Wednesday, July 21, 2021

How is John Ellis not in the Hall of Fame?

While we were watching the Boys U18 Singles final at the USA Racquetball (USAR) Junior Championships in Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday, which was a great match and you can check it out via the USA Racquetball Livestream channel, the commentator mentioned that the finalists Timmy Hansen and Julius Ellis are sons of former elite players: Tim Hansen and John Ellis, respectively. And in passing it was mentioned that Mr. Hansen is in the USAR Hall of Fame.

That made us think “wait, isn't John Ellis in the Hall of Fame?’ Which led us to “HOW IS JOHN ELLIS NOT IN THE HALL OF FAME???”

This is no disrespect to Mr Hansen, who seems fully deserving of being in the Hall of Fame, and was a Team USA member who won gold in Men’s Doubles (with Jim Floyd) at the 1991 Tournament of the Americas (Pan American Championships). But if the Hansen and Ellis fathers were to face off - as someone suggested in a comment on the boys match - we know who we’re betting on every day, and twice on Sundays, and it’s not Hansen.

John Ellis was in the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) top 10 for 10 straight seasons (1993-94 to 2002-03) including five consecutive seasons as the #3 player, which was generally behind two guys (Sudsy Monchik & Cliff Swain) who are both in the conversation for the best men’s player ever. Over his career, Ellis won 8 IRT titles and was runner up 18 times.

Ellis also was the US National Singles Champion in 1993, and won three US National Doubles titles: in 1991 and 1993 with Eric Muller and 2003 with Adam Karp. He won gold with Team USA in Men’s Singles at the 1995 Pan American Games.

If that’s not enough, Ellis has also run a very successful racquetball program in Stockton, California, which has produced several elite level players.

All of that begs the question: How is John Ellis not in the Hall of Fame?

Follow the bouncing ball….

Monday, July 19, 2021

2021 USA Racquetball Junior Championships - Summary

The USA Racquetball Junior Championships wrapped up on Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa, and the overall participation was 81 players, which significantly fewer than in recent years, but is likely due to the pandemic. However, the participation was almost evenly split between boys and girls. There were 44 boys and 38 girls (54% to 46%). We noted in our 2019 summary that there seemed to be more girls participating at the USA Junior Championships, and it’s nice to see that trend continuing even with the pandemic.

The Boys and Girls U18 Champions are Timmy Hansen (Wellington, FL) and Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR), respectively. But both finals were see-saw matches that needed a tie-breaker to decide the winner. Hansen beat Julius Ellis (Stockton, CA), 15-2, 6-15, 11-3, for the Boys title, while Roberts came back from a game down and 10-5 down in the breaker to narrowly defeat Erin Slutzky (Chesterfield, MO), 4-15, 15-8, 11-10.

Both were remarkable performances. The boys final was interesting, because there was a contrast in styles. Hansen is a smooth player, while Ellis is a bundle of energy bouncing around the court. Yet it was Hansen who was more emotional between rallies, especially in the breaker, while Ellis was calmer, but clearly disappointed after the match was over.

Roberts - we believe - played in her final Junior Championships, and ends her junior career having won singles in each of the last four competitions. She won Girls U16 Singles in 2019 and 2018 and Girls U14 Singles in 2017. That record bodes well for her future, if she’s interested in continuing to play racquetball. Roberts also competed in the Women’s National Team division in Des Moines and has entered some Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) events, so it does seem like she’s interested in pursuing a racquetball career.

Sometimes the U18 Singles champions win U18 Doubles as well, but that didn’t happen this year. Roberts didn’t play doubles, and Hansen and Andrew Gleason (Johnston, IA) lost the Boys U18 Doubles final to Vedant Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) and Josh Shea (Cortlandt Manor, NY), 15-8, 4-15, 11-8. There are a couple remarkable aspects to that result.

First, it was partially a successful title defense, as Shea won Boys U18 Doubles two years ago with Dylan Pruitt; 2019 being the last time the Junior Championships were held. That’s despite the fact that Shea was “playing up” in 2019 - competing in an older age division than necessary. We know that because in 2019 Shea and Chauhan won Boy’s U14 Doubles.

Moreover, Shea and Chauhan’s competing in U18 doubles this year was also playing up, as they competed in Boys U16 Singles and faced off in the semi-finals with Shea winning in two close games, 15-13, 15-12. But that’s not all.

