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Jose Rojas takes 2013 Novasors Ghost of Georgetown Championship!

altCongratulations to Jose on taking huge upset wins over the #1 ranked Kane Waselenchuk and #2 Rocky Carson to earn the 2013 Novasors Ghost of Georgetown Kansas City title to kick off the 2013-2014 IRT season. Click below for recaps.

 

Click HERE to view the pro draw.

The Final: 

#4 Jose Rojas d #2 Rocky Carson 4, 5, (9), (3), 10

altThe two Novasors Ghost of Georgetown Kansas City finalists stepped onto the court determined to take the Championship. #4 Jose Rojas was attempting to do what hadn’t been done in thirteen years: beat the #1 and #2 seeds – and this in only his third Tier 1 finals appearance. The veteran, #2 Rocky Carson, who is more often in the final round than not, was looking for points to help achieve a yearend #1 ranking this season, a feat he has strived to achieve since 2007-2008, after which Kane Waselenchuk returned to the tour and claimed the top spot.

The crowd buzzed with excitement, wondering whether Jose could maintain the high level of play and inflict the pressure shown in his match against Kane, or if Rocky’s experience would be enough to put that fire out. The anwer was, “Yes.” The two pros showcased an exceptional level of play and intensity that could be felt in the stands and over the IRT Network stream. Jose won the first two. Rocky took the next two.

The match came down to the tiebreaker.

Jose hustled to an early, yet slight, lead against Rocky who was two, then three points behind. Both players exchanged lightening shots and amazing gets, clearly giving all for the match. The fans were all in too, as the exceptional level of play could only be matched by the decible level above the packed stands. Two hours into the match, Rocky was down 3-5. By then, both players showed hints of the mental and physical toll. Rocky hit his shin with the racquet. In the replay, Jose started limping on the court, perhaps twisting his ankle. Still, Jose got the next point. The two exchanged trips to the serve box, but Jose stayed ahead by 2, then 3 points. At 5-8, Rocky called a timeout. Jose flat rolled out the ball when they returned.

altBack between the redlines, Jose served the ball only to hit air in the backcourt, where he remained for Rocky’s serve. Jose’s return was just too much for Rocky, as the #4 seed fired the ProPennHD into the corner.

At 10-5, Jose stepped up to serve game point. He skipped. Rocky made an error next, following a short serve with a 3-wall Drive Z for a double fault. Jose’s subsequent skip had Rocky fist pumping before taking a timeout. The pressure seemed to be getting to the younger player, as Jose just couldn’t finish the game despite five attempts at game point. Experience served Rocky well, as he climbed his way back from the deficit to tie the score. Yet, he also couldn’t close out the game for the match, twice.

alt2 hours and 40 minutes into the match, Jose finally scored the winning point before collapsing on the court, happy and exhausted at taking his second Tier 1 championship by breaking the tie in a tiebreaker.

The season opener in Kansas City always holds a special place as fans and players get their first glimpse of how the next nine months might play out. This year, with Jansen Allen and Jose Rojas delivering upsets, a new energy is flowing through the racquetball community as the new guard steps up the challenge in the upper echelons of the sport.

Semifinals Results:

Kane Waselenchuk in four hard-fought games. Just try not to get carried away thinking this is the changing of the guard…yet. Kane might have said it best in his post match interview “If I lose once every four years, I think I’ll be pretty happy with that”.

(2) Rocky Carson d. (3) Alvaro Beltran 8,4,2

The players have a relatively even playing record against each other, with the #3 Alvaro up 16 wins to #2 Rocky’s 14.  With Rocky active in the outdoor game, he didn’t finish his season until July, well after the indoor players had already hung up their racquets for an off-season break. The match proved interesting. Rocky didn’t appear to play great, yet Alvaro didn’t seem to be playing badly. It was more the overall flow of play, and the timing of Rocky’s good play along with the unforced errors on Alvaro’s part which made it a 3-game match. Rocky hit a couple of really nice shot while Alvaro mised one or two. Then, it seemed, the game was over.

