Friday, August 9, 2019

Four countries advance to team finals at 2019 Pan American Games

Four teams will go for gold on Saturday in the Men’s and Women’s Team finals as the racquetball competition concludes at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The team event has been a Mexico-USA showdown in both Men’s and Women’s Team finals at the 2015 and 2011 Pan Am Games, but not this year. Indeed, both men’s and women’s USA teams lost in the semi-finals Friday, as did the Mexican men’s team.

However, the Mexican Women’s Team can win a 3rd consecutive gold medal, as they defeated the USA in the semi-finals in two straight matches. Paola Longoria beat Kelani Lawrence, 15-5, 15-0, and then teamed up with Samantha Salas to complete the victory with a win in doubles over Lawrence and Rhonda Rajsich, 15-5, 15-4.

Mexico will face Argentina in the final, as Argentina beat Bolivia in the other semi-final, albeit with more difficulty. Maria José Vargas won the first match over Valeria Centellas, 15-0, 15-9, and then she and Natalia Mendez held on to defeat Angelica Barrios and Jenny Daza, in a close tie-breaker, 15-10, 8-15, 11-9, which meant the last singles match between Mendez and Barrios didn’t have to be played.

Bolivia and Colombia will contest the Men’s Team final, rather than Mexico and the USA. Perhaps surprisingly, it was Colombia who were the giant killers, as they knocked off Mexico, the two time defending Men’s Team gold medalists. They did it by winning the two singles matches. First, Sebastian Franco beat veteran Alvaro Beltran, 15-14, 15-6. Mexico leveled the match by winning the doubles, when Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya defeated Franco and Mario Mercado, 15-14, 15-5. The deciding match was between Montoya and Mercado. Montoya won Men’s Singles in Lima earlier this week, and is the current International Racquetball Federation (IRF) Men’s Singles World Champion as well as, so you'd think advantage Mexico.

Especially advantage Mexico after Montoya won the first game, 15-12. But Mercado came back and won game two, 15-6, to force a tie-breaker. Then in the breaker Mercado went out to a big lead, 6-1 and 10-3. Montoya made it close, but couldn’t come all the way back, as Mercado won it, 11-8, and put Colombia in a Pan Am Games final for the first time.

Coming to Lima, Colombia had one Pan Am Games medal: a bronze in the Men’s Team event in 2011. Mercado was a bronze medalist in Men’s Singles earlier this week, and now he and Franco will have a chance to win gold, and regardless of Saturday’s final, they will have tripled the number of Colombian Pan Am Games medals in racquetball: from 1 to 3.

Bolivia will be Colombia’s opponent in the final. Bolivia, like Colombia, also needed three matches to advance to the final, as they outlasted the USA men’s team. Indeed, all three of the Bolivia-USA matches went breaker. Veteran Rocky Carson won the first match of the semi-final by defeating Conrrado Moscoso in three games, 15-7, 8-15, 11-6. But Moscoso and Roland Keller were able to level the match with the USA by winning the doubles match against Carson and Charles Pratt, 12-15, 15-6, 11-6.

Thus, it came down to the second singles match between Carlos Keller of Bolivia and the USA’s Jake Bredenbeck. Again a tie-breaker was required as Keller won game one, 15-11, and Bredenbeck game two, 12-15. But as is often the case after two close games, the breaker was not close, as Keller - the current Men’s Singles Pan American Champion - won it, 11-2, booking Bolivia’s place in the final.

Four years ago in Toronto, Moscoso and the Keller brothers were bronze medalists in the Men’s Team event, after losing to Mexico in the semi-finals. Saturday they’ll have a chance to win Men’s Team gold, which would be the first Pan Am Games gold medal for Bolivia in racquetball.

The finals will begin at 11 AM Saturday. Some of the matches may be live streamed via the International Racquetball Federation page on Facebook, but not for certain due to rights holders restrictions.

2019 Pan American Games - Lima, Peru


Men’s Teams - Semi-finals


Sebastian FRANCO (Colombia) d. Alvaro BELTRAN (Mexico), 15-14, 15-6
Javier MAR & Rodrigo MONTOYA (Mexico) d. Sebastian FRANCO & Mario MERCADO (Colombia), 15-14, 15-5
Mario MERCADO (Colombia) d. Rodrigo MONTOYA (Mexico), 12-15, 15-6, 11-8

BOLIVIA d. USA - 2-1

Rocky CARSON (USA) d. Conrrado MOSCOSO (Bolivia), 15-7, 8-15, 11-6
Roland KELLER & Conrrado MOSCOSO (Bolivia) d. Rocky CARSON & Charles PRATT (USA), 12-15, 15-6, 11-6
Carlos KELLER (Bolivia) d. Jake BREDENBECK (USA), 15-11, 12-15, 11-2

Men’s Teams - Final


Women’s Teams - Semi-finals

MEXICO d. USA - 2-0

Paola LONGORIA (Mexico) d. Kelani LAWRENCE (USA), 15-5, 15-0
Paola LONGORIA & Samantha SALAS (Mexico) d. Kelani LAWRENCE & Rhonda RAJSICH (USA), 15-5, 15-4
Montserrat MEJIA (Mexico) v. Rhonda RAJSICH (USA) - not played


Maria José VARGAS (Argentina) d. Valeria CENTELLAS (Bolivia), 15-0, 15-9
Natalia MENDEZ & Maria José VARGAS (Argentina) d. Angelica BARRIOS & Jenny DAZA (Bolivia), 15-10, 8-15, 11-9
Natalia MENDEZ (Argentina) v. Angelica BARRIOS (Bolivia) - not played

Women’s Teams - Final


Follow the bouncing ball….

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