After what many considered a surprisingly tight race for the top spot in the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) rankings when Kane Waselenchuk lost only two games — not matches — during the entire 2014-2015 IRT season, the two top-ranked pros faced off in the final of the last tier one tournament of the year for the 2015 Fresno IRT Summer Kickoff ProAm title and #1 ranking. Kane Waselenchuk extended his head-to-head record against Rocky Carson to 58-3 with scores of 11-6, 11-6, 11-3 to win his 10th title of the season and claim his #1 year-end ranking.
By Tim Prigo
Kane Waselenchuk d. Rocky Carson 11-6, 11-6, 11-3
Game one- Waselenchuk began the match by shooting everything, trying to create offensive opportunities. Luckily for Carson, he skipped three in a row to put the California native up early at 3-0. Waselenchuk, once getting into the server’s box, started to blast drive serves that sent Carson lunging to throw the ball up to the ceiling. Waselenchuk capitalized on every set-up, appearing to wind up his entire body before unleashing the ball at astonishing pace. Waselenchuk continued his 6 to 0 run by acing Carson to the forehand, a drive serve he relied upon heavily throughout the first game. Carson was able to weather the onslaught expertly and not let Waselenchuk run away with the game as he often does. Carson worked himself into the game by using his high and hard Z serve that Waselenchuk did not cut off. Though Carson was able to extend the middle of this important game one, he found himself down 5-9. Carson timeout. The call proved wise as Carson got back into the box and scored a quick serve-return-kill rally point. Carson missed his next shot to lose the serve and then skipped his return of serve. Waselenchuk now at 10 was in the driver’s seat and on the ensuing rally, hit a clean down the line that Carson, unsuccessfully, lunged to get. 11-6, Waselenchuk in a 25 minute game one.
Game two- Waselenchuk started looking relaxed and in his zone as he hit soft pinches in the frontcourt for winners. Carson looked deflated, and slouched his shoulders. A familiar look for these two. Carson however stayed resilient and upon getting into the box for the first time in the game, hit two consecutive aces. Carson’s serve, which varied from down the line to slap Z’s, threw Waselenchuk off balance. Carson climbed back, down 0-5, within one point. Carson did well to continually diversify his serves, even at times hitting overhead outdoor-esque serves. Waselenchuk continued to lead as the game progressed, Carson trailing close behind. At 9-6, Waselenchuk garnered a setup off the back wall from a good drive serve to Carson’s backhand that he expertly put down. On the next point Waselenchuk was able to catch the sidewall and crack out the next and final point of game two. 11-6, Waselenchuk.
Game three- Waselenchuk continued the momentum into the third game and scored the first two points. Waselenchuk’s serves had been effective all match, though not scoring as many aces as normal. Carson perhaps anticipating the upcoming outdoor season, hit ineffective, yet bizarre over the head serves that sailed off the back wall. Waselenchuk may have been surprised but was able to track them all down and roll them all out. Though most of the first part of the game seemed to be a scramble for the desperate Carson, he was able to stay within two, down 3-5. Waselenchuk scored five very quick points, the quickest of the match. Now serving at 10-3 for the match, Waselenchuk hit a hard drive to the backhand that earned him a mid court setup. There was never a doubt, 11-3 Waselenchuk to close out the match and the season #1.
Rocky Carson d. Marco Rojas 11-9, 11-1, 11-3
Game one- Rojas started the match with solid drive serves to both sides of the court that helped garner set ups and center court position. Rojas played with an offensive mentality, cutting off shots chest high and driving them into the corners. Carson, though re-killing several balls, reverted to his defensive tactics and looked more for hard passes than rally ending pinches. Rojas, up 9-6, had set himself up to win the first game but Carson was able to get back in the box and force two straight Rojas skips via pressure from Carson’s get-ability. Rojas regained the serve at 9-8 and called a time-out. When time resumed, Carson promptly hit a down the line winner followed by a hard forehand ace to tie the game, 9-9. Rojas skipped the next return of serve but was able to recover on the following rally by hitting a splat rollout into the right corner. A huge overheard skip from the racquet of Rojas gave Carson back the serve, yet Rojas was able to battle back and stay mentally focused to pull through a 20 shot rally to once again regain the serve. A cut shot-kill on the backhand, off the back wall, gave Carson the impetus to take the game as on his following serve he fooled Rojas, who was caught leaning left, away from the ball. Carson takes a highly contested game one, 11-9.
Game two- Both players stayed neck and neck in the score line early on but it was clear that the momentum of winning the first game was still with Carson as he dominated in every aspect. Carson went on a scoring tear, aided by unforced Rojas skips, to 8-1. Rojas took a time-out, needing something to change. Rojas was not only the victim of stellar Carson serves, but also was missing many of his shots and seemed a step slow in his footwork. Carson was not interrupted by the pause in action as he continued to march towards 11. At 10-1, Carson climbed up the sidewall to hit a cut shot above his head at around 11 feet into the corner for a winner in one of the most athletic shots seen all year. 11-1, Carson.