(4) Jose Rojas d. (1) Kane Waselenchuk (2),9,8,4

In a surprising upset, Jose Rojas delivered Kane Waselenchuk’s first (non-injury forfeit) loss since January 2009, during the tournament many expected would be Kane’s 71st record-breaking top tier win. The match started out looking like a display of Kane’s dominance, as the #1 player took the first easily with a score of 11-2. Jose seemed ready to step up in game two with an early lead, 5-2, until Kane turned on the heat to advance 9-5. Jose didn’t let up, scoring straight points to win game 2, 11-9. Jose maintained the momentum in game 4 with 6 points to Kane’s 1, until the current champion came back to tie the score 7-7. Jose held on to win, 11-8. With Kane down 2 games to 1, the buzz in the crowd grew louder as the two pros made it an exciting match. Jose’s rising star has been predicted to reach the number #1 ranking in future, but few had anticipated he’d hand the #1 player a rare loss in the first tournament of the 2013-2014 season. Jose took an early lead in game 4. Kane came close, but not enough as Jose put together a string of points to win game 4 at 11-4 for the match. Jose earned the slot facing #2 Rocky Carson in Sundays final.

Quarterfinals Results:

(1) Kane Waselenchuk d. (8) Daniel De La Rosa 6,4,5

Pro Kennex was going to make its way into the semifinals one way or the other after this match, with the reigning champion and an up-and-comer facing off. The only question was which player wearing the logo would earn a slot in Saturday’s semifinal round. Then again, was there really any question? Kane showed his dominance once again by beating Daniel 11-6, 11-4, 11-5, demonstrating that the new guard has a ways to go to compete with the champ.

(2) Rocky Carson d. (10) Marco Rojas 2,2,3
With a big win against #7-ranked Tony Carson in the round of 16’s, Marco showed a ton of promise. The crowd strapped in expecting a long, close match. There was one problem though: Rocky Carson is not Tony Carson. Rocky had other plans. With his foot on the gas right out of the gate, he showed why he’s ranked #2, not #10, by beating Marco 11-2, 11-2, 11-3.

(3) Alvaro Beltran d. (6) Ben Croft 9,8,9
Drive serves, lob serves, power, control, speed. and finesse were all on display in this match. The new, bulked up Ben Croft added power to his game while the healed Alvaro Beltran was moving like he did 10 years ago. Together, they gave fans an exciting match. Although Alvaro won in three, 11-9, 11-8, 11-9, the scores were close and each game could have gone either way.

(4) Jose Rojas d. (12) Jansen Allen 8,4,8
Still running hot after his big win against Chris Crowther earlier in the day, Jansen came out swinging. He traded points with Jose throughout the entire first game, until the #4-ranked pro pulled away. Jose took advantage of the momentum, finishing the match in three 11-4, 11-8.

Round of 16 Results: 

(1) Kane Waselenchuk d. (33) Travis Woodbury 2,4,2

In a total shock to the racquetball world, Kane allowed 4 points in the first game – he clearly started out slow. After settling down in the second, he won the next two games 11-2, 11-0.

 (8) Daniel De La Rosa d. (9) Alex Ackerman 9,8,5

After reaching a 7-4 lead in the first, Alex missed a couple of shots which allowed Daniel to get back in the game. At 9-9 Alex skipped a serve return, which was all that was needed to give Daniel the momentum. He closed out it out 11-9. He maintained momentum in the second game and never looked back in the third, winning the match 11-9, 11-8, 11-5.

(12) Jansen Allen d. (5) Chris Crowther (11),4,8,3

This match started off with a battle as they exchanged multiple lead changes in the first game keeping the crowd on edge as if waiting to find out who would land the break and win the game. Crowther came through, taking the first 13-11. Jansen came out strong in the second, mounting a lead and never looking back. Jansen won the second 11-4. The third game seemed to be the most important, granting control of the momentum. Jansen took it away, winning the third and fourth 11-8, 11-3.

(4) Jose Rojas d. (13) David Horn 9,5,7

In the battle of STOCKTOWN, bragging rights added to the pressure of making a trip to the quarterfinals making it hard to predict what would happen in the match. The two have probably played hundreds of times, maybe even thousands, as they both call “The 209” home. But, it was all Rojas on this day. The first game was tight to 9-9. Then Jose closed it out 11-9. The next two games were generic, as Jose maintained control of the match, winning 11-5, 11-7.

 (3) Alvaro Beltran d. (30) Mike Green 10,(2),1,2

This match was set to be the match of the season opener. As soon as the first ball was served, the players showed they were not going to disappoint. They battled point for point in the first game, until Alvaro got hot late and won the first 12-10. Mike came out firing in the second, dropping bomb serve after bomb serve, which Alvaro couldn’t answer. Mike won the second 11-2. Fans watching wondered if there was a momentum shift leading to an epic match. Instead, Alvaro woke up. He started showing that he had a drive serve of his own, shooting the ball with pinpoint accuracy and going on to win the next two quickly 11-1, 11-2.

