Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Planning and financing

Recently, we attended a talk by Istvan Balyi, an imminent sports figure, who spoke in part about the importance of planning for successful completion of athletic goals. He gave the specific example that if there's an event in two years time the plan and budget should be created in the first year, including hiring coaches and managers. He suggested that planning session would be a two day process involving representatives of all the necessary constituencies.

The budget is a concern, of course, as it can dictate what you can do in those two years of preparation. But he stressed that the quality of the planning and the implementation of that plan can drive financial contributions from sponsors.

This makes sense. Consider someone coming to you, as a potential sponsor, and they say either (a) please sponsor our sport, or (b) please sponsor our sport so we can promote it better (for example), or (c) please sponsor our sport so we can promote it better and here's our detailed plan on how we are going to do so. Which of those options are you most likely to support with your money?

Both USA Racquetball (USAR) and Racquetball Canada have embarked on new fundraising efforts, and here's how they're doing so.

USA Racquetball

In a letter "to the Racquetball Players Of America," USAR President Cheryl Kirk and Executive Director James Hiser outlined what the USAR does, including tournament organizing, regulation of rules and regulations, USA National Team administration, facilitating communication within the racquetball community, and some provisions for insurance and risk management.

Moreover, they stated that the USAR has "an aggressive agenda," which includes (a) "working with venues (clubs, universities, YMCAs, etc.) to position and maintain racquetball as a great sport and fitness activity - "Fitness and Fun, Rolled Into One!", (b) "creating and supplying promotional materials for marketing and visibility," and (c) "providing mechanisms (e.g., portable court, TV, on-line broadcasts) to bring the sport to the masses."

To this end, USAR will be increasing their annual membership dues to $50 from $35 as of January 1, 2009, and further ask for "occasional financial contribution[s] to USAR" when possible.

Whether the USAR's plans are detailed enough to convince sponsors and individuals to contribute is an open question. To grow the game, they will need to convince sponsors outside of the sport that it is an activity worth supporting. It's not enough to preach to the choir.

A plan also has to be evaluated, so as to identify what was successful and what wasn't. Doing so will mean some form of measurement. The three items Kirk and Hiser highlighted from their "aggressive agenda" won't be the easiest to evaluate, because they aren't the easiest to measure. How will we know if enough promotional materials were created to make racquetball more visible and marketable? (and how are we going to measure racquetball's visibility and marketablity?) How will we know if enough work has been done with facilities to best position racquetball as "Fitness and Fun, Rolled Into One!"?

Moreover, these are things that aren't completely in the control of USAR. That is, the USAR could work as hard as possible with facilities, but if a facility perceives the wind is blowing more favorably for another sport or activity, then anything the USAR does may be ineffective in changing that facility's opinion.

In short, while the USAR's agenda is aggressive, achieving its goals will be difficult.

Racquetball Canada

Racquetball Canada has embarked on a "Shop and Support" program to raise funds. It is asking its members to purchase gift cards to use for their retail purchases, and a small percentage of the gift cards purchased will go back to Racquetball Canada. Thus, using these cards when shopping for groceries or buying gas, for example, would benefit Racquetball Canada.

However, Racquetball Canada has not issued any planning statement on what they would do with the raised funds or even why they need them. One could speculate on why more funds are needed and what they would be used for, but again would you be more willing to financially support someone just because he or she asks for the money or someone who comes to you with a complete plan - including how they will measure their performance and evaluate the outcome of their plan?

If you were a venture capitalist, sometimes called a dragon, whose venture would you support?

Planning and volunteers

Planning is fundamentally important in any activity, and good plans can encourage contributions both financial and voluntary. Organizations that have clear plans can be more successful in recruiting volunteers, because they will know what to look for in their volunteers and what to ask of or tell potential volunteers.

When someone asks you to do something, isn't your first question going to be "what exactly do you want me to do?" before you decide whether to help or not? If the person has a clear answer for you, then you'll be more likely to help than if they hum and haw about it and don't really seem to know what they want from you.

Planning isn't a lot of fun. We don't imagine that Balyi's suggested two planning days for a two year sport cycle would two fun filled days, as they'd basically be two days of meetings.

However, not doing the necessary planning could mean even less fun down the road, because without adequate planning there are no achievements or progress to our goals.

As is often said, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

TRB's Santa Claus

If The Racquetball Blog was Santa Claus, or had an in with Father Christmas, then these are some of the gifts that some racquetball people would find under their trees on Christmas morning.

To Dave Negrete, Commissioner of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and Shannon Feaster, Commissioner of the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO): major non-racquetball sponsors that would allow them to continue to move forward in developing professional racquetball, especially with broadcasting and webcasting matches to the masses.

To the International Racquetball Federation (IRF): more accurate and timely reporting of matches and tournament outcomes.

To Rocky Carson and Jack Huczek: a strong drive serve that will allow them to be more competitive on Kane Waselenchuk.

To Kane Waselenchuk: wisdom to match his athletic gifts so that he doesn't repeat past mistakes.

To Jason Mannino: good health that will allow him to win another IRT tournament.

To Rhonda Rajsich and Paola Longoria: continued success on the WPRO tour.

To Cheryl Gudinas Holmes and Kerri Wachtel: another tournament win on the WPRO tour.

To Kristen Bellows, Alvaro Beltran, Ben Croft, Angela Grisar, Shane Vanderson, and Mitch Williams: a pro tournament win in '09.

To Veronica Sotomayor: a spot in the semi-finals at a full WPRO tour stop, and a tournament victory in such an event.

To the up and coming IRT and WPRO players: breakout wins that show the big players that they can't be complacent and the rest of us that pro tournaments aren't just about the top few players, but other players can make some noise too.

To Geoff Thomsen of Double Donut Studios: the ability get to some racquetball events, especially the US Open, and take more good pictures.

To all the racquetball companies: strong sales and solid bottom lines especially in these trying economic times.

To all racquetball players: good health for 2009, lots opportunities to play, and some flat roll outs.

Happy Holidays everyone!

From The Racquetball Blog

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Latest Pro Rankings

Both the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) issued new rankings two weeks ago, but with all the World Junior competitions, we haven't reported them here.

There's no change in the IRT rankings, but it does reaffirm that Kane Waselenchuk has made it into the top 8. Thus, he will not have to go through qualifying at the next IRT event, which will be the California Open January 8-11, 2009. That will be followed by the New York City Pro-Am, which will be the following weekend in Syosett, New York (on Long Island).

IRT Rankings (December 8, 2008)

Rank - Pro - Points - Previous Rank

1 - Rocky Carson - 4676 - 1
2 - Jack Huczek - 4421 - 2
3 - Alvaro Beltran - 3379 - 3
4 - Jason Mannino - 3278 - 4
5 - Ben Croft - 2554 - 5
6 - Shane Vanderson - 2513 - 6
7 - Mitch Williams - 2355 - 7
8 - Kane Waselenchuk - 2148 - 8
9 - Chris Crowther - 2100 - 9
10 - Jason Thoerner - 1988 - 10
11 - Juan Herrera - 1421 - 11
12 - Andy Hawthorne - 1414 - 12
13 - Alejandro Herrera - 1218 - 13
14 - Javier Moreno - 1151 - 14
15 - Hiroshi Shimizu - 1088 - 15
16 - Kris Odegard - 975 - 16
17 - Travis Woodbury - 930 - 17
18 - Andres Herrera - 714 - 18
19 - Tony Carson - 597 - 20
20 - Lee Connell - 593 - 19

These WPRO rankings were issued prior to the Christmas Classic in Arlington, Virginia, where Rhonda Rajsich defeated Paola Longoria in the final. That should put Longoria closer to Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, but it seems Longoria will need a few more good results before she can over take Gudinas Holmes for second spot.

Also, Veronica Sotomayor is up two places in these rankings from the November 3 rankings based on her win in the New Jersey Open, where she defeated Aimee Ruiz (also up in these rankings), Doreen Fowler and in the final, Rajsich.

WPRO Rankings (as of December 11, 2008)
Rank - Name - Points

1 - Rhonda Rajsich - 1651.28
2 - Cheryl Gudinas Holmes - 1436.20
3 - Paola Longoria - 804.50
4 - Kerri Wachtel - 770.70
5 - Angela Grisar - 696.50
6 - Kristen Bellows - 584.50
7 - Adrienne Fisher - 426.44
8 - Brenda Kyzer - 387.50
9 - Doreen Fowler - 331.40
10 - Jo Shattuck - 268.25
11 - Veronica Sotomayor - 208.70
12 - Diane Moore - 203.00
13 - Samantha Salas - 201.00
14 - Vivian Gomez - 178.50
15 - Kimi Ferina - 170.58
16 - TJ Baumbaugh - 167.66
17 - Keely Franks - 155.00
18 - Jennifer Saunders - 151.50
19 - Christie Van Hees - 102.00
20 - Candi Hostovich - 88.50

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

IRF : 20th World Juniors - Results Summary

The International Racquetball Federation (IRF) has yet to post the team results from the 20th World Junior Racquetball Championships in Tempe, Arizona. But looking over the medalists in the World Cup divisions - Boys and Girls 14 & under to 18 & under in both singles and doubles - The Racquetball Blog believes that the USA captured team title in both boys and girls, so the overall title as well.

If we're correct, it would be the first time the USA has taken the overall title since 2001. Mexico won it the last six years. The USA won the boys title last year.

Furthermore, we think Bolivia came 2nd in girls and 3rd in boys, with Mexico doing the reverse, and Mexico taking 2nd place overall. That would be Bolivia's highest placing in the girls competition, and the second year they've come 3rd overall.

Here's the medal break down.

