Friday, July 16, 2021

Some Friday surprises at 2021 USA Racquetball National Championships

On day two of the National Team competition at the 2021 USA Racquetball (USAR) National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, there were a couple of notable upsets: one in men’s play and one in women’s play. In Men’s Singles, 5th seed Charlie Pratt defeated 4th seed Thomas Carter, 15-11, 15-9, in the quarterfinals, and will play his doubles partner Rocky Carson, who’s the top seed, in the semi-finals on Saturday. Carson beat Blake Hansen, 15-0, 15-1, on Friday.

On the other side of the Men’s Singles draw, 2nd seed Alejandro Landa beat 7th seed Sam Bredenbeck, 15-1, 15-5, in the quarters, and will face Sam’s brother Jake Bredenbeck in the semis Saturday, after Jake, the 3rd seed, outlasted 6th seed Maurice Miller, 15-2, 10-15, 11-6, in the quarters Friday.

The upset in women’s play came when 3rd seeds Michelle De La Rosa and Sheryl Lotts held on to defeat 2nd seeds Kelani Lawrence and Hollie Scott, 15-14, 12-15, 11-9, in the semi-finals of Women’s Doubles. The win puts them into the final against top seeds Erika Manilla and Rhonda Rajsich, who won their semi-final match against Linda Tyler and Lexi York in straight games, 15-6, 15-8.

Lawrence and Scott are likely thinking “what if?” after their semi, as they were up 14-11 in game one, only to see it slip away when De La Rosa hit a forehand winner down the left side on their first game point opportunity. The second game had a similar plot, as Lawrence and Scott were up 12-7 only to see De La Rosa and Lotts come back and tie it at 12-12. But this time Lawrence and Scott were able to finish the game and force a tie-breaker.

In the breaker, they were tied at 2-2, 4-4, 8-8 and 9-9. Indeed, the breaker was another “what if?” situation for Lawrence and Scott, as they got a late lead at 9-8. But they couldn’t close it out. The last point came when Lotts hit a drive Z serve to Scott on the left, and she put a backhand return into the floor. It was Lotts and De La Rosa’s first match point opportunity and they took advantage of it, which was the main difference as Lawrence and Scott left more opportunities on the table than their opponents, so they lost.

The Women’s Doubles final happens Saturday afternoon after the Women’s Singles semi-finals, which Manilla and Rajsich are playing in, but De La Rosa and Lotts are not, as they chose not to play singles in Des Moines. Will that choice be to their advantage?

It may if the semi-finals are close, and we expect them to be. Manilla is seeded 1st in Women’s Singles and plays Lawrence in one semi-final (scheduled for 10 AM) with the veteran Rajsich in the other semi against Scott at noon. Given Rajsich's age - 42, you would think she would need more recovery between a singles semi and the doubles final than her younger partner, Manilla who's in her early 20s, but she'll have less of it. That makes it more likely that De La Rosa and Lotts will have an advantage in terms of readiness based on amount of court time.

The situation on the men’s side is also curious, as doubles partners Carson and Pratt play each other in one semi. Carson is the more accomplished player, but at 42 is also older than Pratt, who’s 34. So, you’d think that if Pratt is going to beat Carson, he’ll need to work extra hard, which in turn would mean that Carson will have to work harder than he might otherwise. Will they want to do that?

Their semi is scheduled second on Saturday (at 1 PM), so their choice may hinge on what happens in the first semi scheduled for 11 AM between Landa and Jake Bredenbeck. Bredenbeck and his brother Sam will be in the doubles final against Carson and Pratt at 3 PM. Landa is the favoured player in the first semi, so if Bredenbeck is going to pull an upset, he’ll need to work hard to do it. And Bredenbeck is a power player, so he’s generally putting out a lot of effort in his matches.

If the Landa-Bredenbeck match is a long one - meaning Bredenbeck will have expended a lot of energy regardless of the outcome, then Carson and Pratt may feel that they have an advantage in the doubles final regardless of what happens in their singles semi. If the Landa-Bredenbeck match is not close, then Carson and Pratt may be concerned about how much effort to put into their semi-final.