(6) Ben Croft d. Jose Diaz (11) 5,5,4

All three games were pretty much exactly the same. Jab, jab, jab – close in the beginning until power shots took the point. They went back and forth in the beginning of each game, until Ben went on one run after another to win 11-5, 11-5, 11-4.

(10) Marco Rojas d. (7) Tony Carson 4,7,6

The buzz in the crowd was that Marco looked like he had been training the entire off-season while Tony looked like he was trying to shake off the rust from a two-month break. A frustrated Tony Carson went down to an enthusiastic Marco Rojas, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6.

 (2) Rocky Carson d. (18) Alejandro Herrera 2,4,2

Yesterday’s 2.5+ hour match seemed to catch up with Alejandro as he faced the #2-ranked player. A hot Rocky Carson didn’t help Alejandro’s cause. Rocky cruised to his first Round of 16’s win in the first Tier One in the new season 11-2, 11-4, 11-2.

Season Opener: Ghost of Georgetown Championships

A Tournament Preview by Becky Wiese

The 2013-14 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) season kicks off with the 14th Annual Ghost of Georgetown Pro/Am September 12-15. The event will be hosted by The Athletic Club in Overland Park, Kansas. Tournament director Mike Wedel anticipates an exciting weekend for spectators of the pro matches and participants in the amateur matches. “We’re hoping to have about 250 players, which is significantly larger than in 2012. There seems to be more excitement this year,” Wedel says. He credits the IRT’s increased exposure for all things related to racquetball for the swelling numbers. “Jason [Mannino] and his team have been doing a great job getting the word out.”

The Athletic Club is one of the few remaining facilities built specifically for racquetball enthusiasts, making it a perfect location for a Tier 1 event. Nine courts easily accommodate the more than 60 divisions, which include age and skill levels for men, women, juniors, and doubles. The pro matches will have seating for up to 300 spectators, helping to drive the excitement and intensity even higher. 

On Thursday evening before competition begins, a very special event kicks off the weekend while raising money for the two tournament charities: Harvesters (the Kansas City food bank) and the Kansas Racquetball Association. “Last year we did a social hour for sponsors and we’re planning to expand that this year,” explains Wedel. “Our plan is to sell a limited number of tickets for sponsors and others to enjoy some light refreshments and watch a special exhibition doubles match featuring Jason Mannino and Bart Miller pairing up against Cliff Swain and Rosco Halsey. It will be very exclusive, as spectators will only be able to view this match from our bar area. It’ll be one of the hot tickets for the weekend.”

Wedel appreciates the dedication of the tournament sponsors, as their involvement and financial backing are crucial to a successful event. The unique thing about many racquetball tournament sponsors is that, not only are they willing to help in many ways, they are often avid racquetball players themselves. “Bart Miller with Novasors has been a key sponsor for five years; Rosco Halsey/Edward Jones has contributed not only financially, but has donated some great giveaways for the junior clinic that takes place on Saturday morning during the tournament; and Gina Danner of Mail Print has been great about getting all of our printed material, court stickers, and sponsor banners ready to go. Their excitement and dedication to the sport feed the excitement for others.” 

Watching a record-setting, dominating professional player like Kane Waselenchuk also adds to the fervor. “People are infatuated with domination in sports,” says Wedel. “The excitement is infectious…people want to see someone who is the best at their sport compete.” Wedel feels the draw is similar to when Michael Jordan dominated basketball—“It’s just awe-inspiring.” Of course, players such as Rocky Carson, Alvaro Beltran, Jose Rojas, and other top pros continue to challenge Waselenchuk and each other, demonstrating great racquetball and upping the stakes each time they step onto a court. The high level of competition makes each Tier 1 stop exciting for spectators and players—professional and amateur alike.

As important as the sponsors and pro players are to this tournament, Wedel feels that the core of the success lies with the amateur players. “We want people at every level—novice, A, B, and on up—to come and play at the tournament,” he says. When amateur club players “catch the bug,” they get their friends and acquaintances involved and the sport grows. The more people that play, the more they want to participate and see top players compete. In Wedel’s estimation, “amateurs make it happen. They are what make the tournament successful.”