Kane Wins St. Louis Party with the Pros

Waselenchuk defeats Carson 1, 8, 5: For the first time since Kane had returned from his injury, Rocky and Kane once again traveled their usual fateful path to meet in the finals. And once again it seemed like the result was predetermined to be the same.

Click HERE to view the pro draw.

Final Match Recap

by Brendan Giljum

Waselenchuk defeats Carson 1, 8, 5

Kane was warming up for the finals about one hour and fifteen minutes before the match even started. It showed from the start. All of Kane’s serves had seemingly impossible amounts of pop and velocity to them. Rocky didn’t seem ready to handle them as Kane earned several points of aces early. Despite a few good shots from Rocky, the first game was all Kane. Almost every shot was past Kane or rolled clean out. Kane’s level of drive and determination allowed him to take game one 11-1.

Game two was almost the same exact situation as the first, except for the multiple calls from referee Charlie Pratt that Kane openly and verbally disagreed with. Kane’s incredible and untouchable drive serves were still present and still earning him multiple aces throughout the match. Kane quickly returned any shot Rocky was actually able to get ahold of with a swift kill. Down 6-0, Rocky found a new life and was able to string together some points, raising his score to 4, and then again to 7. Kane was able to pull the win out once again, taking the second game 11-8.

Kane proved to everyone, including Rocky, that his time off had not left him any less skilled as he continued his dominance of the match into game 3. For much of the time, Kane’s shot selection sent Rocky out of position and diving all about. Kane wasted no time in finishing the match by playing with intensity and ferocity that Rocky could not match. Kane rolled to an 11-5 game and match victory over his finals rival Rocky Carson.

Semifinal Match Recaps

#1 Kane Waselenchuk v #4 Jose Rojas 2, 2, 3

Kane won the coin toss and came up 2-0. After serving for the third point, he miss-hit Jose’s return. It’s understandable—he broke three strings on the drive serve. Jose managed to get a couple of points on the board, but Kane was putting everything down: in the front corners, skidding down the line, and from thirty-eight feet back. Jose’s quick feet and agility kept him in the rallies, but he’ll need to bury the balls as quickly as Kane does in order to take the match. Game 1 went to Kane, 11-2.

Game 2 Jose began doing just that, putting the ball down in order spend time in the box. Kane continued to control the court, starting to pull away when Jose had a great splat at 0-3. Still, Jose couldn’t keep up with his opponent’s powered and well-placed shots. On a rare skipped ball from Kane, Jose was back in the box, 0-7. Kane’s shot-making ability dominated center court, taking the game 11-2.

Game 3 What’s “down” for most players isn’t for Kane, although he still gives kudos to his opponents for the well-placed smart shots, like Jose’s wide-angle pass and splat from backcourt. At one point, after a cross-court bullet from the back of the court that rocketed by so quickly Jose could only watch, Kane gave his younger opponent a smile and an apology as if to say, “Sorry. Yes, it was that good.” The two shared a laugh and a smile, before getting back to work. Jose had a few great hits of his own, like a backcourt overhand winner and a down-the-line pass skimming the sidewall two inches above the hardwood that got him onto the scoreboard. 2-8. Still, he’d need to put more together than spurts of supremacy to beat Kane, as the #1 player quickly demonstrated with an overhand cross-court kill from the back. While Kane showed why he is a dominating number one, Jose flashes greatness and the potential he has to be an ever better player to come. 11-3.

#2 Rocky Carson d #3 Ben Croft 6, 4, 1

#2 Rocky Carson and #3 Ben Croft stepped onto the court with a 3-22 head-to-head record in Rocky’s favor. One of Ben’s three wins, however, came the last time they met during February’s MonaVie Salt Lake City ProAm, a 5-game battle that resulted in Ben’s first tier one championship win.

