#2-ranked Rocky Carson defeated #4 Alvaro Beltran 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 to win The 8th Annual Raising Some Racquet For Kids title. This is Carson’s second title of the 2015-2016 IRT Season.
Rocky Carson d Alvaro Beltran 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9
Championship Finals Recap
By Tim Prigo
Two men who have been atop professional racquetball for the better part of 15 years would decide the final. During their time on tour they have helped each other solidify their legacies over 42 matches. This is the IRT’s oldest rivalry and at 22 wins to 20 losses, in Rocky Carson’s favor, it is always up for debate to who can overcome on any given day. Surely both players have the ability to compete at a high level for years to come but the match on Saturday will likely be remembered as a cap on one of the greatest rivalries and friendships the sport has ever seen. Two of racquetball’s most indelible figures in the twilight of their prime, on the biggest stage, a Tier 1 final.
Alvaro Beltran had done well to start his matches during this event at full throttle and this had given him immediate success against lower ranked opponents. However, Carson was able to thwart any early match momentum and engaged his opponent in a long drawn out first game. Multiple side outs would occur before points were scored and neither player could make a run. Beltran took a timeout, trailing by a point. He then switched to a lob serve and then back again to a drive but nothing could chink Carson’s armor. Beltran was only able to affect momentum when he started to skip the ball to gave way for Carson’s first run of points. Beltran skipped eight balls in the second part of the first game to give Carson the victory. In game two, Carson again found winners and Beltran struggled to put any pressure on Carson, often going for the ceiling or half powered passes. The shots eventually came to Beltran late in the second and down by four. He was able to take his first lead of the match at 10-9. Beltran was now firing into the corners for winners and seized game two, 11-9. In the third, momentum again changed hands as Carson burst with energy late in the game to retrieve multiple balls that extended the rallies outside of Beltran’s comfort zone. Carson took this game and it appeared he would have full velocity to close the match in the fourth game, as Beltran was fatigued. Carson came out hot, firing off aces and devouring anything left up in the frontcourt. Down 3-7, Beltran took the most important timeout of the tournament. He was able to rally back and tie the score line at 7-7. Carson crept ahead however and scored the next point to make it 8-7. Beltran would not be denied a fifth game as he played the next four points as good as he had all tournament. Using his wallpaper lob to force Carson to the ceiling and then putting down the ensuing setup, Beltran won 11-8. The fifth game was a battle of attrition. Carson took an agonizingly long time between points visibly frustrating Beltran who spent the better part of the fifth game appealing to the referee to speed along the process. It cannot be overstated enough; the fifth game was back and forth. Four, six, 10 minutes would go by without a point scored. Short serves and side outs characterized the early going and neither player had the clear-cut advantage. It was only at 9-9 that a two-point run occurred. Carson hit two of the most clutch pinches in recent memory to take the match 11-9.
Alvaro Beltran d Sebastian Franco 11-0, 11-7, 11-5
Rocky Carson d Daniel De La Rosa 5-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-3
Blog by Tim Prigo
Alvaro Beltran showed up to the court an hour early, hitting hundreds of shots in anticipation for his semifinal against Sebastian Franco. With Waselenchuk out and with Daniel De La Rosa and Rocky Carson in the other semifinal, Beltran would do well to get off the court as soon as possible. Considering the final was later in the day and that the other semifinal looked like it could be a five game war, Beltran could position himself to take the tournament. Sebastian Franco had never beaten Beltran but has taken him deep in matches before. From the first point to the last, it was all Beltran. The first game was an exhibition in patience and angles from the Mexican veteran as he cruised to an 11-0 victory. Beltran shot with extremely high efficiency, only skipping two balls in the first game. Franco would score points in the following games but would never put up a meaningful threat to Beltran during the match. Franco never found a strategy that worked, but more plainly, he could not kill enough balls to put pressure on Beltran. On the other hand, Beltran came out sharp, moving well and placing nearly all his setups for winners. With Beltran hitting the ball so well, he certainly is the front-runner to win the entire event.
In the other semifinal, Daniel De La Rosa started the match hitting his backhand to pinpoint perfection. De La Rosa was in full control of Rocky Carson, who seemed constantly under pressure to barely dig out balls from the back. De La Rosa skipped only one shot in the first game and seemed primed to put together a winning match. However, in the second game, the pace and style of the action changed dramatically for the slower. This favored Carson heavily as he was able to draw out the points, get into long rallies and grind point after point against De La Rosa, who likes to score in bunches. De La Rosa was never able to find anything that could reverse the momentum of the match as game after game he grew increasingly frustrated. De La Rosa chirped as Carson stayed silent, tallying up his points. De La Rosa was never able to find the kill ball as he had in the first game and could not find another strategy to score points against Carson.