USA - 3 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze
Bolivia - 1, 3, 3
Mexico - 2, 1, 1
Canada - 0, 0, 2
Ecuador - 0, 0, 1

USA - 5 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze
Mexico - 1, 4, 2
Bolivia - 0, 0, 4
Canada - 0, 0, 2
Costa Rica - 0, 0, 2
Ecuador - 0, 0, 1

20th World Junior Racquetball Championships
Girls 18 & Under

1. Paola Longoria (Mexico)
2. Jenny Daza (Bolivia)
3. Denise Haynes (Canada) and Sharon Jackson (USA)

Girls 16 & Under

1. Danielle Key (USA)
2. Yazmine Sabja (Bolivia)
3. Aubrey O'brien (USA) and Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador)

Girls 14 & Under

1. Maria Jose Vargas (Bolivia)
2. Courtney Chisholm (USA)
3. Devon Pimentelli (USA) and Adriana Riveros (Bolivia)

Boys 18 & Under

1. Jose Rojas (USA)
2. Erick Sandoval (Mexico)
3. Jose Martinez (Mexico) and Roland Keller (Bolivia)

Boys 16 & Under

1. Alejandro Cardona (Mexico)
2. Bradley Kirch (USA)
3. Carlos Keller (Bolivia) and Taylor Knoth (USA)

Boys 14 & Under

1. Jose Diaz (USA)
2. Marco Rojas (USA)
3. Oscar Arias (Bolivia) and Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico)

Girls 18 & Under Doubles

1. Paola Longoria & Arantza Loredo (Mexico)
2. Shannon Inglesby & Sharon Jackson (USA)
3. Jenny Daza & Ariana Garron (Bolivia) and Christine Richardson & Denise Haynes (Canada)

Girls 16 & Under Doubles

1. Danielle Key & Aubrey O'brien (USA)
2. Daniela Gascon & Jessica Parrilla (Mexico)
3. Yazmine Sabja & Maria Jose Vargas (Bolivia)

Girls 14 & Under Doubles

1. Courtney Chisholm (USA) & Devon Pimentelli (USA)
2. Masiel Rivera & Adriana Riveros (Bolivia)
3. Paola Padilla & Paulina Estrada (Mexico)

Boys 18 & Under Doubles

1. Jose Rojas & Jansen Allen (USA)
2. Erick Sandoval & Jose Martinez (Mexico)
3. Sean Barclay & Mathieu Messier (Canada) and Ignacio Sabate & Javier Melendez (Costa Rica)

Boys 16 & Under Doubles

1. Bradley Kirch & Taylor Knoth (USA)
2. Alejandro Cardona & Pedro Gonzalez (Mexico)
3. Jamie Slamko & Pedro Castro (Canada) and Ismael Zhindon & Juan Pablo Ugalde (Ecuador)

Boys 14 & Under Doubles

1. Marco Rojas and Jose Diaz (USA)
2. Missael Leija & Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico)
3. Oscar Arias & Sebastian Oña (Bolivia) and Andres Acu & Andres Fabian (Costa Rica)

Follow the bouncing ball....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

IRF : 20th World Juniors - Singles Champions

Paola Longoria of Mexico successfully defended her Girls 18 & under title on Saturday at the 20th World Junior Racquetball Championships in Tempe, Arizona by defeating Jenny Daza of Bolivia in the final, 15-6, 15-4. Longoria's win was expected, as she's the third ranked player on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour having won two WPRO tournaments this season including professional racquetball's premier event, the US Open.

American Danielle Key played the role of hometown hero perfectly as she came back from a game down to win the Girls 16 & under title by defeating Yazmine Sabja of Bolivia, 2-15, 15-11, 11-8.

A third Bolivian girl was in a final Saturday, and Maria Jose Vargas made sure Bolivia was not shut out of the gold medals by defeating Courtney Chisholm of the USA, 15-7, 15-11.

Thus, one gold medal went to Mexico, the USA and Bolivia from the girls finals, as well as two silver medals to Bolivia and one to the USA.

Vargas's gold medal is the first for a Bolivian - either boy or girl - in the World Cup (14 & under to 18 & under) singles competition. Bolivians Carlos Keller and Jorge Luis Michel won Boys 14 & doubles last year, and Daza and Sabja won Girls 18 & under doubles.

The boys medals were split between Mexico and the USA. However, the Boys 14 & under final was between two Americans. Jose Diaz caused what might be called a minor upset as he defeated last year's 14 & under champion Marco Rojas, 10-15, 15-11, 11-8.

Mexican Alejandro Cardona won Boys 16 & under after a close match with American Bradley Kirch, 15-14, 11-15, 11-4. It looked like Kirch won game one, when a get by Cardona was called two bounces by the referee. However, the Mexican appealed the call, and the linemen overturned it, leading to Cardona getting the serve back and finishing the game.

Undeterred Kirch won game two with strong drive serves and some backhand errors by Cardona from the deep left corner. However, in the tie-breaker Cardona was making his shots - including a pinch roll-out for the match, and Kirch was uncomfortable returning Cardona's lob serves.

The final in Boys 18 & under went as expected, with American Jose Rojas winning confortably over Erick Sandoval of Mexico, 15-7, 15-9. Sandoval was down 9-4 and 13-6 in the second game, but made a comeback to 13-9. But that's as close as Sandoval got as Rojas finished off the match in which he drove served effectively keeping his opponent off balance.

Thus, the USA and Mexico split both the boys gold and silver medals two to one, respectively.

20th World Junior Racquetball Championships
Girls 18 & Under - Finals

Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. Jenny Daza (Bolivia), 15-6, 15-4

Girls 16 & Under - Finals

Danielle Key (USA) d. Yazmine Sabja (Bolivia), 2-15, 15-11, 11-8

Girls 14 & Under - Finals

Maria Jose Vargas (Bolivia) d. Courtney Chisholm (USA), 15-7, 15-11

Boys 18 & Under - Finals

Jose Rojas (USA) d. Erick Sandoval (Mexico), 15-7, 15-9

Boys 16 & Under - Finals

Alejandro Cardona (Mexico) d. Bradley Kirch (USA), 15-14, 11-15, 11-4

Boys 14 & Under - Finals

Jose Diaz (USA) d. Marco Rojas (USA), 10-15, 15-11, 11-8

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, December 19, 2008

IRF : 20th World Juniors - Semi-finals - Results

There's been a lot of racquetball played over the past five days at the 20th World Junior Racquetball Championships in Tempe, Arizona. Only two players are now left in the draws, as the finals will go on Saturday.

The Racquetball Blog has been highlighting Girls 16 & under but the final match will have two players we haven't highlighted, as Danielle Key of the USA had a great day on Friday. She defeated Canadian Frédérique T. Lambert in the quarters, 15-11, 15-12, then beat top seed Maria Paz Munoz of Ecuador, 15-11, 15-6.

But unlike what we might have thought, it won't meet team-mate Aubrey O'brien in the finals, as Yazmine Sabja of Bolivia defeated her, 15-11, 5-15, 11-8, gaining a measure of revenge for losing to O'brien in the preliminary round, when the 11-8 tie-breaking game went in O'brien's favor.

The Girls 14 & under final is also a Bolivia-USA contest, as Maria Jose Vargas will face Courtney Chisholm Saturday. In the semis, Vargas defeated American Devon Pimentelli, 15-10, 15-9, while Chisholm defeated Adriana Riveros (Bolivia), 15-8, 15-10.

As expected Paola Longoria (Mexico) easily reached the Girls 18 & under final, beating Sharon Jackson of the USA in the semi-finals, 15-2, 15-8. Bolivian Jenny Daza will have the unenviable task of trying to beat Longoria on Saturday, as Daza defeated Canadian Denise Haynes in the other semi-final, 15-9, 15-9.

On the men's side, we'd expected the American boys to be tough, and 4 of the 6 finalists are Americans. In Boys 14 & under, both finalists - Marco Rojas and Jose Diaz - are American. Rojas defeated Daniel De La Rosa of Mexico in one semi-final, 15-10, 15-11, while Diaz won the other by default over Oscar Arias of Bolivia.

We expected Jose Rojas to get to the final of Boys 18 & under, and he has. Erick Sandoval of Mexico will be Rojas's opponent on Saturday. In the semi-finals, Sandoval defeated Bolivian Roland Keller, 15-8, 15-9, ending Keller's good run in the tournament, while Rojas beat Mexican Jose Martinez, 15-5, 15-9.

Finally, Boys 16 & under will also be a Mexico-USA stand-off, as Alejandro Cardona will play Bradley Kirch in the final. Cardona beat American Taylor Knoth, 15-11, 15-5, in one semi-final, while Kirch easily defeated Carlos Keller of Boliva, 15-1, 15-5, in the other.

Thus, Mexico's possible gold medal total will be three at most. We'd pencil in gold for Longoria, but not for Sandoval, with Cardona-Kirch being a toss up. So, Mexico will perhaps get two golds, which would match their total from last year.

It's been a good year for the USA, who will get one gold for sure in Boys 14 & under, and likely another with J. Rojas in Boys 18 & under, as well as chances for gold in three other divisions. Two Americans won gold last year: Jose Rojas in 16 & under, and Marco Rojas in 14 & under.

Girls 18 & Under - semi-finals

Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. Sharon Jackson (USA), 15-2, 15-8
Jenny Daza (Bolivia) d. Denise Haynes (Canada), 15-9, 15-9

Girls 16 & Under - semi-finals

Danielle Key (USA) d. Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador), 15-11, 15-6
Yazmine Sabja (Bolivia) d. Aubrey O'brien (USA), 15-11, 5-15, 11-8

Girls 14 & Under - semi-finals

Courtney Chisholm (USA) d. Adriana Riveros (Bolivia), 15-8, 15-10
Maria Jose Vargas (Bolivia) d. Devon Pimentelli (USA), 15-10, 15-9

Boys 18 & Under - semi-finals

Erick Sandoval (Mexico) d. Roland Keller (Bolivia), 15-8, 15-9
Jose Rojas (USA) d. Jose Martinez (Mexico), 15-5, 15-9

Boys 16 & Under - semi-finals

Alejandro Cardona (Mexico) d. Taylor Knoth (USA), 15-11, 15-5
Bradley Kirch (USA) d. Carlos Keller (Bolivia), 15-1, 15-5

Boys 14 & Under - semi-finals

Marco Rojas (USA) d. Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico), 15-10, 15-11
Jose Diaz (USA) d. Oscar Arias (Bolivia), default

Follow the bouncing ball....

