Recap by Eric Mueller
Rocky Carson d Jose Rojas 11-2, 11-2, 11-8
The Red Swain Shootout Final featured #2 Rocky Carson against #5 Jose Rojas. Carson looked to defend his 2014 Red Swain Shootout Championship while both players were looking for their first IRT Tier 1 Title this season. Game one was all Carson. Rojas couldn’t get anything going and didn’t score until Carson had already amassed 8 points. Game one Carson 11-2. The second game mirrored the previous game. Rojas showed glimpses of his potential with great side-out kills but once he got into the service box it was a different story. Carson continued to look focused going up 5-0 before taking game two 11-2. In game three Rojas jumped out to an early 2-1 lead against Carson but it was a short-lived lead. Carson went up 7-3 before Rojas started to chip away and gain ground. Rojas lingered and got within a point at 9-8 before Carson took the game 11-8 to win the 2015 Red Swain Shootout Title.
Recaps by Eric Mueller
Jose Rojas d Brad Schopieray 7-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-6
The first Saturday semifinal featured hometown favorite and Red Swain Shootout Tournament Director Don Schopieray’s son Brad against #5-ranked Jose Rojas. Schopieray jumped out to a 4-0 early lead but Rojas tied it a 5-5. Schopieray called a timeout and was able to rally to an 8-5 lead after the timeout. Rojas called his timeout to try to slow down game one. Schopieray had multiple opportunities to put Rojas away and eventually took game one 11-7. Game two looked to be a different story. Rojas was able to capitalize on a shift in momentum to end game one and start the second game with an 8-2 lead. Schopieray had no opening and the crowd was quiet as Rojas took game two 11-4 to even the match at 1-1. Game three started with Schopieray up 7-4 but Rojas had two great diving gets to get back in the game. Rojas showed maturity and his veteran presence to close out the game 11-8 to take an edge in the match 2-1. In game three Rojas led 5-0 to begin but Schopieray hung tough sticking around down 7-5 before Rojas took the game 11-6 to win the match.
Rocky Carson d Cliff Swain 11-6, 11-9, 11-3
In semifinal #2 the question was could former top ranked 49-year-old Cliff Swain pull off a third straight upset? Swain defeated Alvaro Beltran in the Round of 16s followed by Jansen Allen in the quarterfinals. Swain led game one on Rocky Carson 5-0 before Carson eased into the game to even it a 6-6. Carson took game one 11-6 on a crack serve ace. Game two was tighter and closer with Carson taking the early 5-1 lead before Swain tied it at 7-7, 8-8, and 9-9. Carson won game two 11-9. Game three was all Carson as he led from the get-go at 9-1 before Swain rallied off two straight points to make it 9-3. Carson took the game 11-3 to win the match and clinch the second spot in tonight’s final.
Recaps by Eric Mueller
Rocky Carson d Markie Rojas 10-12, 11-6, 11-1, 2-11, 11-4
Entering quarterfinal #1 Rocky Carson had beat Markie Rojas in all 10 of the previous meetings between the two Californians. Would Rojas finally get that first win on Carson or would the trend continue? Rojas took the first game 12-10 and it certainly looked possible. In game two Carson struggled with first serve consistency but was able to overcome that to even the match at 1-1. Carson was able to capitalize on the momentum shift to win game three 11-1 and take a 2-1 lead in the match. Game four was all Rojas. At 7-2, Carson tried to slow down his pace with a timeout but was unsuccessful as Rojas took game four 11-2. Fatigue and endurance would be a huge factor in game five and Carson would be the victor outlasting Rojas 11-4 to win the match.
The next two quarterfinals featured two Michigan hometown heroes in Brad Schopieray and Cliff Swain. Schopieray, the son of Red Swain Shootout Tournament Director Don Schopieray, advanced to his first IRT quarterfinals because of a forfeit from Kane Waselenchuk in the prior round. Swain (Brad Schopieray’s coach) upset, last week’s Galaxy Custom Printing IRT Pro-Am Champion, Alvaro Beltran in a fifth game tiebreaker in the Round of 16s.