Game three- Rojas came out flat, hitting weak serves and missing his back wall set-ups. To his credit, Rojas was moving his feet much better, making several acrobatic diving gets to extend the rallies. Carson continued to play solidly and the well-rounded player that he is shined through, as Rojas could not poke holes in any aspect of his game. Rojas, down 1-8, had multiple opportunities in the server’s box but was never able to put himself in offensive positions off his serve. When Carson did not ace Rojas, he would drive him into the backcourt and then put down splat winners. Carson, looking very much like the #1 player in the world served for the match at 10-3. Carson and Rojas exchanged blows in a 20 shot rally that had Rojas diving to both sides of the court, barely getting his racquet on every ball while Carson maintained center court. This rally and last point of the game was emblematic of the match. 11-3 Carson.
Kane Waselenchuk d. Alvaro Beltran 11-5, 12-10, 11-7
Game one- The match started with several side-outs and Beltran did well to thwart any momentum for Waselenchuk early on. Waselenchuk did eventually break through and went on a five point unanswered run to go up 7-1. Beltran called a time-out, sensing that Waselenchuk was heating up. Beltran was able to regain the serve and score a quick point from an ace. Beltran skipped the next shot, one that was a plum set-up, one that he would need to be putting away if he wanted to make a dent in Waselenchuk’s lead. Waselenchuk dropped in an ace on the left hand side followed by an ace on the right side, 10-2. Beltran was able to read Waselenchuk’s shots well in the latter half of the game and go on a three-point run before skipping a Waselenchuk serve that he thought he had hit for a winner. 11-5.
Game two- Waselenchuk started the game with an ace serve to Beltran’s backhand that he could only stare at. Waselenchuk’s shots fired from his racquet like bullets, fast and straight. Kill shot after kill shot fell in for Waselenchuk who quickly went up 3-0. Though Beltran scored a point at the start of this game his score still read 0, as he was penalized a point by head referee Charlie Pratt for unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of game one. At 2-8, Beltran took a timeout. Waselenchuk continued to find his range and scored another point via an ace to Beltran’s forehand. Much like in the first game, Beltran went on a run late in the game. Whereas before Waselenchuk stopped the run early on, this time Beltran was able to carry the momentum all the way to 9-10. This meant Beltran scored six unanswered points against Waselenchuk. Beltran broke his strings and when the equipment timeout ended Waselenchuk skipped a two-foot dink into the corner with Beltran out of position, 10-10. Waselenchuk regained the serve and was treated to a point from a backhand skip from Beltran. A shot that Beltran had not missed all match. On the next rally, Waselenchuk pulled a cross court hard and low that an out of position Beltran could only look at. 12-10, Waselenchuk.
Game three- Beltran went up 2-1 despite lacking any real rhythm to his offense. Beltran spent most of the first part of the game frustrated with calls and arguing with the referee. Waselenchuk played well, keeping his head down and hitting the lines hard. Though he was not hitting as many rally ending shots as has become accustom, he was moving Beltran side to side. Down 2-6, Beltran called a timeout. This proved fruitful as slowly but surely Beltran found points and inched himself back into the game at 5-6. This run was cut short not because of anything Waselenchuk did but rather due to Beltran skips. Waselenchuk served well and went on a four point run, 10-5. Beltran was able to get back in the box and score two more points from soft pinch kills in the frontcourt. Beltran continued his high level of frustration as he felt like most calls were going against him. Waselenchuk was able to hold off Beltran’s advances and win the match 11-7.
UPSET! Markie Rojas beat Daniel De La Rosa 11-3, 11-9, 11-7 in quarterfinal #3. Markie Rojas will face Rocky tomorrow in semifinal #1 at 11 a.m. PDT. Kane won his quarterfinal match against Jose Rojas and will face the winner of quarterfinal #4: Alvaro Beltran who defeated Charlie Pratt 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4 in the final quarterfinal of the evening.