IRF : 20th World Juniors - Quarter final results

As expected the quarter finals have produced some interesting results at the 20th IRF World Junior Racquetball Championships in Tempe, Arizona.

Here's where we're at so far:

Girls 18 & Under - Quarter finals

Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. Ariana Garron (Bolivia), 15-3, 15-4
Sharon Jackson (USA) d. Christine Richardson (Canada), 15-5, 15-11

Jenny Daza (Bolivia) d. Sheryl Lotts (USA), 15-9, 15-6
Denise Haynes (Canada) d. Rocio Enriquez (Mexico), 15-11, 15-12

Girls 16 & Under - Quarter finals

Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador) d. Jessica Parrilla (Mexico), 9-15, 15-13, 11-9
Danielle Key (USA) d. Frédérique T. Lambert (Canada), 15-11, 15-12

Yazmine Sabja (Bolivia) d. Sofia Rascon (Mexico), 15-14, 15-3
Aubrey O'brien (USA) d. Cristina Cordova (Ecuador), 15-5, 15-6

Girls 14 & Under - Quarter finals

Adriana Riveros (Bolivia) d. Michele Morissette (Canada), 15-7, 15-2
Courtney Chisholm (USA) d. Paulina Estrada (Mexico), 15-7, 15-6

Devon Pimentelli (USA) d. Brittany Nelson (Canada), 15-4, 15-2
Maria Jose Vargas (Bolivia) d. Carolina Bockmeulen (Venezuela), 15-7, 14-15, 11-1

Boys 18 & Under - Quarter finals

Erick Sandoval (Mexico) d. Teobaldo Fumero A. (Costa Rica), 15-6, 15-7
Roland Keller (Bolivia) d. Danny Lavely (USA), 15-1, 7-15, 11-7

Jose Martinez (Mexico) d. Felipe Alonso (Costa Rica), 15-11, 8-11, 11-7
Jose Rojas (USA) d. David Echalar (Bolivia), 15-5, 15-3

Boys 16 & Under - Quarter finals

Taylor Knoth (USA) d. Pedro Castro (Canada), 15-6, 3-0 - injury default
Alejandro Cardona (Mexico) d. Marcelo Lora (Bolivia), 15-11, 15-4

Bradley Kirch (USA) d. Pedro Gonzalez (Mexico), 15-2, 15-13
Carlos Keller (Bolivia) d. Jamie Slamko (Canada), 15-5, 1-15, 11-6

Boys 14 & Under - Quarter finals

Marco Rojas (USA) d. Samuel Murray (Canada), 14-15, 15-14, 11-8
Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico) d. Sebastian Oña (Bolivia), 15-5, 15-3

Jose Diaz (USA) d. Rodrigo Garay (Mexico), 15-9, 3-15, 11-8
Oscar Arias (Bolivia) d. Andres Fabian (Costa Rica), "5, 15, 3"*

* as indicated on the R2Sports.com site

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

IRF : 20th World Juniors - Elimination rounds begin

The first day of the elimination rounds produced mostly expected results on Thursday at the 20th World Junior Racquetball Championships in Tempe, Arizona. But there were some unexpected results, so we'll highlight those below.

In Boys 18 & under, the two Bolivian players got to the quarter finals despite being lower seeds. Roland Keller and David Echalar will be playing on Friday. But they'll be in tough. Keller, the 11th seed, will face American Danny Lavely, the 3rd seed. Perhaps a glimmer of hope for Keller is that Lavely's win in the Round of 16 over Luis Perez of the Dominican Republic was close with Lavely taking it 15-11, 15-14.

Echalar's quarter finals opponent will be the division favorite and second seed, Jose Rojas of the USA, who defeated Dayan Yamin of Venezuela, 15-0, 15-4.

Boys 16 & under went as expected with the top 8 seeds making the quarter finals.

But in Boys 14 & under Andres Fabian of Costa Rica won twice to make the quarter finals on Friday, when he'll play second seed Oscar Arias of Bolivia. Fabian defeated Edwin Galicia (Guatemala), 15-11, 15-2 in the first round, and then Carlos Barrios (Nicaragua), 15-11, 15-14, in the Round of 16.

The results in the girls divisions were as expected in the 18 & under and 16 & under divisions, although there was somewhat of a surprise in the 14 & under division. Arieth Maldonado, the second Mexican player, lost, and lost by a wide margin to Venezuelan Carolina Bockmeulen, 15-4, 15-7. Thus, Paulina Estrada is the only remaining Mexican player in that division.

We've been highlighting the Girls 16 & under draw, so here's the quarter final matches in that division.

Girls 16 & Under - Quarter finals

Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador) v. Jessica Parrilla (Mexico)
Danielle Key (USA) v. Frédérique T. Lambert (Canada)

Sofia Rascon (Mexico) v. Yazmine Sabja (Bolivia)
Aubrey O'brien (USA) v. Cristina Cordova (Ecuador)

Those should all be good matches. They are all scheduled for 10:45 AM Friday Arizona time, with the winners to face off in the semi-finals at 5:20 PM Arizona time on Friday afternoon.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

IRF : 20th World Junior Championships - Elimination Round Seedings

The preliminary rounds ended Wednesday at the 20th World Junior Racquetball Championships in Tempe, Arizona, so the seedings for the elimination round have been determined based on the results of three days of preliminary matches. The seedings are below.

Two things of note. One, seedings are based on results in the preliminary round groupings, but those groupings were based on how countries have done in past World Junior Championships. Hence, Jose Rojas of the USA is the second seed in Boys 18 & under because he was in the second group based partly on an American (in this case Rojas himself) finishing second in Boys 18 & under last year.

A Mexican, Ruben Estrada, won Boys 18 & under last year, so this year's top Mexican player - Erick Sandoval - was put in group 1, and as Sandoval won that group, he is the top seed in the elimination round draw. However, Rojas has a higher ranking on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) than Sandoval, so if they were in an IRT event, Rojas would be the higher seed.

Second, there is a rule that players from the same country can't play against each other in their first elimination round game. Denise Haynes (Canada) is the second seed in Girls 18 & under, but Sharon Jackson (USA) beat her in the preliminary round and won the group 2 of that division. However, if Haynes was seeded 6th, she would play fellow Canadian Christine Richardson in their first elimination round game on Thursday. Instead, it'll be Jackson against Richardson.

That doesn't sound bad necessarily, but it puts Jackson on the top half of the draw with Mexican Paola Longoria, the top seed, so Jackson will have to play Longoria - the heavy favorite to win the division - in the semi-finals (assuming they both get that far) rather than in the finals, which she'd be on track to do as second seed (again assuming they both got that far). Bit of hard luck that.

By the by, Girls 16 & under is proving to be the competitive division The Racquetball Blog thought it would be, as there was a three way tie in group 1 of that division between Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador), Jessica Parrilla (Mexico) and Frédérique T. Lambert (Canada). Munoz beat Lambert; Lambert beat Parrilla; Parrilla beat Munoz. No other group in the six World Cup divisions had a three way tie.

Also in Girls 16 & under, Aubery O'brien (USA) needed a tie-breaker against Yazmine Sabja (Bolivia) to finish top of group 2, ahead of Sabja. Finally, Sofia Rascon (Mexico) won group 3, but needed tie-breakers against both Cristina Cordova (Ecuador) and Brigitte Richard (Canada). Only Danielle Key (USA) finished first in her group (number 4) without losing a game.

The elimination round begins on Thursday and runs through Saturday.

Remember: play is being streamed over the web at www.globall.tv.

Girl's 18 & Under
1. Paola Longoria - Mexico
2. Denise Haynes - Canada
3. Jenny Daza - Bolivia
4. Christine Richardson - Canada

Boy's 18 & Under
1. Erick Sandoval - Mexico
2. Jose Rojas - USA
3. Jose Martinez - Mexico
4. Danny Lavely - USA

Girl's 16 & Under
1. Maria Paz Munoz - Ecuador
2. Aubrey O'brien - USA
3. Sofia Rascon - Mexico
4. Danielle Key - USA

Boy's 16 & Under
1. Taylor Knoth - USA
2. Carlos Keller - Bolivia
3. Bradley Kirch - USA
4. Marcelo Lora - Bolivia

Girl's 14 & Under
1. Michele Morissette - Canada
2. Maria Jose Vargas - Bolivia
3. Brittany Nelson - Canada
4. Courtney Chisholm - USA

Boy's 14 & Under
1. Marco Rojas - USA
2. Oscar Arias - Bolivia
3. Jose Diaz - USA
4. Sebastian Oña - Bolivia

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Juniors who have been Seniors

Some of the players in the 20th International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Racquetball Championships now going on in Tempe, Arizona on the campus of Arizona State University have already represented their country at senior IRF competitions.

Paola Longoria, playing in her last World Juniors, has already worn Mexico colours at five international competitions playing singles in each. She's been in three Pan American Championships (2006-2008), winning gold in 2006 and 2008, as well as two World Championships, in 2006 and 2008.

But Longoria isn't the only junior player to represent her country multiple times. Indeed like Longoria, Maria Paz Munoz has also represented her country of Ecuador five times: in singles at the 2006 and 2008 World Championships, and in both singles and doubles in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Pan American Championships.

Jenny Daza has played for Bolivia in four competitions. She played doubles in the 2006 World Championships, and both singles and doubles in the 2008 World Championships, as well as the 2007 and 2008 Pan American Championships.

Ecuadorians Juan Diego Rodriguez and Jose Daniel Ugalde have both represented Ecuador three times each. Rodriguez was at the 2007 and 2008 Pan Ams and 2008 Worlds, playing doubles each time. Ugalde played doubles in the 2007 and 2008 Pan Ams and singles also in the 2007 Pan Ams as well as in the 2008 World Championships.

