Thursday, 17 April 2014

2014 Pan American Racquetball Championships: Day 7 & 8

Our sixth day in Bolivia and fourth day of the 

tournament was the day off of competition, which marked the end of the round robin play and beginning of the elimination draws.  Since there were no formal activities planned, most athletes used the day for some R and R, electing to relax in their rooms or down by the pool. The sun was shining and I know more than a few athletes got their fair share ;) The day was capped off with a Team Canada dinner at Michaelangelo’s Restaurant, about 20 minutes from our hotel. Because of budget constraints, there was a question about whether the Team Dinner would happen, but Team Official Cal Smith and Racquetball President Jack McBride were instrumental in ensuring that it did. I’m sure I speak for all members on the Team when I say thank you. It is an incredibly enjoyable part of the trip to have a Team Dinner and it wouldn’t have been the same without it. See the picture (above) of everyone at the dinner table. It was a great time

 Following the day of rest, the real tournament began, and it was a bit of a roller coaster for Team Canada… As usual, results are posted at the bottom.

The day began with the first round of Men’s Singles. Canadian representatives Vincent Gagnon and Coby Iwasaa both moved on easily, although Vince had an easier time as he received a first round bye. Women’s Singles was next, as that draw was as large as the Men’s! Like their male counterparts, Frederique Lambert and Jennifer Saunders both moved into the round of 16, with easy wins over their first round opponents.

Before the doubles later in the day, the second round of both singles draws would be played. With Vince holding the second seed, he faced a lower ranked opponent than Coby and would have another fairly easy match, moving onto the quarters in two straight games. Coby’s second match was where the drama would begin for Team Canada…

It should be noted that Coby’s opponent, Luis Perez, is a solid player who has competed at the international level for many years, despite being quite young. He is tall and lean, and uses his long limbs to generate a lot of power. The first game was close all the way along, but Coby found himself on the wrong end of a game point at 12-14. He managed to get the serve back though, and battle away the next three points to take the first game 15-14. The second game played out in a similar fashion to the first, staying close right until the end where again, Coby was down 14-12. This time, unfortunately, things played out a little differently. As Coby chased a ball into the back wall, he slipped and fell into the door. The panel of glass shattered as soon as he hit it and his momentum propelled him through the now gaping hole in the back wall and out of the court. With broken glass everywhere, there was no way Coby could get through unscathed. His injuries were mostly minor cuts along his legs, arms, and back, but he did suffer one more serious laceration near his right knee. This would require medical attention but since he wanted to continue the match, they simply bandaged it up. Back on court for the tiebreaker, Coby dove for a ball at 0-0, killing it to get into the service box. This would have set a positive tone for the tiebreaker, but unfortunately the official not only called his shot a skip, but he also landed on his now injured knee in the process. He was not the same after that, and would drop the tiebreaker 11-2.

The girls were up next and both had a much tougher time than they did in the first round. Frederique won her first game without too much trouble, but went down by a large margin in the second and couldn’t recover, dropping the game 15-12. She did recover in the tiebreaker, cruising to victory 11-2. Saunders had more difficulty in her match. Not seemingly able to find her range when shooting the entire first game, she would drop it 15-10. Unfortunately it was more of the same in the second, as the first game seemed to leave her deflated and not able to play any better. She would drop the second 15-4.

After that it was onto doubles! The girls had a fairly easy first round against Panama, giving up only four points on their way to winning the match. We drew the tough Dominican team first round so our match would be more difficult. It proved to be a battle of attrition as we found ourselves in the hole 2-8 early in the first game. We were able to begin establishing a rhythm, but were still fighting an uphill battle. Down 10-4, we finally put a good stretch of points together to close their lead to three points at 13-10. Scoring points gave us confidence to be more aggressive and we were able to rattle off another three points to tie the game at 13-13, and eventually steal it 15-13.

In the second, despite our intention to start strong, we found ourselves slipping into another hole. We didn’t seem to be playing terrible, just unable to put the ball away on our serve and having trouble scoring. The TSN turning point came when we were 12-4 down, after a bit of a rally Pedro took a ball off the back wall between his legs, killing it down the line. This put a smile on both of our faces and pumped us up. We would score five quick points to close to 9-12 and the Dominicans would call a time out.  We knew then that we could come back, just as we had in the first game.  After the time out, we would close the lead to 11-12 before the Dominicans would get the serve back. We were able to hold them to only one point, getting back in the service box at 11-13. Two backhand splats later it was 13-13 before there was a handout and Pedro served.

The next rally saw several shots before we were able to establish position and hit a good pass that the Dominicans had to return off the back wall. As the shot moved towards the front wall, I retreated back, planning to take the set up after it bounced. Pedro had other plans, surging forward; he played the ball out of the air, hitting a perfect pinch into the front right corner to give us match ball, 14-13. The next rally was extended as well. Not wanting to give up our serve we hit more passes, trying to put the Dominicans out of position before going for a winner. After several attempts, they left a pass of their own high, a wide angle to the left that wrapped around to the right side off the back wall and ending shoulder-high at the receiving line. Pedro, confident from his last forehand pinch, stepped up and with a huge swing ripped a splat attempt into the front. It was perfect. There was barely a ripple as the ball rolled out on the front wall and we both raised our hands in triumph.

“Skeep ball.” We both heard over the mic. We looked at each other first. Had we heard that right? We then looked back at the ref incredulously.

“I called de ball a skeep.” He repeated in a heavy Spanish accent. This was a pretty scary moment, as the skip call would give the Dominicans the serve back and in international rules, you only have to win the game by one point, so they would only need two points to win the game and take the match to tiebreaker. Luckily for us, line judges had been recruited early in the match, and they were immune to whatever skip visions our official seemed to be having. They overturned the call and we were awarded the point, game, and match!

With two singles players and both doubles teams still alive and into the quarter finals, it will be an even tougher day for Team Canada today. We will do our best to play well and come out on top. Go Canada!!!


Rd of 32
Frederique Lambert d. Paula Padilla 15-5, 15-2
Jennifer Saunders d. Pamela Sierra 15-0, 15-5

Coby Iwasaa d. Diego Viglione 15-3, 15-4
Vincent Gagnon d. BYE

Rd of 16
Frederique Lambert d. Natalia Mendez 15-8, 12-15, 11-1
Jenny Daza (BOL) d. Jennifer Saunders 15-10, 15-4

Luis Perez (DOM) d. Coby Iwasaa 14-15, 15-12, 11-2
Vincent Gagnon d. Cesar Castillo 15-6, 15-11

Lambert/Grand-Maitre d. Caballero/Barboni 15-4, 15-0

Landeryou/Castro d. Perez/Rodriguez 15-13, 15-13

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