Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2014-15 IRT Season Preview

The International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) 2014-15 season begins Thursday in San Marcos, Texas with the Krowning Moment Bobcat Open. We'll review last season for you below, but first here's the Tier 1 and Grand Slam IRT tournament schedule for 2014-15.

September 18-21 - Krowning Moment Bobcat Open - San Marcos, Tex.
September 25-28 - Novascors Kansas City Open - Kansas City
October 8-12 - UnitedHealthcare US Open - Minneapolis
October 16-19 - Pete Pierce's St Louis Party with the Pros - St Louis

November 6-9 - Red Swain Shootout - Davison, Mich.
November 13-16 - 24th Annual Turkey Shootout - Garden City, Kan.
November 20-23 - Long Beach Open Doubles - Long Beach, Calif.
December 4-7 - Kitsap Splat Pro/Am - Washington

December 11-14 - Rollout New Jersey Open - Fairfield, N.J.
January 8-11 - Coast to Coast California Open - Fountain Valley, Calif.
January 15-18 - Cactus Salon NYC Pro/Am - Long Island, N.Y.
January 22-25 - Lewis Drug Pro/Am - Sioux Falls, S.D.

March 6-8 - Florida IRT Pro/Am - Florida
March 12-15 - Shamrock Shootout - Lombard, Ill.
April 23-26 - IRT Pro Nationals - TBD
April 30-May 3 - Stockton Pro/Am - Stockton, Calif.
May 14-17 - Pro Kennex Tournament of Champions - Portland, Ore.

Seventeen events is six more than last season, which is great, although sometimes the events announced at the start of the season don't all occur. But it is a promising schedule.

The most interesting aspect of the schedule is that most of the events will occur before the new year, which is a change from what has usually happened in recent seasons, when most events happened after January 1.

All eleven events from last year are back on the schedule with eight new additions, including this weekend's Krowning Moment Bobcat Open. Returning to the schedule from a season away is the Party with the Pros in St Louis, but rather than be in the spring it's going to be in the October.

One of the intriguing additions to the schedule is a pro doubles event in Long Beach, Calif. at the end of November. This is a follow up to last year's popular doubles in Sioux Falls, and there will also be a pro doubles event in the US Open. More pro doubles will be an exciting addition to the IRT schedule.

Now, let's review last year's results. First, a rundown of results by event, and then a summary of the players who finished in the quarters or better over the season.

2013-14 IRT Season - Event Summary
Event - Final - Semi-Finalists

Kansas City: J. Rojas d. R. Carson - Semis: Waslenchuk, Beltran
US Open : Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Croft, Beltran
Davison: Beltran d. De La Rosa - Semis: Swain, R. Carson
Garden City: R. Carson d. Beltran - Semis: Croft, J. Rojas
New Jersey Open: Waselenchuk d. J. Rojas - Semis: Beltran, R. Carson
California Open: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Semis: J. Rojas, Beltran
New York City: Waselenchuk d. Beltran - Semis: Marco Rojas, De La Rosa
Sioux Falls: Waselenchuk d. Beltran - Semis: Crowther, R. Carson
Florida Spring Break: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Semis: T. Carson, C. Pratt
Stockton: Waselenchuk d. Beltran - Semis: J. Rojas, R. Carson
Portland: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Semis: De La Rosa, Croft

2013-14 IRT Season - Player Summary
IRT Rank - Player - Wins - Seconds - Semis - Quarters

1) Kane Waselenchuk - 8 wins, 0 seconds, 1 semi-finals, 0 quarters
2) Alvaro Beltran - 1 win, 4 seconds, 4 semis, 2 qtr
2) Rocky Carson - 1 win, 5 seconds, 4 semis, 1 qtrs
4) Jose Rojas - 1 win, 1 second, 3 semis, 4 qrts
5) Daniel De La Rosa - 1 second, 2 semis, 7 qtrs
6) Chris Crowther - 1 semi, 7 qtrs
7) Ben Croft - 3 semis, 4 qtrs
8) Tony Carson - 1 semi, 4 qrts
9) Jansen Allen - 8 qtrs
10) Marco Rojas - 1 semi, 5 qtrs
11) Charlie Pratt - 1 qrt
13) Cliff Swain - 1 semi, 1 qtr
17) David Horn - 1 qtr

The 2013-14 IRT Statistical Abstract

Total matches played: 372

Percentage of 3 game matches: 56.5 (210 of 372)
Percentage of 4 game matches: 23.1 (86)
Percentage of 5 game matches: 13.4 (50)
Percentage of matches that were defaults or data was incomplete: 6.5 (24)

