#1 ranked Kane Waselenchuk became the first double champion of the 2014-2015 IRT season, winning the 2013 Lewis Drug pro singles in three straight before pairing up with Jason Mannino to take pro doubles in a close, hard-fought tiebreaker.
Pro Singles Final:
Kane Waselenchuk d Alvaro Beltran 6, 4, 12
Alvaro enjoyed a quick run of points from the start, scoring 5-0 by sticking to a game plan of drive serving to the lefty’s backhand. Kane came back, scoring a run of his own to tie the score at 5-all. Both showed a mix of great hands, with soft taps up front and pounding it from the back of the court to rack up points, 6-5, 6-6. Switching to a lob serve against Kane didn’t work, as the #1 pro only pounded the return. Alvaro’s backhand skip broke the tie and Kane’s kill in the corner notched his next point as he took the game away from there, winning 11-6.
In game 2 Alvaro had to keep the pressure on Kane, or rather, maintain intensity against Kane’s aggressive game style. Again, Alvaro came out strong gaining a 3-0 advantage as the two players exchanged friendly banter between points. Kane’s scorching shots and pinpoint accuracy had Alvaro skipping and Kane scoring, up 6-3. At 3-6, Alvaro tried going back to the high lob, but again it didn’t work. At game point, 10-4, Kane pointed to the left back corner where he proceeded to serve the ball before hitting Alvaro’s return out of the air for the win, 11-4.
Again Alvaro came out to an early lead, this time 5-0, by keeping up with Kane’s serve-
and-shoot game. At 1-5, Kane mounted his comeback, tying the game at 5-5, before pulling away. The two tied again at 8-8, as Beltran fought back, tying at 10-10 until his skip gave Kane the lead again, but not the 2 points he needed for the win. The two continued their exceptional play and amusing banter, driving the score up to 13-12 when Kane closed out the game 14-12 for the match.
Pro Doubles Final:
Kane Waselenchuk/Jason Mannino d Rocky Carson/Jose Rojas 13-15, 15-11, 11-9
Kane Waselenchuk d Chris Crowther 0, 2, 3
Chris Crowther stepped into familiar territory, making the finals of last year’s event. He’d looked focused and determined during his quarterfinal match, and fans anticipated seeing more of the same. Kane Waselenchuk had cruised to the semifinal round giving up 2 points in 6 games. He stayed in the express lane, curising past Crowther, 0, 2, 3.
Alvaro Beltran d Rocky Carson 9, 3, -1
Alvaro Beltran took out Rocky Carson in three. After Rocky blew a 9-5 lead in game one, he seemed to lose focus. A technical from taking an extra timeout brought his score from 0 to -1.
Alvaro Beltran d Tony Carson 9, (5), 5, 11
The usually slow-starter Beltran looked sharp straight out of the gate, scoring four points before Carson raised both arms to celebrate his first. Both players displayed a casual, lackadaisical style belying their high level of play. Beltran meandered to a 9-4 lead despite Carson’s strong serve returns and flashes of brilliant play. Carson’s unsual backhand drive serve helped propel him to within one point at 8-9, but Beltran finished game one, 11-9.
The momentum that Carson had built in the first game continued into the second, as he scored 7 unanswered points. Despite Beltran’s potestations to the contrary, IRT Referee maintined his call that Beltran’s second serve was a screen for a doublefault. Carson was back in the box at 10-0. Beltran’s rollout on the return staged a comeback, as he kept drive serving to the right, which Carson argued were screens to no avail. After 7 trips to the servebox for game point at 10-5, Carson closed out game 2, 11-5.
A long start to game three saw both players keeping the score close 2-2 before Beltran started inching away, 4-3. The slow pace played into Beltran’s favor as he pulled away to take game 3, 11-5.
Carson reached and then built on an early 2-0 lead, pulling away 6-2 and then 7-3 as both players sauntered into position between rallies. Beltran serve bagan a ceiling rally ending with Carson’s kill for a sideout. He capitalized on the opportunity, scoring 4 and then 5 on an ace serve to get back into the game. At 5-7, Carson took a timeout. He stuck to the backhand serve, raising his lead to 9-6 before Beltran took a timeout. Beltran stepped back onto the court, chipping away at Carson’s lead, sticking to lob serves to tie the match at 9-9 and then stepping into the lead for the first time in the game, 10-9. His forehand skip put Carson in the box, tying it at 10-10 before getting ahead 11-10. He hustled hard, but Beltran ran him around the court. Beltran screamed in frustration when he skipped the next ball. Carson tied the score again at 11 each. Beltran converted his third opportunity for match point, taking the forth game 13-11 for the match in four games.
