Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lambert & Keller prevent Mexican sweep at Junior Worlds

Mexico won four of five finals that they had players in on Saturday at the 23rd International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Racquetball Championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Mexico swept the U14 and U16 divisions, but were shut out in U18.

Canadian Frédérique Lambert won Girls U18 - the only division without a Mexican finalist - but she did it the hard way, as she played very poorly in game one of the final against Bolivian Maria Jose Vargas, losing it 15-4, before getting on track and winning it decisively in the end, 4-15, 15-7, 11-4. It's Lambert's second Junior Worlds title, as she won Girls U14 in 2007.

Lambert said she was "really nervous" to start the final, because earlier in the week Vargas beat Lambert in the preliminary pool part of the tournament. "My confidence wasn't good," said Lambert, so when she got off to a bad start Lambert just "wanted to get game one over with."

Between games, Lambert was able to go outside and collect herself. "I thought it's now or never," said Lambert, as it's her last year of junior eligibility, and "don't give up."

The difference was immediately evident in game two, as Lambert got off to a good start and made shots that she'd missed in game one. Lambert said "I stopped drive serving, because it wasn't working." She used lob serves instead to slow down the pace of the rallies and give herself a chance to get into position for the rally.

Lambert said Vargas is "a young, fast player," which meant the drive serve was playing to Vargas's strength.

The only Bolivian to win gold in singles was Carlos Keller, who won Boys U18 by defeating Mexican Daniel De La Rosa, 15-9, 15-5. Like Lambert, Keller won his second Junior World title in his last year of junior eligibility. Keller won U16 two years ago, when Junior Worlds were also in Santo Domingo.

Keller had a chance at double gold, which would have been a complete duplication of his 2009 performance, as he and Jorge Luis Michel were in the Boys U18 doubles final. However, Americans Josh Hungerford and Nick Montalbano had other ideas as they beat Keller and Michel, 15-9, 11-15, 11-4.

Hungerford and Montalbano almost won it two straight despite being down big in game two. They fought back to make it close before the Bolivians forced the tie-breaker. In the tie-breaker, the Bolivians served everything to Hungerford, who's left handed so was playing the left side, but he was equal to the task.

In U14, Mexicans Rodrigo Montoya and Diana Aguilar were double gold medalists. Montoya defeated Marcelo Vargas of Bolivia twice. He got the better of Vargas, 15-4, 15-4, in the singles final and won the doubles final with Erik Garcia against Vargas and Cristhian Mina, 15-8, 11-15, 11-8.

Aguilar beat Bolivian Natalia Mendez in the Girls U14 gold final, 15-11, 10-15, 11-5, and defeated Canadians Danielle Drury and Michelle Morissette, 15-4, 15-4, with partner Monserrat Perez to win doubles.

In U16, Mexicans Rodrigo Garay and Alexandra Herrera were double gold winners. Garay beat Andres Acuna of Costa Rica 15-10, 8-15, 11-2, in the singles final, and then took out the home country team of Junior Rodriguez & Francisco De Leon (Dominican Republic), 15-5, 15-6, in doubles with partner Eduardo Garay.

Acuna is the first Costa Rican player to reach the final of a World Cup event at Junior Worlds.

Herrera won the Girls U16 final against American Kelani Bailey, 15-11, 5-15, 11-3, and also came first in doubles with partner Ximena Gonzalez ahead of Bailey and Mercedes Arias in Girls U16 doubles, which was a round robin.

During the closing ceremonies, the IRF presented sportsmanship awards to Coby Iwaasa (Canada) and Natalia Mendez (Bolivia) who were selected from nominations by the coaches from the 17 countries participating in Santo Domingo.

23rd Junior World Racquetball Championships
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Boy's 14 and Under

Singles final: Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico) d. Marcelo Vargas (Bolivia), 15-4, 15-4
Doubles final: Rodrigo Montoya & Erik Garcia (Mexico) d. Marcelo Vargas & Cristhian Mina (Bolivia), 15-8, 11-15, 11-8

Boy's 16 and Under

Singles final: Rodrigo Garay (Mexico) d. Andres Acuna (Costa Rica), 15-10, 8-15, 11-2
Doubles final: Rodrigo Garay & Eduardo Garay (Mexico) d. Junior Rodriguez & Francisco De Leon (Dominican Republic), 15-5, 15-6

Boy's 18 and Under

Singles final: Carlos Keller (Bolivia) d. Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico), 15-9, 15-5
Doubles final: Nick Montalbano & Josh Hungerford (USA) d. Carlos Keller & Jorge Luis Michel (Bolivia), 15-9, 11-15, 11-4

Girl's 14 and Under

Singles final: Diana Aguilar (Mexico) d. Natalia Mendez (Bolivia), 15-11, 10-15, 11-5
Doubles final: Diana Aguilar & Monserrat Perez (Mexico) d. Danielle Drury & Michelle Morissette (Canada), 15-4, 15-4

Girl's 16 and Under

Singles final: Alexandra Herrera (Mexico) d. Kelani Bailey (USA), 15-11, 5-15, 11-3
Doubles (round robin): 1st - Alexandra Herrera & Ximena Gonzalez (Mexico), 2nd Kelani Bailey & Mercedes Arias (USA)

Girl's 18 and Under

Singles final: Frédérique Lambert (Canada) d. Maria Jose Vargas (Bolivia), 4-15, 15-7, 11-4
Doubles final: Maria Jose Vargas & Riveros (Bolivia) d. Sofia Rascon & Robles (Mexico), 15-11, 15-5

Follow the bouncing ball....

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