Sunday, 25 November 2012

Selection Event Concludes...

My apologies for not getting a preview post for the semis out, although it's good I didn't as even with the drive serve friendly court I don't think I would have picked Eric to beat Kris... In any case here's a quick breakdown of the semis and final...


(1) Kris vs. (4) Eric
Eric opened the match with great drive serves, catching Odie off guard. This allowed him to open up a lead that Odie closed in on throughout the game, but never fully recovered from. Eric would take the first 15-11. Eric's lines loosened on his drives in the second, allowing Kris into many more rallies and providing him a slight edge in this game. With some great drive serves of his own, Kris closed out a tight second game 15-12. The tiebreaker saw Eric open up another lead on the back of some great serving. Kris made adjustments though and was able to close the gap, but missed shots at key points that allowed Eric to close out a tight tiebreaker 11-8 and take the first spot in the final.

(2) Tim vs. (3) Nathaniel
This match was yet another example of drive serving making the difference in the outcome. In the first game Nate was on fire. Multiple aces to both sides, straight lines mixed with great angles and Z serves created a serving formula that was extremely difficult to deal with. He would take the first 15-9. Tim made a few adjustments in the second game and these, coupled with Nate serving slightly less perfectly, turned the tide to his favour and allowe him to take the second 15-9. Unfortunately for Nate it was more of the same in the tiebreaker. Without a deadly drive serve to fall back on, he had trouble scoring consistently and Tim was able to capitalize and take the tiebreaker 11-5.


(2) Tim vs. (4) Eric
In a somewhat unlikely final matchup, it was former junior national teammates and rivals playing off for selection event gold. Eric started the match in typical fashion for the tournament: with impeccable drive serving. He opened up a lead that he held most of the first game, but Tim chipped away late and found a serving strategy that paid off, allowing him to steal the first 15-13. Landeryou's serving let him down in the second game, and Eric tightened up his own, opening up a sizable lead that Tim would narrow, but never close to take the second 15-11. Really though, what kind of final would it have been without a tiebreaker? The deciding game saw Eric open up another lead, albeit a smaller one than in the previous two games. Tim recovered and closed the gap. Several rally exchanges followed with neither player scoring, before Landeryou managed to string a few points together to go up 8-5. Another set of exchanges without scoring frustrated Landeryou and gave Eric the momentum to close to 7-8. Landeryou would regain his composure though and after 3 hard fought rallies take the match 11-7.

It was quite a roller coaster tournament for me. I'm not a drive server, nor have I ever been especially good at returning them, so to come to a venue where they were so heavily favoured was fairly intimidating. In all my matches, especially against Coby in the quarter finals, I felt as if I was always working uphill to win, as if the points I won were always harder for me to score than for my opponents. I felt extremely good about my focus and mental fortitude this tournament and am extremely happy to have pulled off such a difficult and hard fought win. I'd like to thank everyone that supported me and everyone that took some time to check out this blog. I love writing about racquetball, whether I'm playing or not, and I hope to continue on in a more consistent fashion. Thanks everyone and see you at the next tournament :)


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Quarter Finals Over!

Well after the first day of competition in Kelowna I am relieved to have made it through to the semifinals and hopeful that some of my more blunderous predictions will not completely erode my future credibility. In my defense I wasn't familiar with the courts we were playing on when I made those predictions, so let me do a bit of review and explain as I go. The top 8 seeds all made it though to the quarters, so here are the breakdowns of the quarterfinal matches today...

(1) Kris vs. (8) Kurtis
Kurtis came out as I alluded to in my post, guns a blazing! He was not only putting his serves in hard, but the lines were extremely tight and he was mixing angles unbelievably well. Kris simply didn't have an answer for the serving clinic that Kurtis was putting on. Near the end of the game though, you could feel the momentum begin to change. Kurtis still closed out the game but Odie was getting serves back in play and scoring points of his own. Kurtis was no longer untouchable, and in the second game, Kris took full advantage. Catching some fire with drive serves of his own, Kris was able to put runs of points together for himself and while Kurtis battled at points, his serve was letting him down where it had been giving him free points before. With Kurtis discouraged and somewhat out of sorts, Kris was able to run away with game 2 and simply produce more of the same in the tiebreaker. It's a shame Kurtis couldn't find his serve after losing it in the first, as this could have been a real battle. Instead Odie weathered the storm that was the first game and put on an impressive showing of his own to take the next two with ease and move onto the semifinals.