Because players were allowed to play three divisions this year, Shea and Chauhan also entered Boys U16 Doubles, and they came 2nd! Seriously. It was a five team round robin, and in the deciding match Nikhil Prasad (Fremont, CA) and Gatlin Sutherland (Great Falls, MT) defeated them, 15-14, 15-11. Thus, Shea and Chauhan have won Boys U14 Doubles (in 2019) and Boys U18 Doubles (this year) and Shea has won Boys U18 Doubles twice, but they have yet to win Boys U16 Doubles. And they may never do so, if they age out of that division this year (that would happen if they turn 17 in 2021).

A couple of interesting stories on the girls side. One is Naomi Ros of San Antonio, who won Girl's U16 Singles, and did so convincingly, as she only gave up more than six points in one of the eight games she won en route to the title. Also, Ros, as the 5th seed, defeated the 1st, 2nd and 4th seeds to get the win. In the final, she defeated 2nd seed Ava Kaiser (Lake Elmo, MN), 15-5, 15-12, after beating top seed Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA), 15-6, 15-3, in the semi-finals.

What makes that all the more remarkable is that Ros didn’t play in 2019, and we’re not sure she’s ever played in the Junior Championships previously. She wasn’t in either the 2018 or 2017 Junior Championships. To win a competition your first time out is difficult, but to do it in such a convincing fashion is astonishing.

Although Mahoney will likely be disappointed in not being in a singles final this year after being in three in the previous two competitions, winning U14 in 2018 and 2019 as well as being U16 runner up in 2019, she did win Girl's U18 Doubles with long time partner Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA). But it wasn’t easy, as they needed tie-breakers to pull off wins in both the final and semi-final. They defeated Estefania Perez (Manteca, CA) and Erin Slutzky (Chesterfield, MO) in the final, 15-13, 6-15, 11-9, and got to the final with a comeback victory over Ros and Shane Diaz (San Antonio), 11-15, 15-12, 11-5.

All in all, the 2021 USAR Junior Championships had some great matches and fun results. If you want to look back on some of the action, check out the USA Racquetball Livestream channel for the event, where over 40 matches are archived.

2021 USA Racquetball Junior Championships
July 14-18, 2021 - Des Moines, Iowa

Boy's U18 Singles - Final

Timmy Hansen (Wellington, FL) d. Julius Ellis (Stockton, CA), 15-2, 6-15, 11-3

3rd Place

Andrew Gleason (Johnston, IA) d. Kamahele Britos (Honolulu, HI), 15-3, 15-2

Semi-finals

Timmy Hansen (Wellington, FL) d. Kamahele Britos (Honolulu, HI), 15-4, 15-2
Julius Ellis (Stockton, CA) d. Andrew Gleason (Johnston, IA), 15-11, 15-14

Boy's U16 Singles - Final

Nikhil Prasad (Fremont, CA) d. Josh Shea (Cortlandt Manor, NY), 15-7, 8-15, 11-7

3rd Place

Vedant Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) d. Gatlin Sutherland (Great Falls, MT), 15-14, 15-3

Semi-finals

Nikhil Prasad (Fremont, CA) d. Gatlin Sutherland (Great Falls, MT), 15-14, 15-3
Josh Shea (Cortlandt Manor, NY) d. Vedant Chauhan (San Ramon, CA), 15-13, 15-12

Boy's U14 Singles - Final

Eshan Ali (Union City, CA) d. Joseph Marshall (Jackson, TN), 15-7, 15-4

3rd Place

Axel Lopez (Chicago) d. Alexander Pappas (Auburn, CA), 15-9, 15-2

Semi-finals

Joseph Marshall (Jackson, TN) d. Alexander Pappas (Auburn, CA), 15-4, 15-6
Eshan Ali (Union City, CA) d. Axel Lopez (Chicago), 15-7, 15-5

Girl's U18 Singles - Final

Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR) d. Erin Slutzky (Chesterfield, MO), 4-15, 15-8, 11-10

3rd Place

Shane Diaz (San Antonio, TX) d. Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA), 15-7, 15-3

Semi-finals

Annie Roberts (Gresham, OR) d. Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA), 15-7, 15-3
Erin Slutzky (Chesterfield, MO) d. Shane Diaz (San Antonio, TX), 15-8, 15-4