Naomi Sasso of Costa Rica and Islhey Mariana Paredes of Venezuela have also represented their respective countries three times. Sasso played both singles and doubles at the 2007 and 2008 Pan American Championships and the 2008 World Championships. Paredes played doubles at last year's Pan American Championships and both singles and doubles at this year's Pan Ams and World Championships.

Carolina Bockmeulen of Venezuela played doubles in the 2008 Pan American Championships and singles in the 2007 Pan American Championships.

Cristina Cordova of Ecuador played singles in both the 2008 World Championships and 2008 Pan Americans as did Bolivian Yazmine Sabja.

Both Honduran Raul Banegas and Venezuelan Roberto Santander played doubles in the 2007 Pan American Championships.

Other juniors playing for their country at this year's World Championships in Ireland include Nawoo Kim of South Korea (doubles), Eithne Skehan of Ireland (singles), and Roland Keller of Bolivia (doubles).

Other junior players who have represented their country are American Jose Rojas, who played singles in 2008 Pan American Championships in Costa Rica. Also, in Costa Rica was Canadian Frédérique T. Lambert who played doubles with veteran Josée Grand'Maître, a player then more than three times Lambert's age.

The World Junior Championships is a big stage, but despite being only teenagers, some of the players in Tempe have already been on even bigger stages.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, December 15, 2008

IRF : 20th Annual World Junior Championships Begins

Play in the 20th International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Racquetball Championships began today in Tempe, Arizona on the campus of Arizona State University. Two hundred and seventy nine players from 17 countries are competing in both singles and doubles divisions. Seventy four players are from the USA, 44 from Mexico, 31 from Canada, 29 from Bolivia, and 26 from Costa Rica.

The competition begins with three days of preliminary matches with the results producing seedings for an elimination round that will begin on Thursday and run through Saturday.

Play is being streamed over the web at www.globall.tv.

More Mexican Gold?

Mexico has dominated World Juniors in recent years. Over the past 5 years, Mexicans have won most of the gold medals in each of the three World Cup divisions - 18 & under, 16 & under, and 14 & under for both boys and girls with the exception of Girls 14 & under, which has gone twice to Mexicans, twice to Canadians and once to an Ecuadorian.

Overall, 18 of the 30 gold medals in those divisions have been won by Mexicans with 8 going to Americans, and 2 each to Canadians and Ecuadorians, so it's no surprise that Mexico has won the team competitions in each of the last five years with the USA coming second each time and Canada third each year except for last year when Bolivia was third and Canada fourth.

Mexico wasn't quite as dominant last year as in previous years, as they won gold in only the 18 & under Boys and Girls divisions, Ruben Estrada and Paola Longoria, respectively. Gold in the Boys 16 & under and 14 & under went to Americans Jose Rojas and Marco Rojas, respectively, while Maria Paz Munoz of Ecuador took gold in Girls 16 & under and Frédérique T. Lambert of Canada won the Girls 14 & under title.

Who'll Win?

It's difficult to know who specifically is going to come out on top from one year to the next in junior competitions, as junior players can change dramatically in a year. But the following are some ideas based on previous results.

One safe bet should be Longoria to defend her Girls 18 & under title. It's difficult to see anyone beating her, as she's the #3 player in the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) rankings having won two WPRO tournaments this season and been a finalist in two others.

Girls 16 & under could be one of the more hotly contested divisions, as Munoz is back to defend her title, but she'll have to beat out Lambert, who has moved up to that division, and American Aubrey O'brien, who reached the final of Women's Open at this year's US Open.

Boys 18 & under features three top 75 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) players, including last year's 16 & under champion, Jose Rojas, who's #29 on the IRT. His main competition should come from fellow American Danny Lavely (IRT #53) and Mexican Erick Sandoval (IRT #74).

Americans Bradley Kirch (IRT #64) and Taylor Knoth (IRT #70) should be the players to beat in Boys 16 & under with Mexican Alejandro Cardona (IRT #108) offering the strongest competition.

The 14 & under division may be the most uncertain, so we're hesitant to say anything about what will happen there. However, last year's Boys 14 & under champion Marco Rojas has a chance to defend his title.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

WPRO : Rajsich wins Christmas Classic

Rhonda Rajsich reinforced her place at the top of women's racquetball on Sunday with a victory at the Christmas Classic, a Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) Tier 1 event in Alexandria, Virginia. It's her third title of the season, but the first since September.

Rajsich defeated third seed Paola Longoria in the final, 4-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-7.

Longoria had won the last two WPRO main events, defeating Rajsich in one of them. Also, Rajsich had lost in the finals of two recent WPRO satellite events, so Rajsich was 0 for 4 after winning six WPRO events in a row going back to last season.

But with the win in Virginia, Rajsich is back on track.

There is now a long break on the WPRO schedule, as the next Tier 1 event is the Great Balls of Fire tournament at the end of February in Miami, Florida. There are two satellite events in January.

2008 Christmas Classic
Arlington, Virginia


(1) Rhonda Rajsich d. (3) Paola Longoria, 4-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-7

Follow the bouncing ball....

WPRO : Christmas Classic Quarters and Semis

For the third time this season, #1 Rhonda Rajsich and #3 Paola Longoria will meet in the final of a Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) Tier 1 event. This time it's the Christmas Classic title on the line in Alexandria, Virginia.

Rajsich had the tougher time getting there, as she was pushed to 5 games in the semi-finals by fourth seed Kerri Wachtel. Rajsich won the first two games, but couldn't finish the match until game 5, making the final score 11-7, 11-3, 5-11, 8-11, 11-5.

Longoria won her semi-final match against #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes in three straight games, 11-1, 11-5, 11-7, although she did drop a game to Adrienne Fisher in the quarter finals, winning 11-4, 6-11, 11-2, 11-4.

Also in the quarter finals Gudinas Holmes continued her success against the teen phenom Veronica Sotomayor beating her in three straight games, 11-4, 11-9, 11-5.

Rajsich and Longoria have split their previous two meetings this season with Rajsich winning in Tijuana, Mexico and Longoria winning in Edmonton, Canada.

2008 Christmas Classic
Arlington, Virginia

Quarter finals

(1) Rhonda Rajsich d. (9) Jo Shattuck, 11-5, 11-3, 11-2
(4) Kerri Wachtel d. (5) Kristen Bellows, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5

(3) Paola Longoria d. (6) Adrienne Fisher, 11-4, 6-11, 11-2, 11-4
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. (10) Veronica Sotomayor, 11-4, 11-9, 11-5

Semi finals

(1) Rhonda Rajsich d. (4) Kerri Wachtel, 11-7, 11-3, 5-11, 8-11, 11-5
(3) Paola Longoria d. (2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, 11-1, 11-5, 11-7


(1) Rhonda Rajsich v. (3) Paola Longoria

Follow the bouncing ball....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

WPRO : Christmas Classic Round of 16 results

All the top seeds made it comfortably through the Round of 16 at the Christmas Classic, a Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) Tier 1 event, in Arlington, Virginia, as #1 Rhonda Rajsich, #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes and #3 Paola Longoria won their matches in three straight games.

But #10 Veronica Sotomayor continued to defeat higher seeds, as she beat #7 Brenda Kyzer in a five game match, 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 10-12, 11-3. She'll face Gudinas Holmes on Saturday morning in the quarter finals.

Also, Jo Shattuck seeded 9th upset 8th seed Doreen Fowler, 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 11-9.

2008 Christmas Classic
Arlington, Virginia

Round of 16

(1) Rhonda Rajsich d. (16) Krystal Csuk, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6
(9) Jo Shattuck d. (8) Doreen Fowler, 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 11-9

(5) Kristen Bellows d. (12) Vivian Gomez, 11-1, 11-1, 11-1
(4) Kerri Wachtel d. (13) T.J. Baumbaugh, 11-1, 7-11, 11-6, 11-2

(3) Paola Longoria d. (14) Keely Franks, 11-3, 11-8, 11-2
(6) Adrienne Fisher d. (11) Diane Moore, 11-2, 6-11, 11-9, 15-13

(10) Veronica Sotomayor d. (7) Brenda Kyzer, 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 10-12, 11-3
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. (15) Jen Saunders, 11-1, 11-6, 11-3

Quarter finals

(1) Rhonda Rajsich v. (9) Jo Shattuck
(4) Kerri Wachtel v. (5) Kristen Bellows

(3) Paola Longoria v. (6) Adrienne Fisher
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes v. (10) Veronica Sotomayor

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, December 12, 2008

WPRO : Christmas Classic Round 1 results

All of the higher seeded players won in three straight games in the first round of the Christmas Classic, a Women's Professional Racquetball Organization Tier 1 event, in Arlington, Virginia.

The Round of 16 is being played later on Friday.

2008 Christmas Classic
Arlington, Virginia
First round (seeding)

(16) Krystal Csuk d. (17) Laura Brandt, 11-4, 11-7, 11-4
(13) T.J. Baumbaugh d. (20) Kelley Fields, 11-4, 12-10, 11-4
(14) Keely Franks d. (19) Yolanda Jordan, 11-3, 11-8, 11-2
(15) Jen Saunders d. (18) Dolly Watson, 11-3, 11-2, 11-3

Round of 16

(1) Rhonda Rajsich v. (16) Krystal Csuk
(8) Doreen Fowler v. (9) Jo Shattuck

(5) Kristen Bellows v. (12) Vivian Gomez
(4) Kerri Wachtel v. (13) T.J. Baumbaugh

(3) Paola Longoria v. (14) Keely Franks
(6) Adrienne Fisher v. (11) Diane Moore

(7) Brenda Kyzer v. (10) Veronica Sotomayor
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes v. (15) Jen Saunders

Follow the bouncing ball....

WPRO : Christmas Classic Prediction

The Christmas Classic, the last event of the year on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization's (WPRO's) schedule, run by fabulous tournament director Karen Denu begins today in Arlington, Virginia. Time for The Racquetball Blog to predict the winner. Which player will have a very merry Christmas?