(4) Eric vs. (5) Lee
I should probably have mentioned in the beginning of this post that the courts here are extremely fast, and that it was clear very early on that drive serves would be a huge factor in the outcome of this tournament. This was most convincingly evidenced by Lee and Eric's quarterfinal match. The first game started well, with both players trying different serves, having limited success, and each scoring points one at a time. By all accounts it appeared to be a barnburner in the making. This all changed at 7-7 when Eric caught fire with his drive serve. Mixing blistering wraps with laser beam drives into the left corner, he simply overwhelmed Lee, running out the first game 15-7. Unfortunately for Lee, Eric didn't lose his rhythm between games and quickly opened up a large lead in the second. For a match that started so tight, it seemed to end in the blink of an eye, leaving Lee disappointed and Eric with his first berth in a selection event semifinal.

(3) Nathaniel vs. (6) Pedro
I was unfortunately warming up and on court for my own match during most of this contest, so I can't offer a lot of insight. Through talking to Nate's coach, Loren Prentice, after the match, it seemed as though Nate simply overwhelmed Pedro with excellent drive serving (seeing the trend???) and clean, hard shooting. Pedro just didn't have an answer for anything Nate threw at him, allowing Nate to dominate and take the match in two easy games.

(2) Tim vs. (7) Coby
In what was easily the most exciting match of the evening, Coby took Tim to the limit, and where shooting ability seemed to let him down, mental fortitude won out for Landeryou. Coby played a great first game, hitting hard drive serves and pouncing on all the weak returns Tim coughed up. Landeryou would get serve opportunities but was unable to capitalize on Iwasaa's defensive returns and when one side is scoring points and the other isn't, it becomes fairly easy to see who will come out on top. Coby would methodically take the first game. In the second, Landeryou came out hitting a high drive Z to the left, which seemed to give Iwasaa some trouble and opened up a sizeable lead. Not to let the game slip away, Coby shifted back into more defensive play, forcing Landeryou to create offensive opportunities. This definitely worked to Coby's advantage and before long he had not only closed the gap, but opened up a lead of his own. He rode this momentum swing to a 13-9 and then 14-11 lead. His first match point ended with a fairly routine forehand pinch into the floor and Landeryou knew this was his opportunity. He scored a quick 2 points before a marathon rally concluded with a desperate flail from Coby causing the ball to gently fall into the front court for a winner. Another missed forehand from Iwasaa gave Landeryou the serve back though and knowing he wouldn't get another opportunity he bore down, eventually taking the game 17-15. Losing the second game seemed to both shake Coby's confidence and build Landeryou's. Tim quickly opened up a lead in the tiebreaker and never looked back. It's unfortunate for the fans that Coby couldn't recover from losing that tough second game, but it worked out well for Landeryou, who takes the last semifinal spot.

Look for a post on the semifinal predictions later tonight and tweets (@TLanderyou) of more current tournament info the rest of the weekend. Hope everyone is enjoying reading about the selection event so far and if you can believe it, the semis should be even better than the quarters!


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Kelowna Selection Event Preview

The upcoming Canadian National Racquetball Team Selection Event in Kelowna, B.C. promises to be an extremely interesting and exciting tournament for Canadian racquetball. With the top 2 ranked players in Canada, Mike Green and Vincent Gagnon, both absent due to injury the draw has really opened up and it is truly anyone's tournament.

These players were in the final of 2/3 selection events last season, with Green going completely undefeated and Gagnon only losing to Green. While I'm sure the crowd in Kelowna will be slightly disappointed in the absence of these veterans, they should be ecstatic at the prospect of getting extremely exciting and competitive matches from some very talented young players that will be in attendance at the upcoming selection event. This is a brief sneak peek at what the draw will look like, and why there should be an abundance of excitement about some very interesting match ups.

