Tuesday, May 14, 2013

LPRT - 2013 USAR Ektelon Nationals

The Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour's (LPRT's) 2012-2013 season concludes this week with the USAR Ektelon Nationals in Fullerton, California, with one of the largest fields of the season, as 30 players will be in action.

Of the top 24 LPRT players, 21 are playing in Fullerton, including LPRT #1 Paola Longoria, who will be trying to finish off a second consecutive undefeated season.

Several young players are in the draw including Maria Jose Vargas, who's 13th on the latest LPRT rankings, Veronica Sotomayor, 17th, and Maria Paz Muñoz, 20th. Also in the draw, but unranked is Aubrey Kirch, who was the 2010 U18 Girl's World Junior Champion as Aubrey O'brien. As Kirch is unranked, we're not sure where she'll fit in the draw, as there are two other unranked players.

This could be an important event for Kerri Wachtel, whose ranking has fallen to 8th. She's only slightly ahead of Krystal Csuk, but Csuk is one of the players not playing this week. Cristina Amaya is 25 points behind Wachtel and the two could face off in the Round of 16, if they win their first round matches.

Wachtel was 3rd at the beginning of the season, and has been in the season ending top 10 every year since 2001. It's conceivable that she could finish out of the top 10 if she loses to Amaya or Carolina Luque, who we think will be her first round opponent and Da'monique Davis does well. Davis is the 11th ranked LPRT player and is about 33 points behind Wachtel.

US Team Qualifying

Traditionally, the USA Racquetball National Singles Championship was the big end to the racquetball season, and it was one of the ways to qualify for being on Team USA. But with the addition of full pro stops to the event, the team qualification has taken a back seat to those divisions.

Thus, there's only eleven players in the US Team Qualifying division in Fullerton. Most of the players are also in the LPRT draw, but not all and only US players can enter the US Team Qualifying division.

Our first guess at the draw (based on USA Racquetball rankings) was wildly inaccurate with what the draw is, as we had Grace Hughes as the 2nd seed. But she's actually the 6th seed. Oops.

We think this has something to do with basing the seeding on last year's results, and Rhonda Rajsich beat Cheryl Gudinas in the 2012 final, so Rajsich is top seed (as we thought) and Gudinas is 2nd seed (although 12th ranked in the USA rankings). Last year's semi-finalists were Kristen Bellows and Adrienne Fisher, but neither of them are in the draw.

But how Hughes falls to 6th behind Jacqueline Paraiso, Janel Tisinger and Michelle Key, who she's ranked ahead of in the USA rankings, is beyond us.

So, who's the National Champion?

USA Racquetball's move to include the LPRT and International Racquetball Tour (IRT) in the Ektelon Nationals makes sense from a business perspective, because it allows all the top racquetball players to compete in Fullerton, when a significant number of them are not American, so in previous years, when National Singles was in Houston, non-Americans would have been ineligible to play.

But it does leave them in the odd situation of not having a National Champion.

Or at least not exactly, as they could call the winner of the respective men's and women's US Team qualifying divisions the National Champions. However, not all the top American players are playing in those divisions.

That's more obvious on the men's side, as most of the top 10 IRT are American and none of them are in the men's US Team Qualifying division. But two of the top American women - Adrienne Fisher Hayes and Kerri Wachtel - aren't in the women's US Team Qualifying division.

Again bringing all the pros to Fullerton makes sense from a spectacle point of view. We also understand why the LPRT and IRT would want to be there, because it's one of the biggest tournaments in the world and a nice ending to the season. Also, it's great that both the women's and men's pro tours are in the same place.

But it does seem to take away from the crowning of a US National Champion.

LPRT Ektelon Nationals, Fullerton, California
May 16-19, 2013

(seeding / current LPRT ranking if different)
Unofficial draw

1 Paola Longoria - BYE
16/19 Linda Scales v. 17/20 Maria Paz Muñoz

9/10 Cristina Amaya v. 24/30 Alexandra Herrera
8 Kerri Wachtel v. 25/42 Carolina Luque

5 Cheryl Gudinas v. NR Sofia Rascon / Nawoo Kim / Aubrey Kirch
12/14 T. J. Baumbaugh v. 21/24 Jessica Parrilla

13/15 Jacqueline Paraiso v. 20/23 Laura Brandt
4 Susana Acosta v. NR Sofia Rascon / Nawoo Kim / Aubrey Kirch

3 Samantha Salas Solis v. NR Sofia Rascon / Nawoo Kim / Aubrey Kirch
14/17 Veronica Sotomayor v. 19/22 Masiel Rivera

11/13 Maria Jose Vargas v. 22/27 Janel Tisinger
6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes v. 27/61 Young Ock Lee

7 Grace Hughes v. 26/52 Maiko Sato
10/11 Da'monique Davis v. 23/28 Keely Franks

15/18 Hailey Miller v. 18/21 Carla Munoz
2 Rhonda Rajsich v. BYE

US TEAM QUALIFYING, Fullerton, California
May 16-19, 2013

(seeding / current USAR ranking)
Unofficial draw

Rhonda Rajsich - BYE
T. J. Baumbaugh v. Elise Wilson

Michelle Key - BYE
Jacqueline Paraiso - BYE

Janel Tisinger - BYE
Grace Hughes v. Linda Scales

Da'monique Davis v. Lexi York
Cheryl Gudinas - BYE

Follow the bouncing ball….

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