Brad Schopieray d Felipe Camacho 11-3, 11-8, 11-0
The crowd in quarterfinal #2 was pro Brad Schopieray as he faced fellow Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves racquetball player Felipe Camacho. Schopieray was able to feed off the energy of the crowd at his hometown club to take game one 11-3. Schopieray continued the trend in game two and looked to be able to do no wrong which frustrated Camacho. Camacho evened the game at 7-7 after being down 7-2. Schopieray was able to take game two 11-8 on his seventh ace of the match. Camacho’s frustration continued after that game point where he received a technical to start game three at -1. Schopieray bageled Camacho 11-0 in game three to win the match and continue a trend of firsts, advancing to his first IRT semifinals.
Cliff Swain d Jansen Allen 11-5, 11-4, 5-11, 11-8
Cliff Swain utilized his drive serves to start the match with three aces against Jansen Allen and led the first game 6-4. From there Allen only scored one more point as Swain dominated rallies and aced to take the game 11-5. Game two followed the same script and Swain took a 2-0 lead in the match 11-4. In game three, Jansen Allen started to gain some ground. Swain benefited from a second serve ace to take the lead 5-2 but eventually lost game three 11-5. In game four Swain, the former #1 ranked player, jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Allen tied the game at 8-8. After a kill shot by Swain to make it 9-8, Allen took a timeout to regroup. Swain and Allen swapped side-outs before Swain took game four 11-8 to win the match.
Jose Rojas d Daniel De La Rosa 14-12, 11-9, 11-5
#4-ranked Daniel De La Rosa took on #5-ranked Jose Rojas in the fourth and final quarterfinal of the evening. Anytime the two match up, fans can usually expect a battle. De La Rosa led Rojas 5-2 early in the first game and made a nice flip to the right front corner to increase his lead to 8-2. Rojas went on a 6-0 run to even game one at 8-8. Game one would be tied at 10-10, 11-11, and 12-12 as the two exchanged side-outs and points. Rojas finally took game one at 14-12. Early in the second game with Rojas up 2-1, De La Rosa took an injury timeout after he hurt his back on a dive. After coming back from the injury timeout De La Rosa was noticeably stiff and moving gingerly thus changing his strategy to hitting finesse dink shots. With that strategy De La Rosa took a 6-2 lead before Rojas evened the game at 6-6. De La Rosa continued to linger tying it at 9-9 before Rojas won 11-9 to take a 2-0 lead in the match. De La Rosa took a second injury timeout before the start of the third game. Rojas jumped out to a 3-0 lead before De La Rosa tied the game. De La Rosa continued his nonchalant soft shots due to his injury and exclaimed to Rojas, “Make the shot. Beat me.” Rojas went on a roll from 7-5 on to close the game at 11-5 to win the match.
Round of 16s Results
Rocky Carson d Filip Vesely 11-4, 11-2, 11-3
Markie Rojas d Matthew Majxner 11-9, 11-7, 11-6
Brad Schopieray d Kane Waselenchuk by forfeit no show
Felipe Camacho d Robert Collins 11-7, 11-4, 11-4
Jansen Allen d Samuel Murray 11-4, 11-2, 11-3
Cliff Swain d Alvaro Beltran 11-8, 11-3, 3-11, 8-11, 11-7
Daniel De La Rosa d Mario Mercado 11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 10-12, 11-6
Jose Rojas d Tony Carson 11-0, 11-4, 11-3
BREAKING NEWS: Top ranked Kane Waselenchuk has pulled out of The Red Swain Shootout due to a shoulder injury. Waselenchuk has a MRI scheduled for tomorrow with the results published early next week.
Red Swain Shootout: Tradition Meets Today
By Tim Prigo
The men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) will travel to Davison, Michigan for the fifth Tier 1 stop of the 2015-2016 IRT season. The historic venue, The Davison Athletic Club, will host the top players in the world from November 5-8. The famed club, which is renowned for being a hub of professional racquetball since the 1970’s, will draw in the new generation of players, each hoping to etch their names into the brick and mortar.
While the walls of the Davison Athletic Club have witnessed great players come and go, it is truly, as Tournament Director Don Schopieray states, “The community of Michigan racquetball, the people themselves, that make this event great.”
Though these grounds have a storied past, The Red Swain Shootout is only in it’s fourth season. There have been three separate champions, Kane Waselenchuk, Alvaro Beltran and Rocky Carson, respectively. With two tournaments immediately preceding the event, there is no telling who will be on the top of their game, leaving speculation as to who the next titleholder will be.