Both players took time to feel each other’s game out, with ceiling balls sliding along the left sidewall back and forth. Ben seemed stiff and uncomfortable and without his usually energy. The score remained 1-1 ten minutes into the match. Rocky broke the tie after a skipped-ball call. Ben had some advice for IRT Referee, Charlie Pratt. “You can’t tell the difference between a slice and a skipped ball ever.” Immediately afterward, it was Rocky’s turned to be unhappy with the call, suggesting to Charlie that he make the skipped ball calls right way. The calls aside, Rocky started to pull away, burying the ball to bring the score to 5-4. At 4-9, Ben got back in the box, eking the score up to 6-10. Not enough, Rock dialed in for the match at 11-6.

Game two, Rocky took control of the match, with both players shooting to kill the ball. The play included a few extended rallies interspersed with skipped balls and scores, the latter especially in Rocky’s favor. He buried a ball in the right corner at 5-1, breaking it in half. Neither player seemed to be having much fun. While Ben had some chances, he left up shots, which Rocky put down for an 11-4 win.

Game three saw Ben’s game still off, not playing his characteristic all-out style, not flying around the court or diving to the floor once. Rocky took game 3 for the match 11-1. Afterwards, the fact that Ben seemed to be injured was confirmed by white wrapping supporting a leg injury and his Facebook posting. “Nothing left. Looking forward to the doctor, PT, and a month off.”

Quarterfinal Match Recaps

# 3 Ben Croft d #5 Chris Crowther (9), 10, 7, 1

What was anticipated as a heavy hitting highly emotional match proved to be exactly that. Ben croft, the emotional athlete with a powerful backhand verses Chris crowther, the giant with a thunderous forehand.

Game one started out with both players trading points in hard fought rallies until Ben managed to get some separation in points taking a lead. Chris wasn’t lying down yet though as he fought back with strong returns and great court positioning, which forced Ben to hit awkward tough shots. Croft wasn’t able to stop the momentum of Crowther though eventually losing game one on a questionable call in which Ben thought there should have at least been a safety hinder called. After some tough criticism to referee Charlie Pratt, Ben finally left the court with only a technical warning.

At the start of game two Players kept it close with a down-to-business attitude, resolutely taking their shots, minimizing time in the serve box, and avoiding discussion, even after an avoidable at 6-6. They kept it close, both the score and space on the court as Chris slowly pulled away to a two-point lead. Ben tied it up at 10-10. Chris took a time out. Ben in the box, takes the next two, ending the game with a splat from 38’ feet.

Tensions starting rising in the third, Ben denied a change on a replay called on a “knee shot,” yet eventually reached a 5-1 lead. Then it was Chris’ turn to be denied, after explaining he didn’t take the shot. “You should have,” was Referee Charlie Pratt’s reply. Down 3-5, Ben disputed another avoidable. Chris got the call and the point, up 6-3. Again, the players kept it close. At 6-7, Ben was a few feet from the front corner, when he went for a pinch-kill and likely winner, but broke the ball. The fans would have thought that Ben would have lost his focus, after an arguing a replay, which he thought should have been an avoidable. “I would have taken his head off.” Pratt didn’t see it that way. Ben racked up points and took the game on a diving kill.

Ben took a quick 5-point lead in the 4th. They exchanged hard-hitting rallies, playing tight. Hit with the ball, Chris took an injury time out at 1-7. When they came back onto the court, Ben was on a mission and finished the game off for the match.

#2 Rocky Carson d #15 Andy Hawthorne 0, 4, 7

#2 Rocky walked onto the court with a 14-0 record against the Andy, seemingly determined to make it 15. Picking up the pace on his serves from just last week, he powered through handing Andy a donut the first match. He continued to control the next two games taking the match in three.

Jose Rojas d Alvaro Beltran (4), (6), 8, 6, 8

With a 2-2 record against each other, Alvaro and Jose took the court. What was expected to be a close match turned out to be just that. The last time they met at the San Diego Open, Jose won, in a championship match. This time, Alvaro took control from the start, smoothly hitting his shots while running Jose around the court. Alvaro took the first game 11-4. Jose made adjustments in game two, both players making smart shots and pounding out long rallies. Alvaro started to put on a lead, at 7-5, bringing it to 9-5 until Jose rolled the ball. Alvaro gave him credit as Jose stepped into the box. Jose served the ball, and Alvaro rolled it right back. The two players kept it close until Jose got on a roll and Alvaro gave him the palms-down symbol telling him to take it easy. He did, losing game two. Game three seemed sloppy, with skipped shots mixed with excellence. Jose took the match with a front-wall back-wall rollout. Again in game 5 the two players kept it close, each nailing shots. After Alvaro got on a roll and at 8-10, Jose called a time out. Alvaro yelled, “No!” The crowd laughed with him at the good sense Jose had in calling the critical timeout. The break worked, Jose came back onto the court, took back the serve, and hit a kill. Alvaro dove to the front but skipped it. Jose took the game and the match.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #8 Shane Vanderson  4, 7, 0

