Friday, September 28, 2018

USA Racquetball hires Mike Wedel as its new Executive Director

USA Racquetball (USAR) announced Mike Wedel will be their new Executive Director. This follows the surprise dismissal of previous Executive Director Jason Thoerner in the early summer under circumstances that are still unclear, but led to a story in USA Today, and somehow involved the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

The level of concern was such that USA Racquetball issued a letter to its members in late July to calm the nerves stating they “acted … professionally and responsibly in the best interests of USA Racquetball, our members, and our sport” in dismissing Thoerner. It also indicated that a wide net was being cast for the next Executive Director.

Two months later, Wedel is hired. He’s from Kansas, and has over 20 years of experience in racquetball at various levels, including as president of the Kansas Racquetball Association. Wedel is also a former USA Racquetball board member.

He replaces Thoerner who had over 20 years of experience in racquetball, and was a USA Racquetball board member at the time he was hired. See the difference between Wedel and Thoerner? We don’t either.

That is, those looking for a signal that USA Racquetball was interested in moving in a new direction, and willing to make bold decisions going forward did not get that signal from Wedel’s hire. You can contrast this hire with that of Racquetball Canada, who hired a new Executive Director earlier this year. They chose Donna Harris, a woman with no racquetball experience, but with extensive experience in sport as an athlete, coach, and administrator with Athletics Canada.

But the status quo seems more important to USA Racquetball, and that’s reflected in the comments of Scott Fish, a USA Racquetball board member who was on the search committee that hired Wedel. Fish said “When we evaluated the … applicants, it became clear that knowledge of our sport, our community, and our culture was vitally important.”

We don’t know who else applied, of course, although USA Racquetball says that dozens did so. Wedel may well be a good hire, but an Executive Director is an employee, who is directed by the Board of Directors. That is, Wedel may have great ideas and look to change things up, but if the Board isn’t on board - so to speak - with his ideas, then they won’t be implemented.

Thus, as good as Wedel may be, he shouldn’t be viewed as a knight riding in to save the day.

Where is USA Racquetball going?

The question is what USA Racquetball is going to do moving forward. Racquetball is a small sport, although bigger in the USA than any other country. Getting attention for a small sport is difficult. The internet has made attention getting somewhat easier than in the past with opportunities for live streaming and social media, but it can still be a struggle.

It can also be a struggle for a national sport organization (NSO) to have an impact at a local level, especially in a country as large as the USA. That’s doubly so when the NSO is small, like USA Racquetball.

One of the biggest impacts USA Racquetball has is holding the US Open Racquetball Championships, which is the largest racquetball tournament in the world. We are less than a week away from the start of the 2018 US Open that kicks off next Wednesday in Minneapolis. The US Open is in its 23rd year, and Doug Ganim has run the tournament for all 23 years, which is an incredible run.

Running the US Open is a big job, and it’s a major USA Racquetball event, which undoubtedly generates a lot of revenue for them. If Ganim was to step away from running the US Open, which you have to think will happen sooner or later - and probably sooner than later given we’re 23 years into the run, who is going to be the next US Open Tournament Director? Arguably filling that position will be a more important hire than that of Executive Director.

But that’s for the future. In the near term, we’re looking forward to another US Open that will undoubtedly yield some great racquetball.

Follow the bouncing ball….

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Carson defeats Murray to win 2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am

Rocky Carson, the #1 player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), won the first tournament of the 2018-19 season as he defeated Samuel Murray, 15-7, 15-12, in the final of the MWRA Pro-Am in Laurel, Maryland. The win is Carson’s 26th pro title. In contrast, Murray was playing in his first final.

With 26 wins on tour, Carson has the 6th most wins in tour history. He’s three back of Jack Huczek’s 29.

Carson and Murray were close early in both games, and Murray even had a lead each game. He led 6-5 in game one, and 9-5 in game two. But in his 21st year on tour, there’s not much Carson hasn’t seen, few challenges he hasn’t overcome. And Saturday Carson was able to overcome Murray’s challenge.

After being down 6-5 in game one, Carson scored 10 points while holding Murray to 1 point. The game ended when Murray skipped a forehand pinch shot.

Game two was tighter, as they were tied at 2, 3, 4 and 5 before Murray pulled away to lead 9-5. Carson caught up at 9-9, and again they tied at 10 and 11.

