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2007 Junior Nationals – The Finals

June 25th, 2007 by Adam Katz

With most of the Junior National Team spots earned, play began bright and early Sunday morning at the 34th USA Racquetball Junior Olympic National Championships presented by Penn Racquet Sports.

In the Girl’s 18 Singles, Defending National and World Champion Michelle Key of Arizona successfully defended the first title and has now earned a shot at defending the second in December by virtue of her 15-8,15-6 victory over Indiana’s Sharon Jackson.  Michelle was clearly pumped up for this one and seemed in control from the outset.  Sharon gave it everything she had, but Michelle was clearly on a mission in this one.  Both young ladies will be in Cochabamba, Bolivia this December and both will certainly be in the hunt for the World Championship.

In the Girl’s 18 Doubles, Michelle started Sunday morning with the final match of the Round Robin competition with her partner, Iowa’s Gabrielle Schnurman, against the defending champions Kara Mazur of Connecticut and Samantha McGuffey of Ohio.  Michelle and Gabrielle started off on fire in this one and grabbed a quick 11-0 lead, but Kara and Samantha chipped away with each service rotation.  They weren’t quite able to finish the comeback, but that did set the stage for the remainder of the match as they fought through a tough 10-15, 15-8, 11-4 win to officially win the National Championship.

In the Girl’s 16s, Sheryl Lotts of Ohio had already claimed the National Championship on Sat. after her victory over Arizona’s Danielle Key.

In the Girl’s 14 Singles, California’s Aubrey O’Brien completed her mission of a National Championship and return appointment to the Junior National Team with a dominating performance over fellow Californian Devon Pimentelli.  I have to give a great deal of credit to Aubrey as she just refused to allow Devon to get comfortable in this match.  You can see that she is already pointing towards a possible rematch with current world champion, Veronica Sotomayer of Ecuador.  For those of you that read my updates from Junior Worlds, you know that was one of the matches of the tournament.

In the Girl’s 14 Doubles, Aubrey completed a perfect tournament with a hard fought win with partner, Lily Berry of Ohio over Devon Pimentelli and her partner Courtney Chisholm of Massachusetts.  Scores were 12-15, 15-4, 11-4.  So Aubrey will be playing both singles and doubles at the Junior Worlds and she is really looking forward to the challenge.

In the Girl’s 12 Singles, Virginia’s Kelani Bailey completed her surprise run through the draw in her Junior Nationals debut to bring home the National Championship with a straight games win over California’s Sabrina Viscuso.

In the Girl’s 10 Singles, Colorado’s Elizabeth Vargas claimed the Gold Medal that had eluded her in 2 previous attempts in this division with a straight game victory over Team Colorado teammate Erika Manilla, who is still a candidate for my player of the tournament designation, for whatever that’s worth.

In the Girl’s 8 Singles, Erika rebounded nicely to claim this national championship with a hard fought win over Florida’s Jordan Cooperrider.  These two will probably end up playing doubles together starting next season, which is a good thing as they are already good friends.  This title brings Erika’s count to 5 National Titles to go along with 3 runners up finishes.  Not bad for a girl who turned 9 this past February.  For those of you wondering how a 9 year old could win the 8 and Under National Championship, in the sport of racquetball at the junior level a player is considered to be whatever age they are on January 1st of any given year.  This year, Erika was still 8 on January 1.

In the Boy’s 18 Singles, Jose Rojas of California was looking to claim the title in this division as well as the 16 Singles arguably the two toughest divisions in the tournament.  He got things going in the right direction with a straight games victory over his close friend and former doubles partner, Ishmael Aldana also of California.  It looked as though Saturday’s battles had taken their toll on Ishmael as he had 3 of the most grueling matches anyone could remember winning two.  The only loss was the Mixed 18 Doubles Final which I will talk about at the end of this article.

In the Boy’s 16 Singles, Jose successfully completed his sweep of these two singles divisions with a straight games victory over Oregon’s Taylor Knoth.  Jose also has a claim to my designation of player of the tournament.

In the Boy’s 14 Singles, Marko Rojas of California joined his brother as a National Champion with an impressive victory over Oregon’s Dylan Reid.  Dylan played extremely well in this one, but Marko, like his brother, appeared to be on a mission from the beginning of this tournament.