The hot racquet is being held by Paola Longoria, who's won the last two WPRO Tier 1 tournaments in Memphis and Edmonton, so perhaps she's the obvious choice. TRB readers seem to think so.

But Longoria's not the WPRO's #1 player or even #2. Those players are Rhonda Rajsich and Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, respectively. We've picked against the top seed before, and it hasn't really worked for us.

Moreover, Rajsich should be motivated by her recent shock loss to Veronica Sotomayor, another up and coming player, in the final of the New Jersey Open. Top players don't like losing. That's one of the reasons they are top players. And their rare losses are motivation for working even harder to ensure that never happens again. Never. Again.

Yet the up and comers have time on their side. A lot of time. Rajsich, 30, is giving up over a decade to Longoria, 19, and Sotomayor, 16, and Gudinas Holmes at 41 is giving up more than two decades.

Nevertheless, we gotta pick someone, so we picking Rhonda Rajsich to bring her athleticism, unorthodox serving style and determination to Virginia and ruin everyone else's Christmas. Longoria will have to console herself with a World Junior Championship next week.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WPRO : Christmas Classic Draw

The Women's Professional Racquetball Organization's (WPRO's) Christmas Classic in Arlington, Virginia goes this weekend, and it's the last major pro stop of the calendar year.

The main question is can Paola Longoria continue her win streak? She's won the last two WPRO Tier 1 tournaments - the US Open in Memphis and the Canadian Classic in Edmonton, which has moved her up the rankings. However, she's still only ranked third, so potentially she'll have to beat beat both #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes and #1 Rhonda Rajsich to win in Arlington.

This season Longoria's 3-0 versus Gudinas Holmes and 1-1 versus Rajsich.

If Gudinas Holmes is going to play Longoria, she'll have to get to the semi-finals, which could be a tall task, as her potential quarter final match is against teen phenom Veronica Sotomayor. Gudinas Holmes has beaten Sotomayor in their two previous matches this season, but in four games each time. And since their last meeting in the US Open, Sotomayor defeated Rajisch, which must be a big boost to the young player's confidence.

Thus, the two Latin teenagers, 19 year old Longoria from Mexico, and 16 year old Sotomayor from Ecuador, will be the players to watch in Virginia.

You can make your choice for who'll win in Arlington by clicking on a selection in the right side bar. The Racquetball Blog will make its prediction later in the week.

Here's the complete Christmas Classic draw with seedings.

2008 Christmas Classic
Arlington, Virginia
First round (seeding)

(16) Krystal Csuk v. (17) Laura Brandt
(13) T.J. Baumbaugh v. (20) Kelley Fields
(14) Keely Franks v. (19) Yolanda Jordan
(15) Jen Saunders v. (18) Dolly Watson

Round of 16

(1) Rhonda Rajsich v. winner of (16) Krystal Csuk v. (17) Laura Brandt
(8) Doreen Fowler v. (9) Jo Shattuck

(5) Kristen Bellows v. (12) Vivian Gomez
(4) Kerri Wachtel v. winner of (13) T.J. Baumbaugh v. (20) Kelley Fields

(3) Paola Longoria v. winner of (14) Keely Franks v. (19) Yolanda Jordan
(6) Adrienne Fisher v. (11) Diane Moore

(7) Brenda Kyzer v. (10) Veronica Sotomayor
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes v. winner of (15) Jen Saunders v. (18) Dolly Watson

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, December 8, 2008

IRT : 18th Turkey Shootout - RESULTS

Alvaro Beltran won this past weekend's 18th Turkey Shootout in Garden City, Kansas, a Tier 3 event on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), defeating Shane Vanderson in three games in the final, 11-5, 12-10, 11-7. The Racquetball Blog has the full results from Garden City below.

Alex Landa had the big upset of the weekend, as he defeated Ben Croft in the quarter finals, 11-4, 10-12, 12-10, 13-11. There's 29 ranks between Landa, who's #34 on the IRT, and Croft at #5, so this is one of the biggest upsets of the season.

Beltran and Vanderson teamed up to take the doubles title. They beat Croft and Mitch Williams in that final, 1-11, 11-7, 11-7, 14-12.

18th Turkey Shootout, Garden City, Kansas
First Round - (IRT rank)

(3) Alvaro Beltran - BYE
(45) Bradly Rogers d. (46) Felipe Camacho, 11-9, 7-11, 7-11, 11-5, 11-7

(20) Anthony Carson d. (299) Jorge Luis Michel, 11-1, 11-1, 11-1
(7) Mitch Williams d. (338) John Cole, 11-3, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3

(6) Shane Vanderson d. (-) Roland Keller, 11-8, 11-5, 11-3
(21) Anthony Herrera d. (96) Kadim Carrasco, 11-6, 11-5, 6-11, 11-2

(34) Alex Landa d. (89) Tony Jammal, 11-3, 11-3, 11-4
(5) Ben Croft d. (-) Scott Wolford, 11-6, 11-4, 11-3

Quarter finals - (IRT rank)

(3) Alvaro Beltran d. (45) Bradly Rogers, 11-5, 11-4, 11-7
(7) Mitch Williams d. (20) Anthony Carson, 11-3, 11-3, 11-5

(6) Shane Vanderson d. (21) Anthony Herrera, 11-2, 2-11, 11-9, 11-8
(34) Alex Landa d. (5) Ben Croft, 11-4, 10-12, 12-10, 13-11

Semi finals - (IRT rank)

(3) Alvaro Beltran d. (7) Mitch Williams, 11-3, 5-11, 11-7, 11-5
(6) Shane Vanderson d. (34) Alex Landa, 11-1, 10-12, 11-8, 11-0

Finals - (IRT rank)

(3) Alvaro Beltran d. (6) Shane Vanderson, 11-5, 12-10, 11-7

Doubles Results

First round

Landa & Camacho d. Cole & Wolford - 11-5, 11-4, 11-9
Herrera & Carson d. Keller & Carrasco - 11-9, 11-5, 11-4


Beltran & Vanderson d. Landa & Camacho - 3-11, 11-4, 11-8, 12-10
Williams & Croft d. Herrera & Carson - 11-4, 12-10, 11-1, 11-8


Beltran & Vanderson d. Williams & Croft - 1-11, 11-7, 11-7, 14-12

Note: Thanks to Tournament Director Stacy Crase for providing the full results to The Racquetball Blog

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

IRT : 18th Turkey Shootout

It'll a busy weekend for racquetball if the R2Sports.com site is any indication, as there are 26 tournaments listed for this weekend. They'll be competing in Tempe, Arizona, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Heidelberg, Germany to name only three.

The 18th Turkey Shootout in Garden City, Kansas is this week's professional racquetball event. It's a Tier 3 event on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). There are 15 players in the draw, including four top 8 players - Alvaro Beltran, Ben Croft, Shane Vanderson, and Mitch Williams.

Here's what The Racquetball Blog anticipates the draw to be based on the players' IRT rankings:

Draw (anticipated) - (IRT rank)

(3) Alvaro Beltran - BYE
(45) Bradly Rogers v. (46) Felipe Camacho

(20) Anthony Carson v. (299) Jorge Luis Michel
(7) Mitch Williams v. (338) John Cole

(6) Shane Vanderson v. (-) Roland Keller or (-) Scott Wolford
(21) Anthony Herrera v. (96) Kadim Carrasco

(34) Alex Landa v. (89) Tony Jammal
(5) Ben Croft v. (-) Roland Keller or (-) Scott Wolford

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Huczek & Ashaway Agreement Extended

Today, Ashaway Racket Strings announced their sponsorship of Jack Huczek, the #2 player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and three time World Champion, will be extended for two years. Ashaway has sponsored Huczek, who'll be 26 next month, for 11 years.

In the current economic climate, when some other sports figures have had their sponsorships ended, this is a very positive sign for both Huczek and racquetball. The agreement focuses on Huczek's use of the Ashaway Superkill® II string and the signature Jack Huczek/AMPS 311M racquetball shoes.

Furthermore, Huczek, with his MBA degree now in hand, wants "to develop my skills on the business side of the sport, and one of the best ways I can do that is to work more closely with my sponsors. Ashaway has been very supportive of my goals, and I'm looking forward to getting even more involved."

Ashaway Racket Strings are made by Ashaway Line & Twine Mfg. Co., the only U.S. manufacturer of string for squash, tennis, racquetball, and badminton. Operated by the Crandall family since 1824, Ashaway has been making racquet strings since 1949. In addition to racquet string, Ashaway Line & Twine Mfg. Co. also makes braided products for medical and industrial applications.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'Tis the season

We are in the holiday season, so you might be hearing those familiar tunes on the radio ("Fa la la la la, la la la laaaaaa") and in the shops. You might be wondering what to get your favorite racquetball player this season. The Racquetball Blog has some suggestions.

We suggest getting them a book from Human Kinetics, one of the largest - if not the largest - publishers of sports material in the world. Moreover, they have published two good racquetball books in recent years.

Racquetball Fundamentals is by Jim Winterton, a many time coach of the US National racquetball team as well as coaching the Mexican and Ireland Nationals teams.

New for 2008 is Racquetball - Steps to Success by Dennis Fisher, coach of the Brigham Young University racquetball team.

Going back to 1996, Human Kinetics also published Ed Turner and Woody Clouse's book Winning Racquetball - Skills, Drills, and Strategies.

In addition to these books, Human Kinetics has books covering all athletic topics, including strength & conditioning, fitness, wellness & exercise, sport & exercise science, recreation and coaching.

Moreover, if you order one of these books through The Racquetball Blog by clicking on the links above, you'll be supporting The Racquetball Blog and all our good works. And that would make our holiday season all the more merrier.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Going back 30 years

There's no pro tournaments going on this weekend, so The Racquetball Blog is looking back 30 years to the Jack In The Box tournament in St. Louis, Missouri that was the first event on the '78-'79 Colgate Tour. It was a remarkable event, as both men's and women's professionals were there (so it could be called a Grand Slam event), yet neither the top men's or women's seed won the event.

