Just wanted to send along my “unofficial Junior Nationals Preview” as the tourney begins this coming Wednesday, June 25, in Concord, CA.
The Girl’s 18s got some added intrigue this year when Oregon’s Shannon Inglesby decided to enter in her final year of junior eligibility, after a two year hiatus where she has been focusing on Softball. She and Indiana’s Sharon Jackson look to be the finalists this year, but you can never count out Ohio’s Sheryl Lotts who may pull an upset along the way. Inglesby and Jackson will also team in the doubles in an attempt to double qualify for the Junior National Team that will represent the US at the IRF Junior Worlds in December.
The Girl’s 16s features California’s Aubrey O’Brien, who looks to be the player to beat in this field. Aubrey will be looking to go one step further in December where she has been the beaten finalist in each of the last two Girl’s 14 and Under title matches at Junior Worlds. She’s hungry for another national title (or 3 as she’s playing doubles and mixed). Her doubles partner, Arizona’s Danielle Key, should also provide some strong competition in the singles, and you have to consider Ohio’s Lily Berry a contender here as well.
In the Girl’s 14s, this one is just too close to call as there are 3 young ladies that could very easily bring home the gold. Last year’s beaten finalist, California’s Devon Pimentelli, will certainly be a contender as will this year’s High School Nationals runner up, Courtney Chisholm from Massachusetts. The other player who will certainly be in the mix is last year’s 12 and Under National Champion, Kelani Bailey of Virginia. You can never count Kelani out of any match and her style of play can and will frustrate opponents into submission this coming week in California. Devon and Courtney will team up in the doubles and look to be the favorites in that division.
In the Girl’s 12s, again 3 young ladies should be battling for the title and once again, I can’t say that any one is more favored than the others in this one. California’s Sabrina Viscuso was the runner up last year, which should earn her the top seed this week, but Ohio’s Abbey Lavely and Oregon’s Hollee Hungerford are just as tough and ready to take the title in their last year in the 12s and thus the Espirit divisions. Sabrina and Hollee are the defending champions in the doubles and look to repeat as Abbey will be playing up with Kelani Bailey in the Girl’s 14 doubles.
In the Girl’s 10s, the favorite has to be Colorado’s Erika Manilla who was the runner up last year and will be looking to sweep the division in singles, doubles, and mixed. Judging from the beating she gave me a couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t bet against her. Her doubles partner, Florida’s Jordan Cooperrider should provide stiff competition in the singles. These two battled for the 8 and Under title last year, with Erika getting the hard fought win.
As for the Girl’s 8s, I’m afraid I am not familiar with any of the players, so I won’t hazard a guess as to what might happen.
On the Boy’s side, the 18s features another potential match up of close friends, Jose Rojas and Ishmael Aldana both from California. Jose managed the 16s and 18s double last summer as he focused on singles, but Ishmael is in his last year of junior eligibility and is always a threat for the title. There are plenty of solid competitors among the 39 players currently listed in this division, but Jose and Ishmael always seem to be able to get to the finals at this tourney and I can’t say this year will be any different.
In the Boy’s 16s, Current High School National Champion, Oregon’s Taylor Knoth, looks to add the title that eluded him last year as the runner up to Jose Rojas in this division. Again, there are plenty of tough competitors fighting for this prize, so look for partner Jake Bredenbeck of Minnesota, Joseph Lee of Louisiana, and Dylan Reid of Oregon to have a say in the final outcome of this division. Joseph and Dylan will also team in the doubles and could very well face Taylor and Jake for the gold in that event.
In the Boy’s 14s, Current World Champion Marko Rojas of California has got to be a strong favorite to repeat, but you can never count out his doubles partner, Jose Diaz also from California. Other players who should be in the hunt include Louisiana’s Zach Wertz, Oregon’s Sam Reid and John Lindsay. Zach and Sam will also team in the doubles and could be a tough match for Marko and Jose if they should meet for the gold.
In the Boy’s 12s, Colorado’s Adam Manilla should emerge as the top seed based on last year’s results (the only returning semifinalist), but there are several players that have really stepped up their games this year and have to be given serious consideration. Among them are (in no particular order) Oregon’s Josh Lebow, New Hampshire’s Chris Francis, California’s Bobby Sehrgosha, Alabama’s Robert Hemphill, Florida’s Sean Cooperrider, and Colorado’s Zach Pellowski. Adam Manilla teamed with Sean Cooperrider to win the doubles last year and should be favorites again this year.
In the Boy’s 10s and the Boy’s 8s, once again I’m afraid that I’m not familiar enough with the players to make an educated guess but there should be plenty of tough competition in both divisions.
The action kicks off Wednesday morning from Concord and you can follow the draws at the following link:
Also, if you can’t get to Northern California for this one, you can watch the best matches online at the following link:
You can also bet that the US Adult Team Coach, Dave Ellis, will be providing commentary on many of the matches this week.
Once again, I want to wish each and every player good luck as they compete for the title of National Champion.
June 23rd, 2008
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
June 25th, 2007
by Adam Katz
US Junior National Coach Kelley Beane has announced the 2006/2007 US Junior National Racquetball Team. This team will represent the U.S. during the Junior World Racquetball Championships this December.
I am pleased to announce the 2006/2007 Junior National Team. After a week of blood, sweat and tears we have our new team. It is difficult to see the tears when an athlete doesnt make the team, and yet pure joy to see the tears when they do. We have a big squad, one with confidence and they have the talent to back that confidence up. We have training camp Aug 4th-Aug 10th, and until then, enjoy your victories, and I will see you all soon.
Boys 18 Allan Crockett Mike Keddie
Girls 18 Michelle Key Ashley Wilhite
Boys 16 Jose Rojas Ishmael Aldana
Girls 16 Sharon Jackson Sherika Darnell
Boys 14 Taylor Knoth Brad Kirch
Girls 14 Aubrey Obrien Danielle Key
Boys 18 Doubles Chris Coy/ Zach Apperson
Girls 18 Doubles Kara Mazur/ Samantha McGuffey
Boys 16 Doubles Ishmael Aldana/ Jose Rojas
Girls 16 Doubles Holly Hettesheimer/ Sharon Jackson
Boys 14 Doubles Taylor Knoth/ Jake Bredenbeck
Girls 14 Doubles Danielle Key/Lily Berry
June 27th, 2006
by Geoff Thomsen