In the Boy’s 12 Singles, Louisiana’s Zach Wertz completed his surprise run through the draw to claim the title in two very hard fought games over Oregon’s Sam Reid.  To be honest, I had been keeping my eye on Zach as I had asked Junior National Team Coach Kelley Beane who had made an impression at the recent Rumble Camp right before Junior Nationals and she mentioned that she was expecting great things from Zach.  He definitely delivered.

In the Boy’s 10 Singles, Ohio’s Spencer Shoemaker claimed the National Title with a win over Minnesota’s Sam Bredenbeck.  These two had faced off the day before for the doubles championship and Spencer managed to get the sweep this year.

In the Boy’s 8 Singles, Jordan Barth of Minnesota defeated top seed Justus Benson of Wisconsin in 2 games for the Gold Medal.  Jordan was a strong player for Team Minnesota as they crept up the rankings in the State competition.

In the State competition, I don’t have the overall scores but I have heard that California did manage to retain their championship for the second year.  Granted, they still have 12 more years to match the streak that Oregon put together that ended last year, but they are well on their way and they do have a lot of talent coming up through the youngest ranks in these championships.  Oregon did come in second followed by Ohio.

Of course, I am extremely proud of Team Colorado for again coming home 4th overall despite having only 9 point earning players in this year’s event. They squeaked out 4th this year over Minnesota with Florida and Arizona completing the top 7.

As I come to the end of this wrapup, I will do as I did at Junior Worlds and announce my Awards of the Tournament.  Again this is entirely my own opinion based on what I saw at this tournament.

Point of the Tournament – Hands down the last point of the Mixed 18 Doubles Final.  Kara Mazur of Connecticut and Richard Sledzik of Massachusetts against Samantha McGuffey of Ohio and Ishmael Aldana of California.  This one point was an absolute dive fest with each player getting involved.  I cannot really do a description justice, so I can tell you that this match was covered by racquetball online.  So I would HIGHLY encourage everyone to check it out at:  http://www.racquetballonline.tv  It is free to watch.  I’m not sure how quickly it will be available to view online, but I would definitely recommend it!

Match of the Tournament – There were so many matches to choose from as there were a lot of 11-10 tiebreaker matches, but the one that stands out for me was the Girl’s 10 semifinals between Colorado’s Erika Manilla and California’s Ashley O’Brien.  Ashley came out strong in this one to claim the 15-12 first game win, but Erika overcame the nerves and the disappointment of the first game loss to even things with a 15-5 game two win.  The tiebreaker was a back and forth affair as Ashley came out strong, but Erika refused to lose and despite trailing 7-10 came back for the 11-10 win and the spot in the final.

Player of the Tournament – Again a lot of strong contenders in this one but the player that stood out to me was Kelani Bailey of Virginia.  In her Junior Nationals debut, she claimed the Girl’s 12 and Under National Championship and also brought home a Silver Medal in the Mixed 12 Doubles with Michigan’s Sam Zeng as her partner.  It’s not very often that a player can make their debut in a division higher than 8s and bring home the gold, but Kelani fought through the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seeds on her way to the title and did it with a smile on her face the entire tournament.

State Team of the Tournament – Have to give a big hand to Team Florida.  These kids were always there cheering their teammates on at every match and they played their hearts out throughout the tourney, and they managed to bring home some National Championships in the Girl’s 10 Doubles and Boy’s 12 Doubles and Girl’s 8 Multi Bounce.  Kim Roy has done an outstanding job building the junior program in Florida and I can definitely see them becoming a true force to be reckoned with in the near future.

Kudos also have to go to the Event staff from USA Racquetball.  Jim Hiser, Otto Dietrich, Eddie Meredith, Mary Meredith, and the rest did an outstanding job keeping the tournament running smoothly and on time.

Also great job to the Local Organizing Committee led by Frank Taddonio.

That’s all for now, I do hope you’ve enjoyed these updates

Related posts:

  1. Introducing the 2008 USA Racquetball National Junior Team
  2. 2006/2007 US Junior National Racquetball Team
  3. 2008 Junior Nationals Preview
  4. 2006 USA Racquetball Junior Nationals – Finals
  5. 2006 Junior Nationals – Wednesday

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