The men's winner was Steve Strandemo, who was seeded 16th, as he'd been out of action most of the previous season with kidney problems. It was Strandemo's first win in almost four years with his previous win coming in Sunnyvale, California in January, 1975.

Strandemo had a shocking upset of #1 seed Marty Hogan in the Round of 16. Hogan's loss marked the first time he had not been to the finals in over two years. They split the first two games, and Strandemo was up 5-0 when Hogan was charged with a technical following a collision in center court, making the score 5 to -1. Hogan did come back, but Strandemo held on and won the tie-breaker and match, 17-21, 21-13, 11-8.

Strandemo said his next match against Craig McCoy was the toughest mentally, because it would have been easy to let down after beating Hogan. But Strandemo believed "in order for the win over Hogan to mean anything, I had to go all the way," so he worked hard and made it happen, winning 19-21, 21-18, 11-4.

Strandemo then defeated Richard Wagner in the semis, 21-14, 21-13, to set up a final against Jerry Hilecher. The final went to a tie-breaker, and Hilecher was up 8-6. However, Strandemo was able to come back with four straight points. Hilecher stalled him at 10, but was unable to score any points himself, so Strandemo won it, 21-7, 12-21, 11-8.

On the women's side, fourth seed Jennifer Harding was the winner, defeating Peggy Steding in the final, 21-6, 21-14. In the semis, Harding beat reigning US Champion Shannon Wright, 21-18, 21-16, avenging a lop-sided loss in the Nationals final a few months earlier.

1978 JACK IN THE BOX, St. Louis
Men's Pro

Quarter finals
Steve Strandemo d. Craig McCoy, 19-21, 21-18, 11-4
Richard Wagner d. Dennis McDowell, 21-8, 21-8
Jerry Hilecher d. Mike Yellen, 21-11, 21-14
Davey Bledsoe d. Charlie Brumfield, 21-19, 21-19

Semi finals
Steve Strandemo d. Richard Wagner, 21-14, 21-13
Jerry Hilecher d. Davey Bledsoe, 21-5, 21-8

Steve Strandemo d. Jerry Hilecher, 21-7, 12-21, 11-8

Women's Pro

Quarter finals
Shannon Wright d. Kathy Williams, 21-13, 21-13
Jennifer Harding d. Martha McDonald, 21-11, 21-7
Peggy Steding d. Sarah Green, 21-4, 20-21, 11-7
Karin Walton d. Janell Marriott, 18-21, 21-12, 11-6

Semi finals
Jennifer Harding d. Shannon Wright, 21-18, 21-16
Peggy Steding d. Karin Walton, 21-16, 21-9

Jennifer Harding d. Peggy Steding, 21-6, 21-14

Source: National Racquetball, Vol. 6, No. 12, December 1978, p. 68-77.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

WPRO: New Jersey Open Results

First our apologies to the loyal readers of The Racquetball Blog. We were off this weekend slaying dragons, not entirely successfully, so incommunicado.

However, we have returned, and find that Veronica Sotomayor slayed some dragons of her own at the New Jersey Open - a satellite event on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour. She won the title defeating three major players along the way.

Sotomayor began with the quarter final match TRB anticipated against reigning doubles World Champion Aimee Ruiz. Sotomayor won in four games, including an 11-0 turn (third) game. The score line was 11-5, 9-11, 11-0, 11-4.

Then in the semi-finals, Sotomayor made short work of WPRO #9 Doreen Fowler, winning in three straight games 11-4, 11-1, 11-4.

Rhonda Rajsich, the top women's player in the world, was on the other side of the draw. She got to the final by defeating Karen Morton, 10-12, 11-0, 11-6, 11-2.

But in the final, it was Sotomayor who came out on top, winning 11-8, 11-5, 10-12, 11-9. At 16, Sotomayor may be the youngest player to win a WPRO event, although this was not a WPRO main event.

For Rajsich, it's the fourth consecutive event - two main events (Canadian Classic & US Open) and two satellite events (Long Island Open, New Jersey Open) that she has failed to win after winning six WPRO main events in a row. Rajsich lost to Paola Longoria in the final of the Canadian Classic, and to Brenda Kyzer in the quarter finals of the US Open, as well as in the final of the Long Island Open to Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, in addition to Sunday's loss.

Thus, Rajsich is often getting to the finals, but has not been coming out on the winning end of late.

Men's action

The men's open draw of the New Jersey Open wasn't an International Racquetball Tour (IRT) event, but it did feature some ranked IRT players and a surprising finalist.

Nick Montalbano was the surprising finalist, as he's only #168 on the latest IRT rankings. But he reached the final by defeating Jason Sylvester (IRT #28) in the quarters, 15-6, 15-10, and Bradley Kirch (#64) in the semi-finals, 15-8, 8-15, 11-8. However, Montalbano's luck ran out as he lost the final to the legend, Ruben Gonzalez, 15-8, 15-4.

New Jersey Open - Women's Pro

Quarter finals

Doreen Fowler d. Christina Vandling, 11-4, 11-2, 11-8
Veronica Sotomayor d. Aimee Ruiz, 11-5, 9-11, 11-0, 11-4
Karen Morton d. Dolly Watson, 11-2, 11-5, 11-2
Rhonda Rajsich - BYE

Semi finals

Rhonda Rajsich d. Karen Morton, 10-12, 11-0, 11-6, 11-2
Veronica Sotomayor d. Doreen Fowler, 11-4, 11-1, 11-4


Veronica Sotomayor d. Rhonda Rajsich, 11-8, 11-5, 10-12, 11-9

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How do I rank thee? Let me count the ways.

The new International Racquetball Tour (IRT) rankings that we posted here yesterday are now on their website also. The IRT, like the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) and the professional tennis tours, use players' performances over a one year period to create the rankings, so there are some results from this season and some from last season included to produce players' current ranking.

It's one way of ranking players, but it's not the only way. And it penalizes players for not playing a lot, as they earn points each time they participate in a tournament. That's good if you want to reward participation, but bad if you want to accurately rank players on their performance.

Thus, players who haven't played many tournaments in the past 12 months are lower ranked than perhaps they should be. On the men's side, Kane Waselenchuk and Javier Moreno may be examples of this, while Christie Van Hees and Aimee Ruiz could be examples on the women's side.

If you wanted a snapshot of players' performances in this IRT season (as the PGA does with their money list rankings), you could track players from the start of the season, which is what The Racquetball Blog did, and the result is below. We assigned points for how many players were left in the draw when a player's run ended, so if a player won a tournament, then 1 point was assigned. Losing in the finals was 2 pts, in the semis 4, and so on. The last round of qualifying was 32 points, with the second last qualifying round being 64, etc. Thus, fewer points are better.

We then divided the number of points by the number of events that player has played to create a mean per event. That mean was used to rank the players.

Also, we only used the Tier 1 IRT events. Here's the result.

RankPlayer Points EventsMean
1Kane Waselenchuk441.00
2Jack Huczek2163.50
3Rocky Carson2764.50
4Jason Mannino2454.80
5Alvaro Beltran3065.00
6Ben Croft5268.67
7Mitch Williams5669.33
8Shane Vanderson60610.00
9Jason Thoerner64610.67
10Javier Moreno24212.00
11Chris Crowther88614.67
12Greg Thomas16116.00
13Andreas Herrera32216.00
14Tony Carson32216.00
15Juan Herrera96519.20
16Kris Odegard80420.00
17Hiroshi Shimizu80420.00
18Alejandro Herrera80420.00
19Andy Hawthorne128621.33
20Jose Rojas48224.00
21Agustin Tristan48224.00
22Tim Landeryou48224.00
23Polo Gutierrez80326.67
24Travis Woodbury160626.67

Thus, Kane Waselenchuk is the number 1 player using this method, and Jack Huczek is ahead of Rocky Carson, which isn't the case on the current IRT list. And some other players, like Moreno, Tony Carson, Jose Rojas and Agustin Tristan, are higher here than on the IRT list.

There are caveats with this method also, of course. Greg Thomas is number 12, which probably isn't accurate, as he's only played one event - the Canadian Classic, where he made the main draw due to a default by Chris Crowther in the last round of qualifying. Results from one event - or even two or three - isn't a solid basis for a ranking.

Waselenchuk is #1 on the USA Racquetball rankings. USA Racquetball and Racquetball Canada use a process that tracks players' best wins, and moves players up when they have beaten two players ahead of them. That is, if a player ranked 200 beats players ranked 170 and 150 in a tournament, that player will be moved up to 170 (the 170 ranked player will then be 171). This method is explained on the USA Racquetball web site, and was devised by Usher Barnoff, Racquetball Canada's President.

There can be problems with that process also. For example, in tennis Guillermo Canas defeated Roger Federer in back to back tournaments in early 2007, when Federer was #1, so under this process Canas would have become #1, which probably would not have been accurate. He was #55 when he beat Federer the second time at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

Nevertheless, the best win method is good for ranking a lot of players, when not all of the players play each other (certainly difficult with any sizable group), and many of them are not playing very often.

Whether one method is more accurate than another is debatable, as it's difficult to make accurate assessments of athletic performance in general, and especially so when there's little data.

But it's fun to do!

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

IRT's Latest Rankings

Dave Negrete, Commissioner of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), told The Racquetball Blog that he's having some trouble updating the IRT web site. But he was able to provide TRB with the latest IRT Top 50 that includes last weekend's Juarez Open as well as the Tier 3 and 4 events that took place the weekend before.

