December 20th, 2006 by Adam Katz
Another amazing day of racquetball as we’ve now reached the finals in all divisions. For awhile it looked like they weren’t going to make it on the Boy’s side of things, but they were able to get the quarters and semis completed today, and the overall World Cup is going to come down to the matches tomorrow between the USA and Mexico. Several divisions will have this matchup so I’m sure you can imagine what the atmosphere will be like.Today in the Girl’s 18s, Michelle Key played some solid racquetball in defeating Mexico’s Marcelo Moreno to set up her final against the other Mexican player, Karen Torres. Michelle is definitely excited about the challenge and is playing hitting the ball extremely well right now.
The Girl’s doubles finished their play in this round robin with a tough match with Mexico. The Mexican team of Eleni Guzman and Marcela Moreno came out strong a jumped to a 6-1 lead in the first game. Kara Mazur and Samantha McGuffey fought back to 6-6 before Mexico went on another run to 9-6 and then to 12-9. The Americans continued to chip away, but were only able to get to 12 before the Mexican team put the game away. That only seemed to fire Kara and Samantha up as they refused to miss anything in the second game. Consequently, the 15-0 score was appropriate for what went on in that game. Now it was the Mexicans who were fired up. Team USA had the serve first in the tiebreaker, but it was the Mexicans who took the early 3-0 lead. Kara and Samantha got it back to 3-2 on their next serve, and then we stayed there for quite a while. I believe there were 3 complete rotations of serve before Mexico got the next point, and once they did that they didn’t stop until they reached 11. They still have a match against Canada tomorrow, but I think that they have already clinched the Gold Medal.
In the Girl’s 16s, we had the match of the day as Sharon Jackson took on Bolivia’s Yazmine Sabja, who had lost to Aubrey O’Brien last night in the 14s. Sharon came out red hot in this one to grab a 4-0 lead on her first serve. However, things changed very quickly as Yazmine found a serve she liked and got a great run of points going. She ended up taking a 9-4 lead before Sharon attempted to regroup with a timeout. She was able to get herself back into the match and slowly chipped away getting to 9-12, then Yazmine brought herself to 14. But Sharon refused to give in right away and got back to 12 before Yazmine put away the first game. In the second game, Sharon appeared out of sorts as Yazmine kept her off balance mixing up her serves. Eventually, she pulled ahead 9-1 and things were looking a bit bleak. But Sharon Jackson is all heart, and this was clearly displayed today. She fought with everything that she had and chi pped away until she had a 14-12 lead. That lead was short-lived as Yazmine got it back to 14 before Sharon could finish off the game. It appeared as if the momentum had made its final move over to the Team USA side, but Yazmine had other ideas, this time she jumped to a 6-1 lead in the breaker. But Sharon fought back leaving it all on the court. The shots by both players were outstanding, but in the end Sharon wanted it more and she took it 11-9. Sharon now faces Mexico’s Paola Longoria in the final in yet another USA-Mexico matchup.
In the doubles, Sharon Jackson and Holly Hettesheimer defeated the Canadian team of Christine Richardson and Erin Baldwin to advance to the finals against Mexico.
In the Girl’s 14s, Team USA and Team Mexico each had one player in the semifinals and each girl had to play a girl from Ecuador. Aubrey O’Brien looked sharp today in beating Maria Paz Munoz, while Veronica Sotomayer was able to get a comfortable win against Jessica Parrilla. Aubrey will now try to end Veronica’s strong run at Junior Worlds, where it appears she has never lost a match. I heard that earlier today, but haven’t had a chance to go back and verify that information.
The doubles team of Lily Berry and Danielle Key played the Ecuadorians (Munoz and Sotomayer) today and fought bravely in two tough games. However, the pressure put on by the young girls from Ecuador proved too much as they won a very long lasting 15-6, 15-12 match. In the second game, the Ecuadorians served for the match 3 full times before they could achieve that elusive 15th point. Looking at the standings, it appears that Ecuador will win Gold, Mexico Silver, and the US Bronze in this event.
On the Boy’s side the 18s will come down to a battle of Mexicans as both Alejandro Landa and David Ortega advanced to the finals. Chris Coy and Allan Crockett gave it everything they had today, but each ran up against a truly determined opponent and neither had an answer on this day. I talked with Chris shortly after he lost to Costa Rica and reminded him that there was still gold to play for in the doubles.