In the 1970’s and 80’s the club hosted The Tiebreaker Open, a pro tournament that was put on by former USA Racquetball President Jim Hiser. In 1984, the Junior Olympic Championships were held there, though one may not want to bring that up to Cliff Swain as US Open Tournament Director Doug Ganim beat him that year.
The club itself boasts 12 courts, a fitness center and the infamous restaurant/bar. Don Schopieray recalls having specialty drinks at the bar named after IRT players. In case you were wondering, The Ben Croft was a Vodka Red Bull and The Alvaro Beltran was a shot of Jose Cuervo.
The show court will be the centerpiece of the event, and with back and sidewall glass, spectators will be treated to every possible angle of the action and players will be forced to acclimate to the patterns of the crowd. The courts themselves are composed of concrete walls and hardwood floors making the pace of play particularly blistering. “The courts favor guys that are really going to shoot the ball because they are so fast, you can’t go in and just dink it around,” Schopieray assures.
He, along with his dedicated and talented staff of individuals will prepare for the event by putting up scaffolding, an extensive bleacher system and making sure that all areas of the club, including the bar, will be wired for live streaming.
The tournament models itself after the UnitedHealthcare US Open in many ways, trying to match the intensity and electric atmosphere the Grand Slam introduced to the sport. No doubt the music will be blaring as players enter the courts. Media coverage of the event will be plentiful, but what really makes the tournament pop are the people.
The tournament staff takes pride in offering an experience, not just a place to watch the pros play. A testament to that idea is the simple fact that all IRT players are given an open tab for food and drinks, encouraging players and fans to mingle after they have been knocked out of the draw. “This club has always been full of hardcore racquetball fans. The grounds near the courts will be absolutely packed Friday night on,” Schopieray said. “If you are serious about racquetball and you live in Michigan, this is where you play.” If a player shows heart and determination they can expect that the crowd will get behind them.
As is often the case, racquetball is just an extension of what is happening beyond the length and breadth of the 40′ x 20′ court. It is no secret that fiscal problems have reached well beyond the city of Detroit in Michigan, affecting much of the state in recent years. Many people have struggled to stay afloat since the financial meltdown of 2008 and hardships have only further solidified the grit and resiliency of places like Flint, which is only 10 miles from the club.
“This is a blue collar town, and though we have racquetball players from all walks of life here, I can tell you that a lot of these guys support the event because they absolutely love racquetball,” said Schopieray. This is why fans love players like Ben Croft and Tony Carson, athletes who show complete and unbridled determination. The fans identify with the workhorse player who has bloody knees and is a bit rough around the edges, as they too know what it means to sacrifice your body for one’s livelihood.
Cliff Swain personifies one such mythic American archetype, a man who has had a sense of hard work and fearlessness throughout his career. This adopted son of Michigan racquetball helped to provide the namesake of the event, Robert “Red” Swain, his father. Robert “Red” Swain, though a Bostonian, exemplifies the spirit of the culture of the event. “My father never walked around like a tough guy yet he never complained, never had any excuses and never talked about injuries,” Cliff Swain said. “He by example showed me to work really, really hard for every single point to be ready and not make excuses, that’s kind of how the people are around here.” Perhaps this tournament is described as old-school because it recalls a certain work ethic not often seen in contemporary life.
Excitement will abound the whole week of the event, culminating in Saturday night’s final. All will want to make it there but no player in the history of the sport has a better chance to lift the trophy than Waselenchuk. It is certainly in the realm of possibilities that anyone could be injured seeing as this would be the third week of consecutive tournaments. The tough schedule could be favorable for a player like Carson, who can seemingly outlast all others in a battle of attrition. In all likelihood Michigan fans will be once again treated to a show from the most dominant athlete in the sport.
Who will be the next player to leave their legacy in the pantheon of the Davison Athletic Club? Follow the IRT’s live updates of the event beginning Friday, November 6 to find out!
By Tim Prigo
Tim Prigo is a lifelong racquetball enthusiast who competed in his first tournament at ten years old in Claremont, California, where he grew up. Since then, Tim has played in many IRT events, ranking among the top 40 at his best. He earned a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Franklin Pierce University in 2009, where he spent many years abroad, traveling, and studying. In addition to regularly contributing stories and match recaps for the IRT, Tim is an aspiring poet and sports journalist. He also is the club pro at Lloyd Athletic in Portland, Oregon, where he now resides.