June 21st, 2007 by Adam Katz
Greetings from Tempe, Arizona and the USA Racquetball Junior Olympic National Championships presented by Penn Racquet Sports.
The action kicked off bright and early this morning at the Student Recreation Center on the campus of Arizona State University, but I spent most of the day catching up with my “racquetball family”. So first, I will give everyone a look at the seeds in the divisions this year. Of course, this year everyone wants to earn that appointment to the US Junior National Team as the Junior Worlds will be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia this coming December. Spots will be earned by the finalists in each of the World Cup divisions, and those are the 14s, 16s, and 18s for singles for the girls and the boys. There is still a great deal of debate about the Doubles teams, but my understanding is that the winning team in those same age groups will still earn a spot on the team, but their ability to join the team for the Junior Worlds in Bolivia will depend on fund raising. As I generally try to avoid the political aspects of the sport with these updates, I won’t be saying anymore about that. After all, this tournament is all about the children and I’m all for that.
In the Girl’s 18s, defending National and World Champion Michelle Key, from Arizona is the top seed. I spoke with her earlier today and she is looking forward to the challenge of defending both her titles and she got her tournament off to a good start by winning her 1st round in the Girl’s 18 Doubles, which this year is a 5 team round robin. The second seed is Connecticut’s Kara Mazur, who is a member of the National Championship team from the University of Alabama. Third seed is Sharon Jackson from Indiana, who swept the 16s last year and is looking for the repeat in her first year in the 18s. The fourth seed is Ohio’s Samantha McGuffey who just wanted to play today. She’ll get that chance tomorrow.
In the Girl’s 16s, there is a 5 person round robin in the singles where Sheryl Lotts of Ohio and Danielle Key from Arizona are the seasoned Junior Nationals participants and Junior Team qualifiers.
The Girl’s 14s is certainly loaded this year and should provide some great matches in the days ahead. Top seed is Aubrey O’Brien from California. She is also the defending champion and runner up from Junior Worlds. She is very motivated to earn another spot on the team to try and win that elusive World Title, as many of you will recall the final of the Girl’s 14s at Junior Worlds was one of the best matches of the tournament. The second seed is California’s Devon Pimentelli. She won the 12s last summer in Michigan and got her tourney off to a good start today in the doubles with a fairly comfortable win. The third seed is Samantha Rosado from Connecticut and the fourth seed is Courtney Chisholm from Massachusetts.
In the Girl’s 12s, Oregon’s Hollee Hungerford is the top seed as she takes her Gold Medal from the 10s last summer up into the 12s. Last year’s beaten finalist in the 10s, Ohio’s Abbey Lavely, is the second seed and she is hoping to reverse the order this year. The third seed is Mercedes Arias from Michigan, and she is my early pick to be the player of the tournament. The fourth seed is Samantha Simmons from Maryland, and I have to admit that I am not very familiar with this young lady.
In the 10s, Team Colorado’s Elizabeth Vargas leads the way as the top seed. She actually played up in this division two years ago, so she is now in her third year looking for that elusive national title that would go so well with the bronze and silver medals she has earned the last two years. The second seed is Ashley O’Brien from California, she has made great strides from last year and is looking to follow in her sister Aubrey’s footsteps with a title. The third seed is another of my Team Colorado juniors in Erika Manilla. She spent the day wanting to play, but her first match isn’t until tomorrow. The fourth seed is Oregon’s Alecia Fladstol.
In the 8s, Erika Manilla is looking to defend her title that she earned last summer. Since I do get to work with her and see her practicing, I know how determined she is and I’m just glad that I don’t have to play her.