Rocky Carson d Marco Rojas 2, 3, 9
In game one, Rocky owned center court, reaching an early 6-0 lead when Rojas took a timeout. Carson’s strong serves earned weak returns from Rojas, who skipped at game point. Carson won, 11-2. In game two Rocky kept the pressure on, jam-serving for weak returns as Carson pulled ahead. At 2-6 Rojas took a timeout after a skip. It didn’t help. Carson won game two, 11-2. The two-time National Intercollegiate Champion woke up in game three, reaching a 4-0 lead as both players started shouting to themselves, Carson to fire up and Rojas to maintain. Carson scored his first point at 1-8, but a two-bounce call sent him to the back of the court again. It was Rojas’ turn to skip next, as both players exchanged serves and rallies. Rocky kicked his play up a notch and pushed forward, slowly eating away at Rojas’ lead, 3-8, 4-8, 4-9 and finally tying the score at 9-9. Marco broke his racquet for an equipment timeout. Carson double-faulted the serve, sending Rojas back into the box. Rojas missed a tight down-the-line pass and then skipped the serve return to put Carson ahead at match point for the first time in the game. Carson took game 3 for the match, 11-9.
Chris Crowther d Jose Rojas 6, 6, 3
Chris Crowther, the 2013 Lewis Drug finalist, had the homecourt advantage having played in Sioux Falls many times. The match pitted his size, power, and experience against Rojas’ youth, speed and agaility. Crowther pulled ahead the first game, but Rojas fought back to within one point at 6-7. Crowther took a timeout. The break cooled Rojas off, and it was his turn to take a timeout when Crwother had pulled ahead, 10-6. Crowther closed it out 11-6.
The two players kept it close in game two, tying the score at 5-5 before, once again, Crowther pulled ahead. Crowther gained momentum by controlling center court and keeping Rojas off-balance, moving him back-and-forth across the court to take game two, 11-6.
In game three, Crowther maintained his intensity, killing the ball to leave little room for error on Rojas’ part. Rojas suffered from uncharacteristic skips to his backhand under pressure from Crowther, who also showed some uncharacteristic action — diving around the court. Crowther powered his way to an 11-3 win and the chance to face Waselenchuk in the semifinals.
Kane Waselenchuk d Jansen Allen 0, 0, 1
Facing Kane Waselenchuk proved a daunting task for Jansen Allen, the National Doubles Champion. Waselenchuk dominated Allen, who stepped into the serve box after a double-fault by Waselenchuk in the third game at match point. Allen earned his only point in a match that took less than 25 minutes.
Pro Doubles Semifinal:
Kane Waselenchuk/Jason Mannino d Chris Crowther/Alvaro Beltran (14), 11, 9
Rocky Carson/Jose Rojas d Jansen Allen/Tony Carson 8, 13
Pro Doubles quarterfinal:
Janesen Allen/Tony Carson d Alenjandro Landa/Charlie Pratt 5, (4), 7
Kane Waselenchuk/Jason Mannino d Lee Connell/Tim Landeryou 4, 6
Round of 16
Tony Carson d Charlie Pratt 8, 10, (7), (6), 4
Jansen Allen d Andy Hawthorne 3, (9), (13), 7, 5
Marco Rojas d Alenjandro Landa 6, (7), (5), 4. 5
Kane Waselenchuk v Lee Meinerz 1, 0, 0
Jose Rojas d Lee Connell 7, (7), 1, 8
Rocky Carson d Tanner Gross 1, 6, 2
Alvaro Beltran d Mike Guidry 1, 7, 6
Chris Crowther d Hiroshi Shimizu (7), 0, 6, 6
Round of 32
Lee Meinerz d Tyler Thielen 2, 7, (2), (6), 6
Lee Connell d Joel Cassens (6), 4, 6, 7
Mike Guidry d Derek Izzi 9, 0, 5
Fans were excited to see Mike Guidry back on the court, the silver-haired former pro facing off against a younger player in a battle of two lefties. Guidry scored first, but Izzi was hot out of the gate, shooting aces and taking an early 6-1 lead. The veteran showed how experience pays, mounting a comeback to tie the game at 9 and racking up the next two points for the win. Game 2 saw Guidry taking the early lead, looking move relaxed as he took control of the match running Izzi around the court for an 8-0 lead. Izzi’s great shot earned him a trip back into the service box, but he couldn’t convert. Guidry won, 11-0. Game three saw Guidry still in control although Izzi stayed in the match. Up 8-5, Guidry skipped to put Derek in the box but again couldn’t score. Guidry’s rollout from 38 feet brought the score to 9-5. Guidry won game 3 for the match, 11-5.