The factor that may make things moot regarding concerns about how the Carson-Pratt match is going to be played is that a spot on the National Team rides on the outcome. The winner will qualify to play Men’s Singles on Team USA at the International Racquetball World Championships. They’ll both have a chance to qualify in Men’s Doubles as well, as they are in the final together, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll win that. Winning the singles semi-final isn’t something to be passed up.

Junior play

We’ll do a run down of what happened in the junior divisions after all the matches have been played. But let’s highlight some of the good matches that have happened so far. In the semi-finals of Girl’s U18 Doubles, Heather Mahoney and Julia Stein versus Shane Diaz and Naomi Ros was a very competitive match that went to a tie-breaker. Diaz and Ros took game one and were ahead late in game two, but Mahoney and Stein came back to win game two and then carried that momentum over into the breaker, which they also won, making the final 11-15, 15-12, 11-5.

On the boy’s side, the semi-final match between Josh Shea and Vedant Chauhan in Boy’s U16 Singles was very competitive with Shea coming out on top of two close games, 15-13, 15-12. This is especially remarkable, because Shea and Chauhan are doubles partners, and they are competing in both Boy’s U16 and U18 Doubles. They are in the U18 final, and won their first two matches in a five team round robin in U16. So, they have a chance to win both U16 and U18 Boy’s Doubles, which would be remarkable.

Watch the action?

So, USAR has streamed junior matches from Des Moines via their USA Racquetball Livestream channel, but none of the National Team matches, even though the set up is very good. National Team matches are on the USA Racquetball Facebook page, which is more awkward in terms of looking back at the matches.

We hope that the six National Team matches on Saturday (4 singles semis and 2 doubles finals) will be shown on the Livestream channel, but we’re doubtful whether that's going to happen. Maybe it’s just that we’re not big fans of using Facebook so much, as doing so is creating more content for FB rather than for easy use by fans or by the organization.

USA Racquetball has a YouTube channel, and putting matches on there could generate some revenue for USAR via online ads. Also, YouTube channels - like Livestream channels - are easy to search, and YouTube content shows up more easily in general web searches.

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

Men's US Team Singles - Quarterfinals - Friday

1) Rocky Carson d. 8) Blake Hansen, 15-0, 15-1
5) Charlie Pratt d. 4) Thomas Carter, 15-11, 15-9

3) Jake Bredenbeck d. 6) Maurice Miller, 15-2, 10-15, 11-6
2) Alejandro Landa d. 7) Sam Bredenbeck, 15-1, 15-5

Men's US Team Singles - Semi-finals - Saturday

1) Rocky Carson v. 5) Charlie Pratt - 1 PM
2) Alejandro Landa v. 3) Jake Bredenbeck - 11 AM

Men's US Team Singles - Semi-finals - Friday

1) Rocky Carson & Charlie Pratt d. 4) John Goth & Blake Hansen, 15-5, 15-7
2) Jake Bredenbeck & Sam Bredenbeck d. 3) Maurice Miller & Troy Warigon, 15-6, 7-15, 11-8

Men's US Team Singles - Final - Saturday

1) Rocky Carson & Charlie Pratt v. 2) Jake Bredenbeck & Sam Bredenbeck - 3 PM

Women's US Team Singles - Quarterfinals - Friday

1) Erika Manilla d. 8) Annie Roberts, 15-7, 15-2
4) Kelani Lawrence d. 5) Linda Tyler, forfeit

3) Hollie Scott d. 6) Lexi York, 15-1, 15-7
2) Rhonda Rajsich v. 7) Graci Wargo, 15-5, 15-1

Women's US Team Singles - Semi-finals - Saturday

1) Erika Manilla v. 4) Kelani Lawrence - 10 AM

2) Rhonda Rajsich v. 3) Hollie Scott - Noon

Women's US Team Doubles - Semi-finals - Friday

1) Erika Manilla & Rhonda Rajsich d. 4) Linda Tyler & Lexi York, 15-6, 15-8
3) Michelle De La Rosa & Sheryl Lotts d. 2) Hollie Scott & Kelani Lawrence, 15-14, 12-15, 11-9

Women's US Team Doubles - Final - Saturday

1) Erika Manilla & Rhonda Rajsich v. 3) Michelle De La Rosa & Sheryl Lotts - 2 PM

Follow the bouncing ball....

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