In those doubles, Chris and Zach Apperson had a true battle with last year’s beaten finalists, Michael Burgess and Ryan Smith from Canada. This match was a very close one from start to finish as Chris and Zach gained the win 12 and 12 to set up another USA-Mexico final as they will battle Ruben Estrada and David Ortega tomorrow for the gold.
In the 16s, Jose Rojas continued his quest for two world championships by displaying his dominating style in the quarters and semis of the singles giving up 8 points in the quarters and 9 in the semis. In that final, he’ll face his partner and close friend, Ishmael Aldana. Ishmael had two battles on his hands today as he first faced Costa Rica’s Felipe Alonso. Knowing that he needed to conserve energy and not go to a tiebreaker, he fought back bravely from deficits in both games to win 13 and 13. This set up a semifinal match against Mexico’s Ruben Estrada. I found out later from talking with Shane Wood that Ishmael had been pointing to this match for a year.
Last year, in Juarez, Mexico, Ishmael was not 100 percent when the Junior Worlds started, but being the person that he is, he decided to tough it out and do the best he could for the team. In the end, he faced Ruben prior to the finals and didn’t play well. The scores were something along the lines of 2 and 1. Ishmael has lived with that for a year, and you could see when he gained the final point of his 14 and 10 win that he was thrilled to have that monkey off his back. He is looking forward to meeting his friend for the gold, and hoping to reverse the order of finish from Junior Nationals where Jose brought home the gold.
In the doubles, Ishmael and Jose defeated the Canadian team of Barrett Husulak and Sean Barclay in the semis to set up another USA-Mexico match for the gold.
In the 14s, Taylor Knoth will be looking to sweep the event as he earned a spot in the finals with a 6 and 5 win over Costa Rica. This sets up another USA- Mexico match as Alex Cardona was able to beat Brad Kirch in the other semifinal. Alex will be looking for some form of revenge as he was the beaten finalist last year as Jose Rojas grabbed the World Championship in Alex’s home country.
In the doubles, Taylor and Alex will get to know each other very well tomorrow as they will face off here as well with their partners for the gold. These matches could very well determine the overall World Cup.
I don’t know the overall scores heading into tomorrow, but I do know that the teams are close.
On the Espirit Cup side today, in the Girl’s 12s singles Devon Pimentelli had the day off but will face Bolivia tomorrow for the gold.
In the Doubles, Elizabeth Brenner and Samantha Rosado defeated Ines Lecland and Mercedes Arias and have clinched the World Championship.
In the Girl’s 10s, Hollee Hungerford gave it all that she had in the semifinals todays against Mexico’s Lucia Gonzalez, but lost in two tough games. Lucia will meet her sister, Ximena, for the gold tomorrow.
In the doubles, Abbey Lavely and Elizabeth Vargas defeated Hollee Hungerford and Victoria Fladstol to set up their meeting with the Gonzalez sisters for the Gold. Abbey and Elizabeth have looked pretty strong this week and are hoping to avenge last year’s defeat down in Juarez.
In the Girl’s 8s, Erika Manilla has clinched at least a bronze after her win over Christina Lavely today. She’ll face top seed, Diana Aguillar, tomorrow and a victory could bring home the gold. It could come down to a tiebreaker.
In the Boy’s 12s, Marko Rojas is on the same mission as his older brother, Jose, as he claimed a spot in the finals where it will be another USA-Mexico matchup.
In the doubles, Marko and Jose Diaz have earned a spot in the finals and will take on…you guessed it…Mexico for the gold.
In the 10s, a very tough day for Adam Manilla. He gave it everything he had, but came up just a little short in the semifinals against Mexico’s Andres Parilla…the IRF staff took great pleasure in announcing Manilla and Parilla to the court before the match started, but it was fairly apparent that the two titanic struggles that Adam endured yesterday had taken their toll on him as he appeared a bit sluggish and out of sorts throughout this match. Although he did manage to win the first game, he just couldn’t seem to find the right shot in the second or third game and lost out 10 and 5. But no complaints from him, he had a really good tournament and will go home with at least 2 bronze medals and is still in the running for the Mixed Doubles Gold.
The doubles has two Mexican teams fighting for the gold tomorrow.
In the 8s, again two Mexicans will battle it out for the gold.
Originally, I had planned on leaving tomorrow fairly early as I have some things to do in Denver on Friday, but it looks as though the current storm will be preventing me from getting home on time so I will be there for the whole day tomorrow and will then be able to put out some form of update later on. We’re going to be driving to Albuquerque tomorrow night, so it’ll probably be late before I get this update out, but I will do what I can…including pictures.
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