Top 8 Seeds:
1. Kris Odegard
2. Tim Landeryou
3. Nathaniel Husulak
4. Eric Desrochers
5. Lee Connell
6. Pedro Castro
7. Coby Iwaasa
8. Kurtis Cullen

I've listed the top 8 seeds in the draw (based on current rankings) because I believe they will all make it through to the quarter finals, and they provide a landscape by which to describe some of the more exciting match ups of the tournament. Let's take a look at them one by one...

Kris Odegard vs. Kurtis Cullen (1v8)
While it's definitely tough to pick Kurtis as a favourite here, I know he's been training and playing a lot. His arm will still be fresh early in the tournament and if he can get his drive serve going he definitely has the potential to give 'Odie'  some issues. I think Kris' consistency, experience, and of course shooting ability will come through in the end for him though, and I pick him to win in 2 games, albeit close ones.

Tim Landeryou vs. Coby Iwaasa (2v7)
It's always tough to predict how your own matches will play out. Perhaps Evan or someone more objective should write this one up... Not sure how good of a shot they'll give me though so I'm doin it myself! Coming off his gold medal at Junior Worlds, Coby will definitely come into this match on his game and feeling confident. The kid has a lot of talent, a great work ethic, and a love of the game that makes his future nothing but bright in this sport, but let's keep in mind he is still a kid. Losses to players like Desrochers, Castro, and Guillemette last season show that there are still holes to be exploited in Coby's game. This doesn't mean they aren't being closed at an alarming rate, but for the moment they are still there. Look for Landeryou to exploit these areas and take the match in 2 tight games.

Nathaniel Husulak vs. Pedro Castro (3v6)
This is perhaps the most interesting matchup of all the quarter finals. The last time these players met was at the 2011 National Championships in Antigonish/Port Hawkesbury. Castro won that contest in two close games, but that was also 18 months ago when Castro came into the draw seeded 6th and Nathaniel was seeded 11th. The tables are turned somewhat in Kelowna as 'Nate' comes in seeded 3rd. Greatly improving his game in the last season and making the Pan American Championship Team that traveled to Chile in March. His shooting consistency has become worlds better and his drive serve is as deadly as it's ever been. This is not to say that Castro doesn't have a great shot to make the semis, he definitely does. I'm sure their last meeting is on Nate's mind, and any time the match gets tight, 'Ped' seems to tap into that latin american spirit which never gives up, and elevates his play. This is best evidenced by his spectacular run in doubles with partner Desrochers at last year's National Championships where they knocked of the reigning champions Green/Odegard in the semis and narrowly missed taking the championship match from second seeds Gagnon/Viens. I do believe however, that Nate has the weapons and consistency to subdue this potential giant killer and take the match. This definitely has the potential to be a barn burner though, look for 2 extremely close games, or more likely a close tiebreaker.

Eric Desrochers vs. Lee Connell (4v5)
It's always interesting to see a match up of friends and training partners. Guys who have played each other so much that there is a clear and concise game plan right from the start. These two have played a number of times over the last decade, with Desrochers taking the majority of the contests. Recent history however, has seen Desrochers play extremely inconsistently. At times (like doubles at the last National Championships) his talent and brilliance has shone through, illuminating the full potential of the former Junior World Champion, but at others, inconsistencies and costly errors at inopportune times have lost him matches he had no business losing. This match is even more interesting because Connell has almost an equal ability to play inconsistently. His calmness and focus is a double-edged sword he continually battles with, and the outcome of his matches is almost always decided by how much and how often he can be heard screaming at himself. This passion also allows him to dig deep though, finding that raw, emotional turbulence within and harness it to achieve victory. This match will be decided by two things: 1. Desrochers' consistency and 2. Connell's mental stability. I think Connell will be up for the challenge, and still sharply focused at this stage of the tournament. He will take it in a moderately close tiebreaker.

There are of course some dark horses in the draw... Eric Urteaga, a former junior national champion could be a force to be reckoned with and will definitely be a local favourite to pull off an upset. And of course we can't forget Bruce "Robertson" Robinson of Lumsden, SK who at the ripe age of 59 will have by far the most experience in the draw. His veteran tricks and undefeated record against #1 seeded Kris Odegard will serve him well and may propel him to an upset in this tournament. Look for more updates throughout the weekend, with pictures and hopefully some sweet quotes from athletes. Cheers for now!