On the Boy’s side in the 18s, defending champion Allan Crockett from Alabama leads the way. He was largely overlooked last year as he was in his first year in the 18s, but that didn’t stop him from a very convincing win. He’s being overlooked again so we’ll just have to wait and see if he can successfully defend his title. The second seed is Jose Rojas from California who looks very determined, and he’s going to have to be as he is also playing the Boy’s 16 singles and these are the two biggest draws in the tournament. Chances are he’ll be playing at least two full matches in each division for each of the next two days. I did speak with US Adult Team Head Coach, Dave Ellis, today and he said that Jose just can’t get enough racquetball so the prospect of 4 matches in a day doesn’t phase him one bit. The third seed is Rick Sledzik from Massachusetts who is in his final year of Juniors eligibility. The fourth seed is the World Champion from the 16s, Ishmael Aldana. I spoke with Ishmael today and he is very quietly confident, which is very much his style.
In the Boy’s 16s, Jose Rojas is the top seed and defending Champion. Last year Jose and Ishmael split Nationals and Worlds and the difference was an 11-10 tiebreaker to Jose at Nationals and an 11-9 tiebreaker to Ishmael at Worlds. The second seed is Taylor Knoth of Oregon, who is moving up from the 14s and has some pressure already lifted as he has earned a spot on the US Junior National Team by virtue of his victory in March at the High School National Championships. The third seed is Brad Kirch from New York. He was the beaten finalist in the 14s last summer. The fourth seed is Trevor Snyders from Illinois.
In the Boy’s 14s, another loaded division as Oregon’s Dylan Reid has earned the top seed, but that just means a meeting with Louisiana’s Chase Stanley who is back at Junior Nationals after a 2 year hiatus. That match goes tomorrow and is an early candidate for match of the day. The second seed is Louisiana’s Joseph Lee who is always in the hunt at Junior Nationals. The third seed is Marco Rojas from California and he is just as hungry as his older brother, Jose, for that trip to Bolivia and Junior Worlds. The fourth seed is Jose Diaz from California, and he is looking to put a somewhat disappointing Junior Worlds behind him at this tournament.
In the Boy’s 12s, John Lindsay of Oregon leads the way as top seed. John is all heart on the court and I know that he will give it everything he has to get the title. The second seed is Sam Reid from Oregon he also is John’s doubles partner in that event. The third seed is a familiar player to those of you that regularly read these updates, he’s my Team Colorado player and Ektelon’s Junior Athlete of the Year, Adam Manilla. Adam swept the 10s last summer and has been playing extremely well lately, so I look forward to reporting his progress to you this week. The fourth seed is California’s Bobby Sehrgosha, the beaten finalist in the 10s last year.
In the Boy’s 10s, Ohio looks to have a stranglehold on this one as Kyle Ulliman and Spencer Shoemaker, respectively, have the top two seeds and they will be playing doubles together. The third seed is Ryan Francis from New Hampshire and the fourth seed is Jake Birnel from Washington state. Those two are moving up from the 8s where they were the finalists last year.
In the Boy’s 8s, Justus Benson of Wisconsin has earned the top seed ahead of Indiana’s Sean Henry, California’s Mauro Rojas, and Ohio’s Christian Ulliman.
As I said, I didn’t see that many matches today, but some players that stood out were Minnesota’s John Behm who took out the Third Seed today. Also, Mitchell Hardin of Ohio played very well in squeaking out an 11-8 tiebreaker win in the 12s today against Sean Cooperrider.
The state competition this year promises to be very exciting as Oregon looks to regain the title after California ended their 14 year run last year in Michigan. Oregon brought 38 players this year to try and take the crown back, but California isn’t going to give it away that easily as they brought 31 players themselves. Also in the hunt this year will be Ohio with 22 players and Arizona which brings 20 players to these championships. A sleeper that is coming up through the ranks could be Florida and their 14 players. A kudos has to go to Kim Roy down in Florida for putting together such a large team and bringing them out to Arizona.
I will be out there for all the action tomorrow and will have more reports on the matches tomorrow night including pictures.
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- 2007 Junior Nationals – The Finals
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- 2007 Junior Nationals – Day 2
- 2007 Junior Nationals – Day 4