Saturday, June 19, 2021

Longoria & Mejia into final at 2021 LPRT

Paola Longoria, the #1 player on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT), will play 10th seed Montserrat Mejia in the final of the 2021 LPRT tournament in Overland Park, Kansas on Sunday. In Saturday’s semi-finals, Longoria defeated her long time doubles partner Samantha Salas, the 5th seed, 15-7, 15-6, while Montserrat beat 14th seed Gabriela Martinez, 15-8, 15-6.

Both semis were tightly contested, and the scores don’t reflect how hard fought they were. In game one of their match, Longoria got out to a 6-0 lead, which was the difference, as she and Salas were pretty even after that.

In their second game, Salas took the early lead at 4-0. Then they were back and forth until Longoria led 7-5, but from there she won 8 of the next 9 points.

Martinez was the better starter in both games against Mejia, but as some like to say “it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.” And Mejia finished better in both games, as she came back from 4-1 down in game one, and 7-2 down in game two, to win each game by comfortable margins.

While there weren’t upsets in the singles semi-finals, both doubles semis were won by the lower seeded team. Most significantly, 4th seeds Gabriela Martinez and Maria Renee Rodriguez knocked off top seeds Longoria and Salas, 15-11, 15-9, in semi, while Alexandra Herrera and Mejia defeated 2nd seeds Valeria Centellas and Natalia Mendez, 15-11, 15-9.

The loss by Longoria and Salas marks the first time they won’t be in a LPRT final (when playing together) since May 2017, when they were beaten in the semis by Herrera and Mejia in Guadalajara. And it’s just the third time Longoria and Salas have lost in a LPRT semi. The first came in Monterrey 2015, when Sheryl Lotts and Rhonda Rajsich beat them and won the final.

How did Martinez and Rodriguez cause the upset? They shot the ball really well. Also, Rodriguez used a straight lob serve to Salas to good effect.

Still, you had the sense that Longoria and Salas would find a way. They were down 8-4 in game one, but scored the next seven points to lead 11-8. However, Martinez and Rodriguez got the serve back then and got seven points without yielding the serve.

In game two, they were tied at 5-5, when Martinez and Rodriguez ran out seven straight points to lead 12-5. But Longoria and Salas got a sideout at that point, and started scoring points, and you thought “oh, they go; this will be a breaker.”

Longoria and Salas got the deficit down to four at 12-8, so Martinez and Rodriguez called a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Longoria and Salas got another point, making it 12-9. But on the next rally Martinez flat rolled a backhand shot to get her side back in the service box.

They never left it, getting three points with a great Rodriguez forehand, another Martinez backhand winner and then - after a Salas serve return put them half down - Martinez cracked out a drive serve ace to end it.

Collectively, Martinez and Rodriguez have been in five LPRT doubles finals: Martinez three times and Rodriguez twice. But they’ve never been in a final together, although they have a great deal of experience playing together internationally for Guatemala.

The other semi-final was more straight forward, although in game one it looked like Centellas and Mendez were going to carry the day, as they were up 10-7 and 11-9. But Herrera and Mejia turned it around, and won the last six points to win game one, 15-9.

Then in game two, Herrera and Mejia led most of the way, taking leads of 10-4 and 14-5. Centellas and Mendez got four points before succumbing, and losing 15-9.

Sunday’s final will be the fourth time Herrera and Mejia play Martinez and Rodriguez on the LPRT. Herrera and Mejia have won the previous three meetings.

You can watch the LPRT event live via the LPRT YouTube channel or the LPRT website (click “LPRT Live” at the top of the page). The singles final will be 1 PM Sunday with the doubles final to follow at 2 PM. All times central. 

2021 LPRT, June 18-20, 2021 
Overland Park, Kansas 

Semi-finals - Saturday 

1) Paola Longoria d. 5) Samantha Salas, 15-7, 15-6
10) Montserrat Mejia d. 14) Gabriela Martinez, 15-6, 15-8

Final - Sunday 

1) Paola Longoria v. 10) Montserrat Mejia - 1 PM  

Doubles - Semi-finals - Saturday 

4) Gabriela Martinez & Maria Renee Rodriguez d. 1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas, 15-11, 15-9
3) Alexandra Herrera & Montserrat Mejia d. 2) Valeria Centellas & Natalia Mendez, 15-11, 15-9  

Doubles - Final - Sunday 

3) Alexandra Herrera & Montserrat Mejia v. 4) Gabriela Martinez & Maria Renee Rodriguez - 2 PM

 Follow the bouncing ball….

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