Then Carson, who is not known for unconventional shots, hit a backhand winner while sprawling out just behind the service box on the left side of the court. It was fortunate that he was able to reach the ball, but given the opportunity Carson made the most of it. Capitalizing on opportunities is what separates champions from the rest, and that made difference in the final. That shot gave Carson a 12-11 lead, and he maintained that lead to the end of the game.

Murray skipped a shot to make it 13-11 for Carson, which led to Murray calling a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Carson hit a forehand cross court to set up his first match point at 14-11. He drove serve to the left on the next rally, and Murray returned it with a backhand pinch shot winner to keep the match alive.

Murray hit another winner to get within two at 14-12. But Carson took the serve back on the next rally with a forehand pinch shot. On his second match point, Carson hit a drive jam serve to the left side, and it comes around to the right side, where Murray caught up with it and hit it cross court. Then Carson hit a backhand kill shot to end the game and match.

Carson got to the final with a win over 4th seed Sebastian Franco, 15-8, 15-12, while Murray upset 2nd seed Alejandro Landa, 15-8, 9-15, 11-7.

In the Murray-Landa semi-final, games one and two started in the same way: Landa got a lead at 5-1, and then Murray came back to tie it at 5-5. But from that point in game one, Murray took the lead and Landa couldn’t catch up, while in game two the reverse happened, which set up the tie-breaker.

In the breaker, Murray needed to have a better start, and he did, as he went up 3-0. Landa came back to 3-3, and they tied again at 6-6, but the end game was all Murray. He went up 8-6, and got to match point at 10-7.

Landa called a timeout at that point to try to derail Murray’s momentum. When play resumed Murray got an opportunity on the right side, and some of The Racquetball Blog staff thought he was going to pinch it, which is a shot he likes. But to our surprise - and perhaps Landa’s - Murray hit a solid down the line shot that Landa could only get his racquet on but not hit effectively.

With the win, Murray reached his first final. He had been in the semi-finals four times previously, so the fifth time was the charm for the man from Québec, Canada.

Upcoming on the IRT schedule there is a Tier 4 event in Colombia, and a Tier 3 in Mexico. Then the World 3 Wallball Championships happen in Las Vegas, September 26-30. Those events lead up to the premier professional racquetball event of the season: the 2018 US Open in Minneapolis, October 3-7. If you missed any of this weekend’s action check out the IRT Network, the IRT Facebook page or the IRT YouTube channel.

2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am, September 13-15, 2018
Laurel, Maryland

Final - Saturday

1) Rocky Carson d. 6) Samuel Murray, 15-7, 15-12

Semi-finals - Saturday

1) Rocky Carson d. 4) Sebastian Franco, 15-8, 15-12
6) Samuel Murray d. 2) Alejandro Landa, 15-8, 9-15, 11-7

Follow the bouncing ball….

Friday, September 14, 2018

Quarterfinals at 2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am

Top seed Rocky Carson, the #1 player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), squeaked through his quarterfinal match versus Andree Parrilla at the MWRA Pro-Am in Laurel, Maryland, winning 15-9, 14-15, 11-10. Carson will play 4th seed Sebastian Franco, who was a straight game winner over Adam Manilla, 15-9, 15-4, in the quarters.

In the middle of the second game, it looked like Carson was going to win in two relatively comfortable games, as he led 14-6 after winning the first game. That is, Parrilla looked to be dead, and if not buried, at least had a few shovelfuls of dirt on him.

But he kept plugging away, and fought off Carson’s first match point with a backhand pinch return. Parrilla put up a couple of points before a Carson forehand switched the servers. But again Parrilla hit a backhand winner to deny Carson his second match point. Two more points for Parrilla, including a great backhand pinch shot, and Carson called a timeout with the score 14-10 in his favour.

That timeout didn’t stop Parrilla, as he hit two more backhand winners to make it 14-12. Carson skipped a backhand serve return off a drive Z serve to the left, which was the serve Parrilla used to create his comeback, and the score was 14-13.

On the next serve - another drive Z to the left, Carson hit a backhand return winner, which set up his third match point. Parrilla denied that Carson that opportunity with a great backhand pinch shot. Carson then gave Parrilla a game point chance after skipping a forehand pinch shot.

In the next rally, Parrilla had an opportunity to hit a backhand down the line, but instead went cross court with it. It came off the back wall, and Carson hit a pinch winner into the front right corner to earn his fourth match point.