Girl's U16 Singles - Final

Naomi Ros (San Antonio) d. Ava Kaiser (Lake Elmo, MN), 15-5, 15-12

3rd Place

Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) d. Kareena Mathew (Corvallis, OR), 15-12, 15-9

Semi-finals

Naomi Ros (San Antonio) d. Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA), 15-6, 15-3
Ava Kaiser (Lake Elmo, MN) d. Kareena Mathew (Corvallis, OR), 15-9, 15-8

Girl's U14 Singles - Final

Sonya Shetty (Fremont, CA) d. Andrea Perez-Picon (Manteca, CA), 15-10, 15-10

3rd Place

Aanshi Thakur (Tracy, CA) d. Jordan Ellis (Stockton, CA), 10-15, 15-13, 11-8

Semi-finals

Sonya Shetty (Fremont, CA) d. Jordan Ellis (Stockton, CA), 15-6, 15-7
Andrea Perez-Picon (Manteca, CA) d. Aanshi Thakur (Tracy, CA), 15-0, 15-3

Boy's U18 Doubles - Final

Vedant Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) & Josh Shea (Cortlandt Manor, NY) d. Andrew Gleason (Johnston, IA) & Timmy Hansen (Wellington, FL), 15-8, 4-15, 11-8

3rd Place

Iain Dunn (Simi Valley, CA) & Paul Saraceno (Simi Valley, CA) d. Kamahele Britos (Honolulu, HI) & Krish Thakur (Tracy, CA), 15-8, 6-15, 11-9

Semi-finals

Andrew Gleason (Johnston, IA) & Timmy Hansen (Wellington, FL) d. Iain Dunn (Simi Valley, CA) & Paul Saraceno (Simi Valley, CA), 15-8, 15-8
Vedant Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) & Josh Shea (Cortlandt Manor, NY) d. Kamahele Britos (Honolulu, HI) & Krish Thakur (Tracy, CA), 15-4, 15-5

Boy's U16 Doubles - Round Robin

1. Nikhil Prasad (Fremont, CA) & Gatlin Sutherland (Great Falls, MT)
2. Vedant Chauhan (San Ramon, CA) & Josh Shea (Cortlandt Manor, NY)
3. DJ Mendoza (San Antonio) & Paul Saraceno (Simi Valley, CA)
4. Benjamin Horner (Ankeny, IA) & Edwin Miller (St. Louis)
5. Cody Elkins (Los Angeles) & Omar Bawa (Rocklin, CA)

Boy's U14 Doubles - Standings (Round Robin)

1. Eshan Ali (Union City, CA) & Alexander Pappas (Auburn, CA)
2. Juan Herrera II (Freeport, IL) & Axel Lopez (Chicago)
3. Caleb Marshall (Jackson, TN) & Joseph Marshall (Jackson, TN)
4. Riley Edwards (Gresham, OR) & Joshua Tramm (New Brighton, MN)

Girl's U18 Doubles - Final

Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) & Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA) d. Estefania Perez (Manteca, CA) & Erin Slutzky (Chesterfield, MO), 15-13, 6-15, 11-9

3rd Place

Shane Diaz (San Antonio) & Naomi Ros (San Antonio) d. Elena Mathew (Corvallis, OR) & Kareena Mathew (Corvallis, OR), 15-4, 15-9

Semi-finals

Estefania Perez (Manteca, CA) & Erin Slutzky (Chesterfield, MO) d. Elena Mathew (Corvallis, OR) & Kareena Mathew (Corvallis, OR), 15-4, 15-9
Heather Mahoney (Penngrove, CA) & Julia Stein (Murrysville, PA) d. Shane Diaz (San Antonio) & Naomi Ros (San Antonio), 11-15, 15-12, 11-5

Girl's U16 Doubles - Final

Ava Kaiser (Lake Elmo, MN) & Kareena Mathew (Corvallis, OR) d. Arya Cyril (Dublin, CA) & Esha Cyril (Dublin, CA), 15-4, 15-0

3rd Place

Brielle Fernando (Beaverton, OR) & Gabbie Roseman (Des Peres, MO) d. Kyla Davis (Wildwood, MO) & Riley Graven (Wildwood, MO), 15-0, 15-5