Most points for in a victory: 54 - (i) Mike Green d. Charlie Pratt, 11-4, 11-1, 13-15, 8-11, 11-3, (ii) Jansen Allen d. Andy Hawthorne, 11-3, 8-11, 13-15, 11-7, 11-5, in Sioux Falls, & (iii) Alvaro Beltran d. Cliff Swain, 11-13, 9-11, 12-10, 11-4, 11-7, in Stockton

Most points scored in a loss: 48 - (i) Joshua Hungerford against Mauricio Zelada, 6-11, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, at the US Open, & (ii) David Horn against Jose Rojas, 11-8, 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 14-12, in Stockton

Most points in a 5 game match: 101 - Jose Rojas d. David Horn, 11-8, 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 14-12, in Stockton
Most points in a 4 game match: 81 - Alex Ackermann d. Joseph Palazzo, 13-11, 13-11, 8-11, 11-3 in the New Jersey Open
Most points in a 3 game match: 70 - Mike Harmon d. Shai Manzuri, 11-9, 14-12, 13-11 in US Open

Largest margin of victory 5 game match: 22 - Coby Iwaasa over Alex Ackermann, 9-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-0, in the US Open
Largest margin of victory 4 game match: 26 - Coby Iwaasa over Seung Jun Jeon, 11-3, 7-11, 11-0, 11-0 in the US Open
Largest margin of victory 3 game match: 33 by Jose Daniel Ugalda over Tyler Freeman, 11-0, 11-0, 11-0 in the US Open

Smallest margin of victory 5 game match: -4 - Mauricio Zelada d. Joshua Hungerford, 6-11, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, at the US Open
Smallest margin of victory 4 game match: 2 - Daniel De La Rosa d. Alex Ackerman, 11-7, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7 in the Red Swain Memorial
Smallest margin of victory 3 game match: 6 - Mike Harmon d. Shai Manzuri, 11-9, 14-12, 13-11, at the US Open

Waselenchuk loses once & then wins out

Kane Waselenchuk, once again finished on top of the IRT standings, although for the first time since 2009, he lost a completed match. But that happened in the first tournament of the season, when Jose Rojas defeated him in the semi-finals of the Ghost of Georgetown tournament.

However, Waselenchuk won all of his other matches, although he did miss two events after the US Open due to injury. Injuries were the only way that Waselenchuk lost over the previous four seasons, and we fully expect him to be dominant again this season.

Waselenchuk's skill level is unquestionable. The real question is what the other players' skill levels are at.

Are the other players are getting worse?

Some results suggest that the rest of the field may have taken a step backwards last season, as in 2012-13, 20 players reached the quarterfinals or better, but only 12 players did so last season. There was one more event in 2012-13 versus 2013-14, so one more opportunity to reach the quarters, but that still seems like a significant decrease.

Further, if we look at qualifier wins - these are wins by a player who qualified for the Round of 16 by playing in at least the Round of 32 and possibly higher - the evidence is also troubling, as only nine times did a player who qualified for the Round of 16 advance past that round. Five players accounted for the nine times: Jansen Allen (three times), Marco Rojas and Charlie Pratt (both twice), once each by David Horn and veteran Cliff Swain, who isn't someone that is going to play a large part in the future of the IRT.

But perhaps the issue is not that the younger players haven't improved themselves, but rather than established players have stepped up their skills, so that these results are due to a concentration of excellence at the top rather than a reduction of excellence in the next level of players.

Some players have improved

Daniel De La Rosa is one example of a player who has stepped up his level of play, as he raised his ranking from 9th at the end of 2012-13 to 5th last season. Furthermore, Alvaro Beltran won an IRT event for the first time in his long career, which help him finish tied for 2nd with Rocky Carson.

Also, both Jansen Allen and Marco Rojas finished in the top 10 of the season ending rankings last year with Allen rising from 17th the year before to 9th and Rojas going up from 13th to 10th.

Clearly, some players are raising their game.

Moreover, two seasons ago 14 players reached the quarterfinals or better, which is approximately what the figure was last season (12), so maybe the 2012-13 number of 20 doing so is the outlier that we shouldn't worry about.

Certainly with a 17 tournament schedule there will be plenty of opportunities for young players to demonstrate that they are improving their skills. And we'll happily relate their progress this season to you here at The Racquetball Blog.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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