However, four was not the charm for Carson, as he drove a jam serve to the left that came out into the middle so Parrilla could hit a forehand winner back to the left side. With his second game point, Parrilla changed the serve up, and drove it to the right side, where Carson skipped a forehand return sending the match to a tie-breaker.

In the breaker, they were close through out the game. Six rallies got them to 2-2, but after 14 more rallies the score had only progressed to 5-3 with Parrilla leading, and seeming to have some momentum. On the next rally Carson hit a forehand shot from around the service box to the left side. It was called a skip, but Carson appealed it. Because of the proximity of Carson to the front wall there wasn’t a lot to see on the replay, but it was enough that the referee overturned his call, which meant a sideout to Carson, who was serving at 3-5 rather than Parrilla serving at 6-3.

That call shifted the momentum from Parrilla to Carson, who scored four points before Parrilla called a time out with Carson leading 7-5. Carson maintained the lead to 9-6, when Parrilla got the serve back with a pinch backhand return off a drive Z left.

Parrilla took advantage to win the next four points with three winners and a penalty hinder call against Carson, and that put Parrilla on his first match point at 10-9. He had a good chance to win it, as Carson put a ball into the middle of the court, which Parrilla was right there to make a solid backhand cross court winner with. However, Parrilla skipped it. The only explanation we have for that was that the ball came a bit close to Carson, which may have caused a slight hesitation by Parrilla and put his swing timing off.

He didn’t get a second chance.

Carson hit a forehand shot to win the next rally to make it 10-10, and then won it on his fifth match point with a forehand pinch shot after Parrilla had made two dives to keep the rally going.

Second seed Alejandro Landa is also through to the semi-finals after defeating 7th seed Jansen Allen, 15-12, 15-3. Allen had a substantial lead in game one at 10-2, but Landa worked his way back, and tied the game at 10-10. Allen didn’t have a response for Landa’s run, and after winning game one, Landa cruised through game two.

Samuel Murray will be Landa’s opponent in the semi-finals, as Murray defeated Thomas Carter, 15-2, 15-11. After being rolled in game one, Carter had a good response in game two, which was close right to the end, when Murray was able to put together to close out the game and match.

Landa and Murray are no strangers to each other, as they have played doubles together on several occasions. In fact, they have played more IRT doubles matches with each other than with any other partner.

The semi-finals will be Saturday morning at 11 AM and noon, and look for the action at the IRT Network, or the IRT Facebook page. The final will be Saturday at 7 PM. All times Eastern.

2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am, September 13-15, 2018
Laurel, Maryland

Quarterfinals - Friday

1) Rocky Carson d. Andree Parrilla, 15-8, 14-15, 11-10
4) Sebastian Franco d. Adam Manilla, 15-9, 15-4

6) Samuel Murray d. Thomas Carter, 15-2, 15-11
2) Alejandro Landa d. 7) Jansen Allen, 15-12, 15-3

Semi-finals - Saturday

1) Rocky Carson v. 4) Sebastian Franco - Noon
6) Samuel Murray v. 2) Alejandro Landa - 11 AM

Follow the bouncing ball….

Manilla & Parrilla into Round of 16 at 2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am

A few matches into the Round of 16 at the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) MWRA Pro-Am in Laurel, Maryland, and it was going well for the higher seeds, but then the script flipped with the last two matches. Adam Manilla squeaked out an upset win over 5th seed Mario Mercado, 15-13, 9-15, 11-10. And in the battle of 8 & 9 seeds, Andree Parrilla defeated 8th seed David Horn, 15-11, 15-9, in what was a rematch of the Shamrock Shootout final from earlier this year.

Parrilla faces IRT #1 Rocky Carson in the quarterfinals later today, as Carson made short work of Gerardo Franco, 15-4, 15-0. To be fair there was a bit of a difference in experience between Carson, who is now playing his 21st year on the IRT, and Franco, who wasn’t alive when Carson began playing the IRT.

Manilla will play 4th seed Sebastian Franco, who defeated Andres Acuña, 15-13, 15-7.

IRT #2 Alejandro Landa also won in straight games, as he defeated a solid player in Nick Montalbano, 15-7, 15-3. Next up for Landa will be 7th seed Jansen Allen, who needed a tie-breaker to fend off the challenge from Jose Diaz, 15-4, 11-15, 11-5.

Samuel Murray came out on top in a heavyweight match up with Jake Bredenbeck, who looked slimmed down, which should help him over the course of the season, but not on this day, as Murray won 15-13, 15-7. Murray will play Thomas Carter, who benefited from a late withdrawal by 3rd seed Kane Waselenchuk, to reach the quarters.