Rocky Carson d Mario Mercado 11-5, 11-8, 11-9
Sebastian Franco d Jeremy Best 11-4, 11-5, 11-3
Daniel De La Rosa d Jansen Allen 7-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-2
Alvaro Beltran d Jose Rojas 3-11, 11-1, 11-0, 11-4
Blog by Tim Prigo
Rocky Carson played 19-year-old Mario Mercado in the first quarterfinal. With Kane Waselenchuk out due to medical issues, Carson is now the highest-ranking player at the event, making him the favorite to capture the tournament title. Carson must have known this, as his play was expressive of a highly motivated athlete. He looked to rev the motor harder than usual, keeping a high intensity throughout. Mercado played well all match. His serves came in crisp and with pace, often giving Carson reason to pass or ceiling ball rather than shoot. Carson hit his cross courts exemplary all match, forcing Mercado to the ceiling and in turn setting up Carson for many winners. Mercado impressed with his touches in Game 2 as well as fending off match point for eight straight rallies in the third. The end of the third game was the best ball Mercado has played on Tour all season. Yet it was Carson with his skill and tenacity that overturned any momentum Mercado had from the outset.
Jeremy Best and Sebastian Franco were in the surprise quarterfinal of the night, both benefiting from the absence of Waselenchuk. From the beginnings in Game 1, it was clear; the night was Franco’s. He hit his serves deceptively enough to keep the imposing figure of Best off balance. While Best left many shots up, especially in the first, Franco had found his kill shot early. This combination led to a very dangerous thing, a comfortable and confident Franco. He was able to stay loose all match, and shot the ball accordingly. Best struggled to find his most potent weapon, the serve and was subsequently ran around the court by the much more compact Franco. By midway through the third game and with Franco continuing to improve and gain flexibility, the match was all but written.
Jansen Allen played at a high level all match. He started the match against Daniel De La Rosa red hot, coming out to a big lead. Allen fought off a De La Rosa surge late in the first that saw him coming back from 2-7 to 5-7 but took an expert timeout, recomposed and finished the game 11-7. It was interesting to watch Allen play because his degradation was fast enough to be visible but slow enough to possibly win the match. He had started so supremely dominant over De La Rosa and slowly rolled down hill from there. He would have perhaps won the match if De La Rosa had not behaved in the exact inverse, gaining strength over time. The second game was the best of the day, the score line staying tight throughout and exhibiting the athleticism the fans craved. De La Rosa was able to make his down the line off speed kills from the chest when it counted the most, earning him the very important Game 2 win, 12-10. This was the most crucial game as it signaled the turn of the match in De La Rosa’s favor. De La Rosa never looked back, gaining more and more control with each passing point, eventually earning him a spot in the semifinals.
Both Jose Rojas and Alvaro Beltran must have realized that success tonight, would likely lead to a finals berth. Rojas came out firing from all angles, energized and limber. He looked hungry and was hitting his drive serves with extra speed. Beltran, who can often be best described as a sleeping giant stayed silent through the first game and struggled to find the front wall. But in the second game he came alive. Though Beltran is expected to stretch out matches into the fifth game, it was not expected that he would so completely bewilder Rojas that he only scored five more points the entire match. Beltran could do no wrong, working his drive and lob serves, cutting off lobs into the corners and swiveling Rojas in the backcourt. Rojas looked frustrated and would often motion his discontents towards the floor while Beltran was shooting the ball better than anyone in the tournament.
Round of 16s
Rocky Carson d Troy Warigon 11-1, 11-0, 11-4
Mario Mercado d Felipe Camacho 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6
Jeremy Best d Kane Waselenchuk WBF – No Show
Sebastian Franco d Robert Collins 10-12, 11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 11-3
Jansen Allen d Mauricio Zelada Friday 11-9, 11-0, 11-4
Daniel De La Rosa d Jake Bredenbeck 12-10, 12-10, 11-9
Alvaro Beltran d Scott McClellan 11-0, 11-4, 11-5
Jose Rojas d Andy Hawthorne 11-2, 11-7, 11-3
Round of 32s
Jeremy Best d Filip Vesely 10-11, 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6
Andy Hawthorne d Matthew Majxner 6-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-7
Scott McClellan d Joel Ernst 11-4, 11-5, 11-8
Jake Bredenbeck d Kamyron Meeks 11-2, 11-3, 11-3
Mauricio Zelada d John Craig Chisholm 5-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-0
Troy Warigon d Destry Everhart 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8
Reaching Your Dream Foundation Athletes in Ohio for The 8th Annual Raising Some Racquet for Kids are Sebastian Franco, Robert Collins, Jake Bredenbeck, Mauricio Zelada, Mario Mercado and Troy Warigon.
