Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Longoria's winning streak ends - A review

All things must end. And in sports this truism is seen more obviously, and often painfully, than in other activities. So it is that Paola Longoria's winning streak ended last month after three and half years, and 142 women's pro matches (at Tier 1 or Grand Slam events).

That's an incredible accomplishment that began with a win over Laura Brandt in New Orleans in May 2011, and ended with a win over Frédérique Lambert last month in Stockton, California. Rhonda Rajsich defeated Longoria in Stockton prior to the streak beginning and Rajsich beat her again in Stockton to end the streak.

One might excuse Longoria if she passes up playing in Stockton again, although Longoria did win there in 2013, but didn't face Rajsich in that event.

During her 39 month streak, Longoria only lost 18 games in those 142 matches. She served up 32 donuts, and only surrendered 4.41 pts per game.

Longoria beat 35 opponents during the streak. Rajsich lost to her the most: 22 times, followed by Samantha Salas (16) and Maria Jose Vargas (12). Sheryl Lotts, who lost to Longoria seven times in that period, has the distinction of getting the most donuts with four.

But Lotts is also one of only six players who won a game against Longoria during the streak. Curiously, Lotts won that game after being blanked in the first two games of that match, which happened in the Round of 16 in Miami earlier this year. Other game winners against Longoria during the streak were Rajsich (9 games), Vargas (5), and Salas, Jennifer Saunders and Cheryl Gudinas, who each won one game.

Internationally, Longoria is still on a winning streak, which began three years ago at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. During that period, Longoria has won 34 matches, and only lost four games. Three of those to Rajsich and one to Cristina Amaya.

Longoria's only given up 5.94 points per game in those international matches, which use a two games to 15 and tie-breaker to 11 format, and served up five donuts in winning two International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships, two Pan American Championships, as well as the 2011 Pan Am Games and 2013 World Games.

Women's racquetball records are incomplete, but we believe these are the longest winning streaks in women's racquetball. Together they suggest a strong argument for Longoria being the great women's player ever.

Where will Longoria go from here?

There are several good young players coming up, including Vargas and Lambert. The mean age of this year's US Open quarterfinalists was 23. Longoria, 25, was the second oldest US Open quarterfinalist behind Rajsich, 35. Thus, Longoria's main competition, which has been older than her with players like Gudinas, Rajsich and Kerri Wachtel, will likely be pushed by younger players.

But Rajsich's win in Stockton demonstrated she still has a lot of game, and Rajsich provided more evidence of that this past weekend, as she and Longoria played an exhibition match in San Luis Potosi, which Rajsich won 4-11, 12-10, 3-11, 11-7, 11-7.

Thus, while Longoria's streak has ended, this may be the beginning of an even more exciting time for women's racquetball.

The next Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) event is next month in Monterrey, Mexico with the Paola Longoria Invitational December 3-7.

Follow the bouncing ball….

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