Rocky Carson d Jansen Allen 11-2, 11-5, 7-11, 11-3
Marco Rojas d Daniel De La Rosa 11-2, 11-3, 6-11, 11-6
Alvaro Beltran d Charlie Pratt 11-1, 7-11, 11-6, 11-4
Kane Wasleenchuk d Hose Rojas 11-6, 12-10, 11-5
Round of 16:
Rocky Carson d Majeed Shahin 11-4, 11-5, 11-4
Jansen Allen d Robert Collins 9-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-0
Marco Rojas d Felippe Comacho 11-8, 11-2, 11-1
Daniel De La Rosa d David Horn 11-2, 11-3, 6-11, 11-6
Alvaro Beltran d Javier Moreno 11-4, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7
Charlie Pratt d Matthew Majxner 11-9, 11-7, 11-6
Jose Roajs d Jose Diaz 12-10, 11-9, 11-3
Kane Waselenchuk d Teobaido Fumero 11-3, 11-0, 11-0
Fresno’s Summer Kick-off Closes Out Season
Fresno, CA joins Lombard, IL and San Marcos, TX as the third former satellite location to transition to Tier 1 status, and now closes the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour 2014-2015 season with the Fresno IRT Summer Kickoff at the Sierra Athletic Club May 28-31, 2015. Tournament Director Nancy Feramisco’s main reason? “For the people of the club, who love watching the pros and the excitement of awesome play.”
John Ellis (Stockton IRT ProAm Director) encouraged Feramisco to host a Tier One when asked his opinion. “He thought it would be a great experience,” she said later. “And he felt so bad about cancelling out of it, so I also wanted to give the pros another chance to play a Tier One.”
Ellis said he didn’t really have to convince Feramisco to make the move. “She just needed that little extra encouragement from a fellow tournament director to put her over the top.”
The Sierra Athletic Club hosts its first Tier 1 in their 29-year history of racquetball tournaments. Darlene Ochlschlaeger and Tim Morales started running tournaments at the club in 1991. Feramisco joined the duo in 1999 before accepting sole leadership in 2003 when Ochlschlaeger and Morales left.
Fresno is located in the Central Valley between Los Angeles and San Francisco. “The Sierra Athletic Club sets up pretty nicely,” said Ellis. “The seven courts are all in one wide hallway, and you are kind of away from the rest of the club so it feels like it’s all yours. The courts have a lot of character, and show wear and tear from being in use for 30—40 years. It’s something players can use as an advantage.”
Many have been playing through the decades, like the inspiring 83-year old Mae Rogers who’s competed for at least thirty-five years and still plays women’s Bs. She was a finalist at National Singles during her 70s, and is still at the club every morning. Alongside Feramisco, Tournament Director Jim Durham is a huge part of their tournament running smoothly. They also get significant help from her son, Josh Giosa and others.“We have all been close for so many years,” explained Feramisco when asked about the community. “Jim Durham, Kathy Barserian, and I have known each other since our children were very young. Everyone except my son is still playing Open level together now.”
Others supporters have offered sponsorships, like Tim Demera, Owner of All Stage Construction, and Darrell Vincent, of Darrell Vincent Farms, who both doubled their donations after learning the Tier Three would become a Tier One. Vincent “often shares the fruits (and nuts) of his labor” (USA Racquetball magazine, Spring 2015, page 34-35 “Darrel Vincent is Nuts over Racquetball”), also supporting the Stockton IRT pro stops and the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN. Feramisco also recieved support for the tournament after talking with new Sierra Athletic Club member, Kerry Smith, who dropped off a check from Mono Wind Casino the very next day. “It was such a nice surprise to see the check. In fact, a number of our sponsors have doubled their support. I really appreciate the help from all of our sponsors and volunteers. We couldn’t have this tournament without them.”
New Tier One status builds on the history of top pros winning in Fresno. IRT Vice President of Event Development, Adam Karp, took a title in 2001, and current #1 Rocky Carson won in 1998. #3 Alvaro Beltran and #6 Jose Rojas were crowned champions at the satellites the past two seasons. As a young kid, Rojas played tournaments at the Sierra Athletic Club and, according to Feramisco, is a crowd favorite.
This year all of the top pros will venture to Fresno to compete, joining local players like Matthew Barserian, Carlos Borjas and Herb Yamashiro. Tom Durham, also from Fresno will miss the tournament as he is recovering from an injury. Barserian and Yamashiro both faced Carson in last year’s Tier 3 event.
With many courts and decades of history at the club, Feramisco offers a unique opportunity for all to enjoy the excitement of bringing the world’s best pros to compete together with local favorites in Northern California. “The players should do their part and embrace the new location,” Ellis said. “It’s an opportunity to add a new city to the Tour for years and years to come.”
By Eric Mueller
Eric Mueller started working with the IRT after joining the 2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships Media Team, where he garnered coverage for top racquetball pros and amateurs in their hometown media while also helping to provide updates to the racquetball community during the tournament. With a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, Mueller also brings experience in sports reporting and news writing for newspapers like the Pioneer Press in St. Paul as well as the Southwest Journal and the Downtown Journal in Minneapolis. He has also worked in marketing for the St. Paul Saints professional baseball team and for Gopher Athletics at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Mueller currently works as a Public Relations Intern for the Chicago Bandits professional softball team.