Breaking News: Top ranked Kane Waselenchuk pulls out of The 8th Annual Raising Some Racquet For Kids. After trying to battle through the pain, Kane was admitted into the hospital the morning of March 31 for emergency incarcerated hernia surgery. We will keep you updated as information is released. Update April 1: Kane’s surgery went well, as the thumbs-up in the photograph attests. Best wishes for a smooth recovery.
Raising Some Racquet for Kids Returns Tier 1 Action to Ohio
The men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) returns Tier 1 racquetball to the Buckeye State for the first time since 2004 for The 8th Annual Raising Some Racquet for Kids at The Heights Racquetball and Fitness Club in Huber Heights, Ohio March 31-April 3.
Started eight years ago by the husband and wife duo of Fabrizio Mora, tournament director and a former national team player for Costa Rica Racquetball, and Angela Ledgerwood, a Kappa Delta sorority alumna and a Greater Cincinnati Kappa Delta Alumnae Chapter (GCKDAC) member, grew the charity tournament from a local event to Tier 4 and Tier 3 satellites to this year’s Tier 1.
“They have a lot of respect in the racquetball community and had a great following in the years prior to my coming on board,” Tournament Director Charles Knight said of joining Mora and Ledgerwood in pursuit of a Tier 1 event in Ohio.
The tournament is a collaborative effort between the GCKDAC and Team Ektelon players to benefit two worthy causes: The Council on Child Abuse (COCA) of Southern Ohio and Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA). The Raising Some Racquet for Kids tournament has donated close to $30,000 to COCA and PCA in the seven previous tournaments.
“There is really a lot of excitement among the Kappa Deltas in the area about our event having grown this large,” Ledgerwood said. “It may not be obvious to the racquetball players that a sorority is involved, but there are a lot of Kappa Deltas behind the scenes that are helping make this happen.”
In addition to hospitality all weekend, one of the main tasks of the GCKDAC is to oversee the extensive silent auction, containing a variety of items such as racquetball gear, sports memorabilia, baskets donated by locals businesses and tickets for various activities like sporting events and amusement parks. Ledgerwood said the silent auction last year raised $2,400 and has grown each year with the tournament.
The Raising Some Racquet for Kids tournament wouldn’t be possible without their top sponsors, including Masters Pharmaceutical, Alegius Technologies, Kroger and A Leg Up K9. “I believe that by the show of support and backing that we receive for this first Tier 1 we will more than likely make this an annual event,” Knight said.
The Heights Racquetball and Fitness Club, the new host club for The Raising Some Racquet for Kids Tournament has also been a huge supporter. “They have become a huge partner in letting us use the club, for helping us raise some of the prize money, for helping us with multiple contacts and they are in the process of doing renovations in the club to showcase it,” Mora said.
Located in Huber Heights, The Heights Racquetball and Fitness Club, with 10 courts, has been a hub for racquetball in the Dayton area since 1981. With over 1,100 members, the club has a thriving racquetball scene with multiple leagues and free lessons for adults and high school students.
“David Keefe, as well as the other 13 shareholders of the club, are very active in getting people in the club and offering racquetball plus other fitness activities,” said Mora. “They are very interested in helping develop players who will enjoy the sport and be able to get a benefit out of it while also bringing new players into the sport.”
The Heights Racquetball and Fitness Club, which almost closed in October 2007 but was saved by a group of former members who have turned the club into a very successful business will host the top players of the IRT during the 2015-2016 IRT Season for the first Tier 1 since The Cleveland Open in 2004. There will be free viewing of all matches at the club, but donations are encouraged for those not playing in the tournament.
#5-ranked Daniel De La Rosa won last year’s Tier 3 at The Waycross Athletic Club in Cincinnati over #9 Charlie Pratt. Top ranked Kane Waselenchuk enters The 8th Annual Raising Some Racquet for Kids with seven tournament victories this season including The New York City Open 17th Annual IRT Pro Stop and Lewis Drug Pro/Am in the second half of the season as of this writing. Waselenchuk defeated #2 Rocky Carson in Long Island and beat #4 Jose Rojas in the finals in South Dakota at The Lewis Drug Pro/Am.
“What we want to see is some exciting racquetball matches. When we mean exciting racquetball matches, we always hope for an upset,” Knight said. “My primary focus is to introduce as many players as possible to a higher level of racquetball.”
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-Twin Cities, 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. Mueller has also worked in marketing and public relations for Gopher Sports Marketing at the University of Minnesota, the St. Paul Saints professional baseball team and the 2015 Cowles Cup Champion Chicago Bandits professional softball team.