Thursday, February 13, 2014

47th USA Racquetball National Doubles Champions

Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona is once again hosting the USA Racquetball National Doubles Championship, and there are some new teams in action in the US National Team divisions, although last year's men's and women's champions are both back to defend their titles.

Last year's men's champions were Jansen Allen and Tony Carson and Aimee Ruiz and Janel Tisinger won the women's title.

Not among those in the competition are last year's runners-up. On women's side, Danielle and Michelle Key aren't they, and only half of the 3rd place team is there, as Cheryl Gudinas, who was 3rd last year with Kelani Bailey, has teamed up with another veteran Laura Fenton.

Chris Crowther and Cliff Swain were the men's runner-up last year and this year Crowther is playing with Nick Montalbano, as Swain isn't in the field.

But the biggest change on the men's side is the break-up of Rocky Carson and Ben Croft, who won two years ago but lost to Allen and Tony Carson last year in the semi-finals.

Rocky Carson is now playing with Jose Rojas and Croft is playing with Thomas Fuhrmann.

Mitch Williams, another former US doubles champion and US Team member, is in the field with Mike Harmon.

Where is everyone?

Only six men's teams and four women's teams are vying for the titles and the opportunities to be part of Team USA, which begs the question: where is everyone?

This year's champions will have the chance to represent the USA at the 2014 International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships in Burlington, Ontario, Canada in June. Yet the men's and women's fields are two of the smallest they've ever been.

The Winter Olympics are on in Sochi, Russia, where many are proudly representing the USA and displaying the Stars and Stripes. Don't more racquetball players want to do that?

We have often mentioned the dearth of young American women playing and that's all the more evident in Tempe with only players 8 (eight!) players in the draw. Of those eight, only two are under 30 and four - half the field - are 45 or older.

Those demographics are not a recipe for success. Those veteran players are have all been past champions, but Father Time guarantees that yesterday's glory becomes tomorrow's failure.

The excellence demonstrated by the young non-American players on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) this season are evidence that those failures are close, if not already at hand.

The USA hasn't won the last two World Championships in Women's Doubles, which both went to the Mexican team of Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas Solis.

However, the USA did win last year's Pan American Championships, when Rhonda Rajsich (35) and Sharon Jackson (24) beat Longoria and Salas Solis, but Jackson's not in this event and Rajsich is playing with Kim Russell-Waselenchuk, who's 45.

All in all, the evidence suggests elite level women's racquetball in the USA is trouble.

2014 47th USA Racquetball National Doubles Championships
Tempe, Arizona
US National Team Divisions


Quarter finals - Thursday

Jansen Allen & Tony Carson - BYE
Ben Croft & Thomas Fuhrmann v. Mike Harmon & Mitch Williams

Charlie Pratt & Jake Bredenbeck v. Chris Crowther & Nick Montalbano, 15-9, 15-10
Rocky Carson & Jose Rojas - BYE

Semi-finals - Friday

Jansen Allen & Tony Carson v. Ben Croft & Thomas Fuhrmann or Mike Harmon & Mitch Williams
Rocky Carson & Jose Rojas v. Charlie Pratt & Jake Bredenbeck


Semi-finals - Friday

Aimee Ruiz & Janel Tisinger v. Hailey Miller & Jacqueline Paraiso
Cheryl Gudinas & Laura Fenton v. Rhonda Rajsich & Kim Russell-Waselenchuk

Follow the bouncing ball....

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