas's countryman Taylor Knoth.

Last year it was clear who was the favorite in Girls 18 & under, as Paola Longoria played in World Juniors for the last time, winning her 8th singles title. This year it's not so clear. But there are a few previous World Junior Champions in the field, including American Danielle Key, who won 16 & under last year, Maria Paz Munoz, who won 16 & under in 2007, and Christine Richardson of Canada won 14 & under in 2005.

But any Mexican players should not be overlooked. Jessica Maldonado and Jessica Parrilla are representing Mexico in Girls 18 & under this year. Finally, Sheryl Lotts is the other American player, and she was the USA Racquetball Intercollegiate Champion this year.

Both Americans - Jose Diaz and Marco Rojas - in the Boys 16 & under division are likely the favorites, as they won the 14 & under division the last two years. Rojas in 2007 and Diaz in 2008.

In Girls 16 & under, Aubrey O'brien is likely the player to beat. She's had good results in Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) events, including a Round of 16 finish on the weekend at the Christmas Classic, and is currently ranked #23 on the WPRO. Her strongest competition could come from Canadian Frédérique Lambert (WPRO #29), Mexicans Sofia Rascon (#26) and Jocelyn Loredo (#41) as well as fellow American Devon Pimentelli (#49).

The 14 & under categories are always hard to predict as the players often have small competition records so it's hard to know what to expect. However, on the girls' side, Ximena Gonzalez of Mexico won the 12 & under division in 2007, so perhaps she's the player to beat in 14 & under this year.

No such prior Champions on the Boys 14 & under, but a Mexican or American has won this division each of the last 8 years, so it seems likely that the winner this year will be either Javier Estrada (Mexico), Eduardo Garay (Mexico), Sam Reid (USA), or Zachary Wertz (USA).

The opening ceremonies of the 20th World Junior Racquetball Championships are Monday night with the competitions to begin Tuesday morning. The format will be a preliminary round followed by an elimination round, which will conclude Sunday with the finals.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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