Here they are:

2008-2009 Season - Current IRT Rankings
As of November 17, 2008

RankProPointsPrevious RankSeason To Date RankSeason To Date PointsSeason To Date Best

1CARSON, ROCKY46761120562056
2HUCZEK, JACK44212319201920
3BELTRAN, ALVARO33793416621662
4MANNINO, JASON32784513951395
5CROFT, BEN25546712771277
6VANDERSON, SHANE25135613091309
7WILLIAMS, MITCH23557812321232
8WASELENCHUK, KANE21489220292029
9CROWTHER, CHRIS21001010867867
10THOERNER, JASON19888912131213
11HERRERA, JUAN14211212593593
12HAWTHORNE, ANDY14141111677677
13HERRERA, ALEJANDRO12181413519519
14MORENO, JAVIER11511518352352
15SHIMIZU, HIROSHI10881314461461
16ODEGARD, KRIS9751615454454
17WOODBURY, TRAVIS9301716428428
18HERRERA, ANDRES7141822278278
19CONNELL, LEE5931919326326
20CARSON, TONY5782017413413
21HERRERA, ANTHONY D.5212226224224
22GONZALEZ, RUBEN5102136109109
23MEJIA, GILBERTO4542731147147
24SWAIN, CLIFF4522524243243
25GREEN, MIKE4322634110110
26FILIPPINI, RAFAEL4302325226226
27GUTIERREZ, POLO3262420326326
28SYLVESTER, JASON317281241313
29ROJAS, JOSE2953121295295
30MINOR, KEITH2953223262262
31SIMPSON, BRIAN29233594545
32BURGESS, MICHAEL2423633120120
33LANDERYOU, TIM2332929176176
34LANDA, ALEJANDRO2233027223223
35ORR, MIKE22038429393
36TRISTAN, AGUSTIN2054028181181
39GAGNON, VINCENT1534330153153
40PRATT, CHARLIE14837664040
41OTTO, TYLER1384535109109
42LANDA, ARMANDO13110732131131
43GANIM, DOUG13139439090
44CASE, DAN12048673838
45ROGERS, BRADLEY1194940100100
46CAMACHO, FELIPE11663468383
47ZELADA, MAURICIO11246477979
48STAMBORSKI, MATT10947506868
50MANZURI, SHAI10754487474

Of note, Kane Waselenchuk has moved up to 8th in the rankings despite not playing in Juarez. The IRT rankings work on a 12 month schedule, so players can drop points if they do not earn points to replace what they did 52 weeks ago. Thus, Jason Thoerner dropped from 2164 points in the October 27, 2008 IRT rankings to 1988 points now.

Being 8th means that Waselenchuk will be put into the main draw (16 players) at the next IRT Tier 1 event - assuming no ranking changes before then. Thus, Waselenchuk will not have to play any qualifying round matches to make the main draw, or Round of 16.

However, Waselenchuk fell to 2nd in the season to date ranking, as Rocky Carson's victory in Juarez moved him ahead of Waselenchuk for points this season.

Ben Croft's move up to 5th is also notable, as TRB believes this is his highest ranking ever.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WPRO: New Jersey Open

There's a small draw at this weekend's New Jersey Open - a satellite event on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour, but it features two top 10 players: WPRO #1 Rhonda Rajsich and WPRO #9 Doreen Fowler.

In addition, Veronica Sotomayor, one of the most exciting WPRO players this season, will also be in New Jersey. Sotomayor, the WPRO's 13th ranked player, is the 16 year old player from Ecuador who defeated Christie Van Hees at the Canadian Classic last month and won games from WPRO #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes at both the Canadian Classic and the US Open.

Here's what The Racquetball Blog expects the draw to be:

Quarter finals (WPRO ranking)

(1) Rhonda Rajsich v. BYE
(9) Doreen Fowler v. (-) Christina Vandling
(13) Veronica Sotomayor v. (54) Aimee Ruiz
(28) Karen Morton v. (53) Dolly Watson

A Sotomayor-Ruiz match would be something to see. Ruiz, a strong left handed player, would be a new challenge for Sotomayor. Ruiz's ranking at #54 doesn't accurately reflect her quality as she generally only plays a few tournaments in the New Jersey/New York City area. But she is the reigning two time World Champion in doubles.

Note, in making up this draw The Racquetball Blog is using the WPRO rankings on their website, which doesn't include the Long Island Open results, where Ruiz had a win over Sheryl Lotts to make the semis. That win might put Ruiz ahead of Watson in the rankings, as they are so close; Ruiz has 14.27 points and Watson has 14.80 points.

If so, then Ruiz and Watson would flip places in the above layout, and a potential Sotomayor-Ruiz match would have to wait for the semis.

Women's Participation

Although the women's pro draw is small, the New Jersey Open is a sizable tournament with 135 players registered. However, only 23 of them (17.0%) are women (note: this count examined the women's singles and doubles draws as well as mixed). Women's participation in racquetball is really something that needs to be addressed by racquetball organizations.

Of course, tournament participation is only a small part of racquetball play, and women may be less likely to participate in tournaments. However, if women only make up 15-20% of all racquetball players, then there's a lot of work to do.

We know we've mentioned this before, but it's a topic that bears repeating. Let's get more women playing, and more elite level women. As players like Rajsich and Sotomayor demonstrate women's racquetball can be as great to watch as men's.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open Final Results

Rocky Carson, the #1 player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), won the Juarez Open Sunday, defeating Jack Huczek, the IRT's #2 player, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6 in the final. This is Carson's first win of the season in a Tier 1 event.

Carson won a Tier 3 event, the Shawn Hyatt Excavating Shootout, last weekend in Yakima, Washington.

There's now a long break from Tier 1 IRT competitions, as the next one will be the California Open, January 8-11, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

Juarez Open - Final (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. (2) Jack Huczek, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6

Follow the bouncing ball....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open Semi Final Results

The top seeds have risen to the top at the Juarez Open on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), as Rocky Carson, the IRT's #1 player, will meet #2, Jack Huczek in the final on Sunday.

Carson defeated Jason Mannino in one semi-final, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3, while Jack Huczek took out surprise semi-finalist Ben Croft, 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 11-2.

It's the second time Carson and Huczek have played this season. Huczek beat Carson in the final of the Canadian Classic in Edmonton, Alberta in October. But Carson did defeat Huczek to win the International Racquetball Federation World Championship played in Kingscourt, Ireland this past August.

Semi Finals (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. (4) Jason Mannino, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3
(2) Jack Huczek d. (6) Ben Croft, 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 11-2

Finals (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson v. (2) Jack Huczek

Follow the bouncing ball....

IRT : Juarez Open Early Results - UPDATED

Two things that we were looking for happened Friday at the Juarez Open, the current stop on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). For one, The Racquetball Blog (TRB) thought the first round match up of Shane Vanderson and Javier Moreno would be a good one, and it did not disappoint. They went the full five games with Moreno upsetting Vanderson, 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 11-13, 11-9.

That win put Moreno into the quarter finals against Jason Mannino, who beat Armando Landa, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6 in the 16s. Mannino defeated Moreno in four games, 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7.

Ben Croft put together one of those break through victories the TRB was also looking for, as he beat Alvaro Beltran in three straight games, 13-11, 11-5, 11-9, to reach the semis for the first time this season.

Also in the semis, are the top two seeds: #1 Rocky Carson, who defeated Chris Crowther in their quarter final match, and #2 Jack Huczek, who defeated Mitch Williams. Both Carson and Huczek won their matches in four games.

Round of 16 (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. Gil Mejia, 11-4, 11-5, 11-8
Chris Crowther d. (8) Jason Thoerner, 14-12, 11-1, 10-12, 11-6

Javier Moreno d. (5) Shane Vanderson, 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 11-13, 11-9
(4) Jason Mannino v. Armando Landa, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6

(3) Alvaro Beltran d. Andreas Herrera, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5
(6) Ben Croft d. Juan Herrera, 11-9, 11-6, 11-7

(7) Mitch Williams d. Andy Hawthorne, 13-15, 11-4, 11-7, 9-11 [sic]*
(2) Jack Huczek d. Ruben Estrada, 6-11, 11-2, 11-3, 11-9

Quarter finals (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. Chris Crowther, 6-11, 11-0, 11-7, 11-7
(4) Jason Mannino d. Javier Moreno, 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7

(6) Ben Croft d. (3) Alvaro Beltran, 13-11, 11-5, 11-9
(2) Jack Huczek d. (7) Mitch Williams, 11-5, 8-11, 11-1, 11-2

Semi Finals (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson v. (4) Jason Mannino
(2) Jack Huczek v. (6) Ben Croft

*Note: only 4 game scores are reported on the IRT site.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, November 14, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open Main Draw

It seems there were some other absences at the The International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) Juarez Open in Juarez, Mexico, as five of the eight first round qualifying matches were won by forfeit. What's up with that? These are other absences because as we noted yesterday, Kane Waselenchuk has passed on another IRT Tier 1 event, as he's not in Juarez this weekend. Word is family commitments have led to Waselenchuk missing this weekend.

Qualifying Results

There were three upsets in the second round of qualifying. Armando Landa, ranked 139th, defeated IRT #17 Travis Woodbury in three straight games, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6. Also, Ruben Estrada, ranked 66th, beat #22 Anthony Herrera in a five game match where he lost the first two games before coming back to win, 3-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5.

The third upset was a minor one, as #27 Gilberto Mejia of Mexico - winner of the recent IRT event in Chihuahua, Mexico where he defeated Chris Crowther in the final - won a close match with countryman and #25 ranked Polo Gutierrez, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11.

Thus, the Round of 16 is all set. Maybe the most interesting match up will be Shane Vanderson versus Mexican leftie Javier Moreno. And there's another installment in the Jason Thoerner/Chris Crowther series, which Thoerner has dominated this season winning all three of their meetings.