Semi-finals

Ava Kaiser (Lake Elmo, MN) & Kareena Mathew (Corvallis, OR) d. Kyla Davis (Wildwood, MO) & Riley Graven (Wildwood, MO), 15-1, 15-1
Arya Cyril (Dublin, CA) & Esha Cyril (Dublin, CA) d. Brielle Fernando (Beaverton, OR) & Gabbie Roseman (Des Peres, MO), 6-15, 15-0, 11-2

Girl's U14 Doubles - Standings (Round Robin)

1. Aarya Shetty (Fremont, CA) & Sonya Shetty (Fremont, CA)
2. Thea Mattfeldt (Glendale, AZ) & Montserrat Torres (Bellwood, IL)
3. Camila Canchola (Stockton, CA) & Jordan Ellis (Stockton, CA)

Follow the bouncing ball….

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Carson & Rajsich win 2021 USA Racquetball Singles Championships

Rhonda Rajsich won Women’s Singles and Rocky Carson won Men’s Singles at the 2021 USA Racquetball (USAR) National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa Sunday. In the women’s final, Rajsich defeated Kelani Lawrence, 15-7, 15-14, to win her 12th USA Singles title, while Carson eked out a win over Alejandro Landa, 15-12, 15-13, for his 8th USA Singles title.

In comparing her 1st win to her 12th, Rajsich said they were similar in that the first was ”a big breakthrough” and this had a breakthrough type feeling after not playing last year because of the COVID pandemic. So, she was grateful to be there on a Sunday, and grateful that she’s earned another spot on Team USA, because it’s an “honor to represent the flag.”

Yet in both games of the women’s final, it seemed like it would go the other way, as Lawrence had big leads. She led 6-1 in game one, which caused Rajsich to call a timeout. Rajsich got a sideout when play resumed and then rolled off 12 unanswered points to lead 13-6, and was able to finish from there, winning game one 15-7.

Again in game two, Lawrence had the early lead at 8-3. But Rasjich came back to tie the game at 9-9. They were close after that with ties at 10-10 and 12-12. Then Lawrence went ahead with two winners that made it 14-12.

But Lawrence couldn’t finish it off. She had two chances to do so, but a great backhand kill shot return by Rajsich eliminated the first one, and a Rajisch forehand winner stopped the second. That opened the door, and Rajsich walked through it with two winners and an backhand error by Lawrence. The match ended on a classic three shot rally: a strong serve, led to a return that gave Rajsich an opportunity, which she took advantage of with a backhand down the line winner.

Lawrence described the match as “a serving game,” and that “Rhonda played amazing,” so “it just wasn’t my day.” Despite the loss, she’s excited to make Team USA, and play at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships later this year. She’s especially happy to do so, because that will give her an opportunity to qualify for the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, as the World Games competition will only have singles play, not doubles, with the IRF Worlds serving as the qualifying event for the 2022 World Games.

In the men’s final, game one was close the entire way. They got to 12-12, and then Carson was able to execute just a little better down the stretch to win it 15-12, getting the last point with a backhand winner.

But Landa was undeterred, as he went out to 5-0 lead in game two, and maintained a lead up to 13-6. Then Carson changed his serve. He was using the hard Z serve to the left - Landa’s backhand - which is his “go to” serve, for much of the match, but in game two was searching for a better alternative. Carson found it when he began to hit lob kiss serves to Landa’s backhand.

He used that serve exclusively from 8-13, and won every rally. It may not be Carson’s favorite serve, but he recognized that it was the most effective one on the day.

Afterwards, Carson said it “feels great” to win his 8th title, although the “first is always great,” but whenever you’re winning it feels good.

However, he didn’t think his performance was always great. It was great at times, but also sloppy at times, according to Carson. But he’s excited to be representing the USA once again, as “it’s the ultimate privilege.”

Watching the action

If you missed any of the action from Des Moines, you can check out the USA Racquetball Facebook page for the National Team matches, and some of the junior play as well. Also, most of the junior matches that were streamed are available on the USA Racquetball Livestream channel, so check that out as well.

2021 USA Racquetball National Championships
Des Moines, Iowa
US National Team Divisions

Men's US Team Singles - Final - Sunday

1) Rocky Carson d. 2) Alejandro Landa, 15-12, 15-13

Women's US Team Singles - Final - Sunday

2) Rhonda Rajsich d. 4) Kelani Lawrence, 15-7, 15-14

Follow the bouncing ball....