Tanner Gross d Tim Landeryou 8, 7, (3), (8), 7
Hiroshi Shimizu d Matt Greenway 9, 1, 5
Friday 5 pm CST
Alejendrao Landa/Charlie Pratt v Jansen Allen/Tony Carson
Friday 5:45 pm CST
Jason Mannino/Kane Waselenchuk v Lee Connell/Tim Landeryou
Saturday 4:40 pm CST
Winner of Alejendrao Landa/Charlie Pratt v Jansen Allen/Tony Carson faces Rocky Carson/Jose Rojas
Winner of Jason Mannino/Kane Waselenchuk v Lee Connell/Tim Landeryou faces Alvaro Beltran/Chris Crowther
Final Sunday 11:30 am CST
The Lewis Drug Pro/Am: The Tour’s Best Kept Secret
With the 36th annual Lewis Drug ProAm emerging as a Tier 1 tour stop, the best-kept secret in pro racquetball is out. The reason a select number of top pro players travel to South Dakota is clear, and it’s not for the winter weather. “They roll out the red carpet and treat us like kings here,” said 2013 finalist, #7 Chris Crowther. “That’s why it’s had the reputation…it’s a great event.”
“We like to think that we’re the gold standard,” said Mark Griffin, owner of Lewis Drugs, the neighborhood store and pharmacy his father started 70 years ago. “And outside of the U.S. Open, we do as good of a job as anybody. Period. It’s what brings the pros to Sioux Falls in January.” Racquetball is a natural fit for the unique retailer with 40 stores selling everything from snow blowers to iPads in addition to their hallmark professional services, like medicine and pharmaceuticals. “Since I’ve been playing racquetball for 40 years now, I get to appreciate how it’s a great sport, mentally and physically,” Griffin said. “People my age have gone from pounding the ball to slowing it down and strategizing in order to control the game. There’s a place for everyone, regardless of age, to take advantage of their abilities.”
A place for everyone is why he, his doubles partner, Jeff Scherschligt, President of Howalt-McDowell Insurance, and Troy Stallings, Tournament Director, are working to expand court space in Sioux Falls, a thriving sports community that’s home to the state-of-the-art Sanford Pentagon, a five-sided, 160,000-square-foot athletic facility housing a variety of youth and professional sports. “We’re developing the drive to get the racquetball community to support adding glass-backed racquetball courts,” said Griffin.
In the meantime, the historic Lewis Drug pro/am offers a special tournament at four health clubs for the local community. “I’ve been playing 30 years and as Mark’s partner for the last 10 or so,” said Scherschligt, explaining why he supports the event. “To me, racquetball is like a real life video game. It’s fun. It’s competitive. It’s fast moving. It has all the ingredients and quickness for our A.D.D. society. I think it’s special to have the pros in the area show us that we have a lot to learn. They’re a great group and inspirational that way. Every one of them is down to earth. I enjoy participating, observing, and rubbing shoulders with the best in the industry.”
Top pros will not only rub shoulders with fans, but also join them on the courts after randomly picking their partners for Pro/Am Doubles held Thursday night.
More serious doubles competition will take place in a wide variety of age and skill divisions in what has come to be known as a “warm-up” for those entering Nationals Doubles in February. Pro and open singles divisions begin with the pros playing Friday morning at Augustana College, where students and staff will be invited to watch as a way of introducing new people to the sport.
Limiting divisions avoids overscheduling and ensures everyone will be done in time to attend the Saturday evening banquet, a highlight of the weekend. “We make sure the hospitality is topnotch, hiring the best caterer in town, offering rides to players, ordering embroidered, dry-wick tournament shirts, and selecting the raffle prizes,” explained Stallings. Everyone who attends the party on Saturday evening is entered to win a wide variety of merchandizes sold in the Lewis Drugs stores, from flat screen TVs to MP3s. “Ruben didn’t win for twelve years, until finally he got a cooler — the smallest prize offered,” Griffin recalled with a laugh.
Pro who have played the Lewis Drug Pro/Am are laughing, too—but with an underlying pang of remorse that their secret is out. The tournament that has run under-the-radar since guys like Mike Yellen and Marty Hogan played, returns to the national spotlight as a men’s professional International Racquetball Tour top tier tournament.
By Jen Sinclair Johnson