The four quarterfinals will be available via the IRT Network, or the IRT Facebook page from 5 PM Eastern time Friday. The semi-finals will be Saturday morning at 11 AM and noon with the singles final Saturday at 7 PM. All times Eastern.

2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am, September 13-15, 2018
Laurel, Maryland

Round of 16 - Friday

1) Rocky Carson d. Gerardo Franco, 15-4, 15-0
Andree Parrilla d. 8) David Horn, 15-11, 15-9

Adam Manilla d. 5) Mario Mercado, 15-13, 9-15, 11-10
4) Sebastian Franco d. Andres Acuña, 15-13, 15-7

Thomas Carter d. 3) Kane Waselenchuk, forfeit
6) Samuel Murray d. Jake Bredenbeck, 15-13, 15-7

7) Jansen Allen d. Jose Diaz, 15-4, 11-15, 11-5
2) Alejandro Landa d. Nick Montalbano, 15-7, 15-3

Quarterfinals - Friday

1) Rocky Carson v. Andree Parrilla - 7 PM
4) Sebastian Franco v. Adam Manilla - 8 PM

6) Samuel Murray v. Thomas Carter - 5 PM
2) Alejandro Landa v. 7) Jansen Allen - 6 PM

Follow the bouncing ball….

Round of 64 & 32 at 2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am

The first rounds of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) MWRA Pro-Am in Laurel, Maryland are over, and there were a few upsets. The primary one was Andres Acuña beating Felipe Camacho in a Costa Rica showdown, 15-11, 15-6. Acuña will play 4th seed Sebastian Franco in the Round of 16 Friday morning. Also on Thursday, Nick Montalbano defeated Robert Collins, 8-15, 15-8, 11-5, and will play 2nd seed Alejandro Landa in the 16s.

There are several tasty match ups in the Round of 16, including David Horn versus Andree Parrilla, which will be a rematch of last season’s Shamrock Shootout, which was won by Parrilla. In a heavyweight battle, Samuel Murray plays Jake Bredenbeck, and Jansen Allen will take on Jose Diaz.

Look for action from Maryland at the IRT Network, or the IRT Facebook page. The Round of 16 will be Friday morning at 10 and 11 AM with the quarter finals Friday evening from 5 PM on. The semi-finals will be Saturday morning at 11 AM and noon with the singles final Saturday at 7 PM. All times Eastern.

2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am, September 13-15, 2018
Laurel, Maryland

Qualifying Round 1 - Thursday

Gerardo Franco d. Jordy Alonso, 15-7, 15-12
Nicholas Riffel d. David Austin, 15-7, 15-4

Andree Parrilla d. Jamal Harris, 15-5, 15-5
Maurice Miller d. Set Cubillos, 15-13, 15-7

John Wolfe d. Erick Fernandez, 15-6, 15-10
Adam Manilla d. Diego Garcia, 5-15, 15-8, 11-3

Felipe Camacho d. Dan Fowler, 15-12, 15-5
Andres Acuña d. Mitch Posner, 15-1, 15-0

Justus Benson d. Tommy Murray, 15-8, 10-15, 11-8
Thomas Carter d. Geoff Heskett, 15-9, 15-4

Jake Bredenbeck d. Troy Moore, 15-2, 15-5
Mauro Rojas d. Kule Ulliman, 15-10, 15-4

Troy Warigon d. Sergio Acuña, 15-14, 15-14
Jose Diaz d. Pedro Meruvia, forfeit

Robert Collins d. Brent Walters, 15-14, 15-12
Nick Montalbano d. Scott McClellan, 15-10, 15-6

Qualifying Round 2 - Thursday

Q8) Gerardo Franco d. Nicholas Riffel, 15-2, 15-13
Q1) Andree Parrilla d. Maurice Miller, 15-11, 15-8

Q4) Adam Manilla d. John Wolfe, 15-1, 15-1
Q5) Andres Acuña d. Felipe Camacho, 15-11, 15-6

Q6) Thomas Carter d. Justus Benson, 11-15, 15-6, 11-3
Q3) Jake Bredenbeck d. Mauro Rojas, 15-14, 15-11

Q2) Jose Diaz d. Troy Warigon, 15-7, 15-9
Q7) Nick Montalbano d. Robert Collins, 8-15, 15-8, 11-5

Round of 16 - Friday

1) Rocky Carson v. Gerardo Franco - 11 AM
8) David Horn v. Andree Parrilla - 11 AM

5) Mario Mercado v. Adam Manilla - 11 AM
4) Sebastian Franco v. Andres Acuña - 11 AM

Thomas Carter d. 3) Kane Waselenchuk, forfeit
6) Samuel Murray v. Jake Bredenbeck - 10 AM

7) Jansen Allen v. Jose Diaz - 10 AM
2) Alejandro Landa v. Nick Montalbano - 10 AM

Follow the bouncing ball….