Qualifying Draw Results

First Round

Alejandro Cardona d. Brian Zachery, fft
Eric Sandavol d. Jesus Jasso, 11-4, 8-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-8
Gil De Los Rios d. Miguel Ladera, fft
Eduardo Avila d. Pedro Gonzalez, fft
Armando Landa d. Alberto De La Rosa, fft
Felipe Camacho d. Rey Gutierrez, 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-7
Ruben Estrada d. Oliver Moreno, fft
Gil Mejia d. Manuel Villareal, 11-1, 11-4, 11-0

Second Round

Q1: Chris Crowther d. Alejandro Cardona, 5-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-7
Q2: Andy Hawthorne d. Eric Sandavol, 11-6, 11-5, 11-1
Q3: Juan Herrera d. Gil De Los Rios, 4-11, 11-2, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9
Q4: Javier Moreno d. Eduardo Avila, 11-1, 11-4, 11-1
Q5: Armando Landa d. Travis Woodbury, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6
Q6: Andreas Herrera d. Felipe Camacho, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5
Q7: Ruben Estrada d. Anthony Herrera, 3-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5
Q8: Gil Mejia d. Polo Gutierrez, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11

Main Draw - Round of 16 (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson v. Gil Mejia
(8) Jason Thoerner v. Chris Crowther

(5) Shane Vanderson v. Javier Moreno
(4) Jason Mannino v. Armando Landa

(3) Alvaro Beltran v. Andreas Herrera
(6) Ben Croft v. Juan Herrera

(7) Mitch Williams v. Andy Hawthorne
(2) Jack Huczek v. Ruben Estrada

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open qualifying draw

The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) has posted the draws for this weekend's Juarez Open in Juarez, Mexico, just across the US-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas.

The draws are listed below, and the first thing you might notice is that Kane Waselenchuk is not there. He was listed on the Juarez Open website as having registered, as was Hiroshi Shimizu, but neither is in the draw.

This is the second tournament that Waselenchuk has passed on in his return to the IRT after his two year ban. He's won all the tournaments he has entered, so it's surprising that he's not playing some.

Waselenchuk has stated that he wants to be ranked #1 at the end of the season (he's currently #9), and that the way to ensure that he is would be to win all the tournaments, something that's never been done. However, he's already failed to win all the tournaments, as Waselenchuk was not at the Canadian Classic (ironically, held in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta).

There was much speculation as to why Waselenchuk passed on the Edmonton event. Some of that focussing on the fact that Edmonton was the site of his positive drug test in 2006 at the Canadian National Championships, which led to his 2 year ban from the sport.

However, with Waselenchuk missing this weekend's event one wonders if there's something about out of USA events that is a problem for him. Distance shouldn't have been a concern this weekend, as Waselenchuk resides in Texas.

It's puzzling.

Wrong before it begins

Moreover, it's thrown our prediction of Waselenchuk winning this weekend out the window! That's what we're really concerned about! Ah well, it will make for an interesting tournament, as the door is thrown open to the field to take the title.

So, will Alvaro Beltran win his first IRT Tier I event? Will Mitch Williams - or Shane Vanderson or Ben Croft - get the breakthrough wins that would show they are taking their level of play up a notch? Will Jason Mannino work his magic once again? Will Rocky Carson have recovered from the pasting he received from Waselenchuk at the US Open? Will Jack Huczek come through and win the title in Waselenchuk's absence as he did in Edmonton?

Yes, there are many questions arising from Waselenchuk's absence. But perhaps no question is greater than why is he absent?

Qualifying Draw

Q1: Chris Crowther v. winner of Alejandro Cardona v. Brian Zachery
Q2: Andy Hawthorne v. winner of Eric Sandavol v. Jesus Jasso
Q3: Juan Herrera v. winner of Miguel Ladera v. Gil De Los Rios
Q4: Javier Moreno v. winner of Eduardo Avila v. Pedro Gonzalez
Q5: Travis Woodbury v. winner of Alberto De La Rosa v. Armando Landa
Q6: Andreas Herrera v. winner of Felipe Camacho v. Rey Gutierrez
Q7: Anthony Herrera v. winner of Ruben Estrada v. Oliver Moreno
Q8: Polo Gutierrez v. winner of Gil Mejia v. Manuel Villareal

Main Draw - Round of 16 (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson v. Q8
(8) Jason Thoerner v. Q1

(5) Shane Vanderson v. Q4
(4) Jason Mannino v. Q5

(3) Alvaro Beltran v. Q6
(6) Ben Croft v. Q3

(7) Mitch Williams v. Q2
(2) Jack Huczek v. Q7

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This week's winner will be....

Kane Waselenchuk has won all the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events that he has entered this season. Thus, picking him to win this weekend's Juarez Open seems like a no brainer.

We here at The Racquetball Blog could overthink this though, as Mexican Alvaro Beltran, one of our favorites to defeat Waselenchuk, will be playing on home soil. It would be great to see Beltran win his first Tier 1 event in Mexico.

(note: on the Boss Consulting IRT stats site, it lists Beltran as winning a pro stop in McLean, Virginia in 2002. However, Boss informs TRB that "the courts were so wet [at the tournament] that the top pros all got together and voted to split the points evenly for the event so that nobody would get hurt badly while competing for the title" so Beltran has "never won a pro stop that was competitively played.")

But Waselenchuk has to be the heavy favorite for Juarez, and given our unflattering record at selecting tournament winners so far this season, we're not going to go against a heavy favorite.

At least not this time.

You can make your prediction on the right side of the blog. Make sure to vote before Friday morning.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest we forget

Ninety years ago today the armistice ending World War I was declared (on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918). It's Veteran's Day in the United States, Remembrance Day in Canada, as well as a holiday in France.

So today, The Racquetball Blog honours those who have served their countries in military service.

One way to honour the military is to read about war to help understand what is involved and how decisions on going to war get made. Human Smoke is a recent book by Nicholson Baker that we recommend to TRB readers. Its subtitle is The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.

Baker's taken clips from many primary sources, often the New York Times, and laid them out in chronological order leading up to the outbreak of World War II showing what the mood was in many parts of the world and how that led to the war.

Rarely more than a page in length each, the clips are so compelling in relating the events of the time that few, if any, are aware of now. Baker rarely editorializes, as the clips speak for themselves. Some examples include the reports that the German generals were not in favour of going to war. It was Hitler who forced them down that path. Such was the generals' opposition that there was a plot to remove Hitler from power in 1939, prior to any military action.

That plot fell through, of course, but the mind boggles at the thought of it succeeding, given the hindsight of what actually happened.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Results of a busy, busy weekend

A busy, busy racquetball weekend ended yesterday with five International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events and one Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) event concluding. Of the five IRT events, one was a Tier 3 and the others were Tier 4, while one of those events was also a WPRO satellite event. First the Tier 3 event.

33rd New Mexico Invitational

The Tier 3 event was the 33rd New Mexico Invitational Pro Am Racquetball Championships in Albuquerque. IRT #3, Alvaro Beltran defeated IRT #7 Mitch Williams in a four game final, 12-10, 1-11, 11-9, 11-7. In the semis, Beltran defeated fellow Mexican Polo Gutierrez, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6, while Williams beat Rafael Filippini, 11-3, 11-9, 11-9.

Here are the complete results from the men's pro division courtesy Tournament Director Gary Mazaroff:

Round of 32
Dave Solomon def Alvin Archuleta, 11-7, 11-5, 11-10
Jesse Harden def Dustin Webster, 11-8, 11-3, 9-11, 12-10
Chad Whitehead def Robert Lee, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7
Ken Cheshire def Andrew Clarke, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5

Round of 16
Alvaro Beltran def Dave Solomon, 11-3, 11-4, 11-8
Armando Landa def Eduardo Avila, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8
Alejandro Landa def Erick Sandoval, 11-7, 11-7, 12-14, 11-2
Polo Gutierrez def Jesse Harden, 11-3, 11-3, 11-1
Rafael Filippini def Chad Whitehead, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-1, 11-5
Ray Maestas def Felipe Camacho, 11-5, 5-11, 11-2, 11-5
Matt Melster def Jose Ramos, Win by default
Mitch Williams def Ken Cheshire, 11-1, 11-6, 11-4

Quarter Finals
Alvaro Beltran def Armando Landa, 11-6, 11-3, 11-7
Polo Gutierrez def Alejandro Landa, 11-1, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5
Rafael Filippini def Ray Maestas, Win by default
Mitch Williams def Matt Melster, 11-1, 11-0, 12-10

Semi Finals
Alvaro Beltran def Polo Gutierrez, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6
Mitch Williams def Rafael Filippini, 11-3, 11-9, 11-9

Alvaro Beltran def Mitch Williams, 12-10, 1-11, 11-9, 11-7

Tier 4 Events

Jason Thoerner was in three finals at the Long Island Open, but he only won those in which he had help. That is, he won men's and mixed doubles, with Ruben Gonzalez (defeating Sanjay Laforest & Shane Wood in the final) and Aimee Ruiz (beating Andy Hawthorne & Rhonda Rajsich in that final), respectively, but lost the men's singles final to Andy Hawthorne, which was an upset as Hawthorne (IRT #11) was second seed and Thoerner (IRT #8) was first seed.

On the women's side of the Long Island Open, a similar thing happened, as WPRO #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes upset WPRO #1 Rhonda Rajsich in the final.

There were upsets in the semis and finals at the Sunset Turkey Shoot in Portland, Oregon. In the semis, third seed Charles Pratt defeated top seed Chadd Westwood and fourth seed Christopher Barton took out second seed Jimmy Lowe, 15-10, 15-10. Then in the final, Barton beat Pratt, 15-13, 10-15, 11-5.* Barton also won the doubles event with partner Nick Baida.

The Shawn Hyatt Excavating Shootout in Yakima, Washington went pretty much according to form, as Rocky Carson, IRT #1, defeated Ben Croft (IRT #6) in the final, 12-10, 12-10, 11-6. In the semis, Carson defeated fourth seeded Jason Samora, 11-8, 11-2, 11-1, and Croft took out third seed Jose Rojas, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4.

Finally, Chris Crowther, IRT #10 and top seed, defeated second seed Greg Solis in the final of the Pomona Valley Open in California.

* Note: only two or three scores are reported for the draw of the Sunset Turkey Shoot on the R2Sports site, so we're assuming the matches were 2 games to 15 and tiebreaker to 11 rather than the IRT match standard of best of five games each to 11.

Follow the bouncing ball....