 by IRT Intern Brendan Giljum

Kane started off the game with all his serves no more than an inch off of the ground and several aces sprinkled in between. Kane seemed to be running away with the game before it started, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. There were a couple of great shots from Shane throughout, but it seemed to be all he could do to end rallies dominated by Kane’s power and agility. Kane took game won 11-4.

Kane hopped out to an early lead in much the same fashion in game two, but after earning 9 points allowed Shane to creep back into it. Kane couldn’t seem to score points late in the game with side outs going back and forth until finally he took control of the serve and won two rallies in a row, taking the second game 11-7.

From the very start of the third game, it looked like Shane was drained and that his fate was imminent. It didn’t help Shane that Kane put down every shot with no chance for any recovery from Vanderson. Kane rolled from the start taking the game and match by a score of 11-0.

Round of Sixteen Results

Kane Waselenchuk d Lee Connell 3, 1, 3

Shane Vanderson v Tony Carson 12, (8), 1, (6), 9

Alvaro Beltran d Juan Herrera 1, 4, WBF

Brad Schopieray v Jose Rojas

Ben Croft d Arthur Schmeiser 3, 4, (10), 1

Javier Moreno v Chris Crowther 10, 10, 8

Andy Hawthorne d Charlie Pratt 3, 4, (5), (6), 4

Rocky Carson d Ruben Gonzalez 3, 1, 2

Next Stop: St. Louis Party with the Pros!

Top men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) pros will be meeting in St. Louis for the 3rd annual Party with the Pros at the Missouri Athletic Club-West, with ties to the downtown location’s storied sports history dating back to 1904.

“The club has hosted a large number of elite athletes,” explained Tournament Director and IRT Director of Player and Community Relations, Shari Coplen. “A lot of the racquetball pros from the ‘70’s and famous celebrities athletes have played here from teams like the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues.” The MAC–West facility enjoys holds a special place in racquetball fans’ hearts with its unique, fishbowl court set down from the main floor. Coplen explained that the dual-surfaced walls, which include boards along the base and glass to the ceiling on three sides, make this center stage a favorite. “It’s one of a kind. People love to play on it.”

Among the local players is Steve Serot, who will be inducted into the International Racquetball Hall of Fame at Ektelon Nationals presented by Penn. Serot will also be recognized during the Quarterfinals of this event. Coplen nominated him for his many achievements, which include the first player to ever win a professional racquetball tournament, youngest player to win a pro stop, four tier 1 titles, multiple National Doubles titles, and introducing diving re-kill shots to the sport. When an injury to his right hand sidelined him from Major League Baseball, “he accomplished everything that he did playing left-handed,” said Coplen. Missouri Hall of Famers will be available to sign autographs.

Pro action takes place all weekend with the Pro Sponsor Doubles on Thursday night, and the early rounds of the pro draw culminating in the Quarterfinals on Friday night. To accommodate local schedules, the pros will play both the semifinal and final rounds on Saturday, followed by a Party with the Pros at the Stan Musial Grill on the West Campus. During the weekend, Sudsy Monchik will give a clinic for all sponsors, Bronze level and above.

With multi-tiered pricing on pro-match tickets maxing out at only $25 for the whole weekend, amenities in St. Louis including the (always) free entry to the St. Louis Zoo and Art Museum, the weekend promises to offer racquetball players, fans, and their families an entertaining weekend.

Tournament entries are limited to the first 120 players and will be accepted online until Monday, 3/12/2012 until 10:00 pm Central Time. Contact Shari Coplen with any questions or for information on the tournament,