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The IRT kicks off its 2018-19 season in Maryland

They’re coming back! That’s right, boys and girls, the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) will be back with a new season starting this weekend in Laurel, Maryland, site of the 2018 MWRA IRT Pro-Am. Rocky Carson, the IRT’s #1 player, heads the draw, and after much ado about a possible retirement at the end of last season and during the summer, former #1 Kane Waselenchuk is in the draw. However, sadly there's late word that Waselenchuk will miss the event due to a car accident. Hopefully, Waselenchuk wasn’t injured in the accident, and will be in form at the US Open in Minneapolis next month.

Also absent from Laurel are the #4 and #5 IRT players Daniel De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran, respectively, so the event is wide open after Carson. This may be the opportunity for Alejandro Landa, IRT #2, to win his 3rd IRT event. Landa was the only player to win more than once on tour last season, when he won his first two IRT Tier 1 events.

Alternatively, maybe another player will get his first IRT win. There were four first time winners last season: Sebastian Franco, Andree Parrilla, Charlie Pratt and Landa. Franco and Parrilla will be in Laurel, but Pratt won’t be due to Hurricane Florence, and we wish him the best with dealing with that situation.

If a first time winner is going to happen this weekend, it would most likely come from one of the top eight seeds, so David Horn, Mario Mercado, Samuel Murray or Jansen Allen. Horn and Mercado were finalists for the first time last season, but neither Murray or Allen have been in a final. This could be their chance.

To see the action from Maryland, go to the IRT Network, or the IRT Facebook page, for this weekend’s action. The Round of 16 will be Friday morning at 10 and 11 AM with the quarter finals Friday evening from 5 PM on. The semi-finals will be Saturday morning at 11 AM and noon with the singles final Saturday at 7 PM. All times Eastern.

2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am, September 13-15, 2018
Laurel, Maryland

Qualifying Round 1 - Thursday

Gerardo Franco v. Jordy Alonso
Nicholas Riffel v. David Austin

Andree Parrilla v. Jamal Harris
Set Cubillos v. Maurice Miller

John Wolfe v. Erick Fernandez
Adam Manilla v. Diego Garcia

Felipe Camacho v. Dan Fowler
Andres Acuña v. Mitch Posner

Justus Benson v. Tommy Murray
Thomas Carter v. Geoff Heskett

Jake Bredenbeck v. Troy Moore
Mauro Rojas v. Kule Ulliman

Troy Warigon v. Sergio Acuña
Jose Diaz v. Pedro Meruvia

Robert Collins v. Brent Walters
Scott McClellan v. Nick Montalbano

Qualifying Round 2 - Thursday

Q8) Gerardo Franco or Jordy Alonso v. Nicholas Riffel or David Austin
Q1) Andree Parrilla or Jamal Harris v. Set Cubillos or Maurice Miller

Q4) John Wolfe or Erick Fernandez v. Adam Manilla or Diego Garcia
Q5) Felipe Camacho or Dan Fowler v. Andres Acuña or Mitch Posner

Q6) Justus Benson or Tommy Murray v. Thomas Carter or Geoff Heskett
Q3) Jake Bredenbeck or Troy Moore v. Mauro Rojas or Kule Ulliman

Q2) Troy Warigon or Sergio Acuña v. Jose Diaz or Pedro Meruvia
Q7) Robert Collins or Brent Walters v. Scott McClellan or Nick Montalbano

Round of 16 - Friday

1) Rocky Carson v. Q8 - 11 AM
8) David Horn v. Q1 - 11 AM

5) Mario Mercado v. Q4 - 11 AM
4) Sebastian Franco v. Q5 - 11 AM

3) Kane Waselenchuk v. Q6 - 10 AM
6) Samuel Murray v. Q3 - 10 AM

7) Jansen Allen v. Q2 - 10 AM
2) Alejandro Landa v. Q7 - 10 AM

Follow the bouncing ball….