The Pro’s Perspective – Vol. 2

January 31st, 2011 by Ben

Racquetball Warehouse Sponsors 4 players on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and 1 player on the Women’s Professional Racquetball Tour (WPRO). In this series we let you into a glimpse of their lives, impressions, challenges and victories throughout their careers as professional athletes. Our sponsored players are:

Rocky Carson – IRT #2 – http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/proplayer2.html?ccode=CARSON
Ben Croft – IRT #3 – http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/proplayer2.html?ccode=BCROFT
Chris Crowther – IRT #5 – http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/proplayer2.html?ccode=CROWTHER
Jose Rojas – IRT #9 – http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/proplayer2.html?ccode=JROJAS
Rhonda Rajsich – WPRO #2 – WPRO Pro Player Gallery coming soon..

Now that the second half of the season is in full swing, and has brought some excitement with Rocky taking Kane to 5 games for the first time as well as a recent retirement, let’s hear what the pros have to say about 2010 going into 2011:

Rocky Carson

For the first half of the season all of the pros have had to make an adjustment to the new 2 serve rule. It definately puts more wear and tear on the body. Not just the arm but also on our legs. Especially when playing at altitude with 2 serves it makes it a game in which it can be tough to get a player when on fire on his serve out of the service box. A couple of our tourneys so far have been in high altitude; Cali,Columbia and Chihuahua, MX. It really makes for exciting matches and potential upsets.

So far the season has been a lot of fun. Seeing the effects of what the IRTNetwork.com is doing for the sport and allowing everybody at home to enjoy watching all of the pro-stops and to have the ability to follow us every weekend. This is just the beginning of what I believe will be what lifts the IRT to the next level. Not to mention, John Scott’s broadcating is off the hook.

We are seven stops into the season, and for myself I am ranked #2. I won the Chihuahua event and that got me back to playing ball with a much more focused game plan. I have played more solid this year than for most of all season last year. I have at least made the finals in all but 2 stops and look forward to finishing the season strong. If you want to keep up with me you can check me out on Facebook.

Ben Croft

2010. In my opinion, the most interesting and exciting year on tour in years! 2010 saw the first full season under a new President, the addition of many new tournaments, and more ranking changes than anyone could’ve expected! As a racquetball player and also fan, the first half of the season has left me energized and optimistic for the future of Professional Racquetball!

Fortitude was the theme for the 2010 season. It was a battle of who can stay healthy and compete at the highest level through consecutive months of a stacked schedule and very little time off. I found it very challenging both mentally and physically to perform at my best at times because I was competing in too many events. I hope the fans realize that and cut us a little slack when they see our level of play drop as the season progresses! J Considering the alternative, an incredibly busy schedule is a great problem to have! That being said, this has been a season that I am proud to be a part of. The tour has taken such a positive turn under the reigns of Jason Mannino and his “dream team” behind the scenes. 2010 should prove that, and as a player and fan I appreciate their hard work!

We brought in the second half of the season with three consecutive Tier 1’s, and it seems like the second half is on the same path (if not better) than the first! My goals for 2011 are simple but easier said than done, stay healthy and find a way to compete at my best at every event!

Thanks to HEAD, Racquetball Warehouse and everyone else for their support in 2010, and plan on strengthening every part of my game in 2011!

Chris Crowther

Overall the 2010 season was quite a rollercoaster.  I would have to say the highlight was making my first final and the low would be getting injured. Competition is tough out there and with the addition of 2 serves, it is very demanding on the body.  I spent the last few months doing extensive rehab on my back and now I feel good as new.  The goal for the second half of the season is to stay healthy, play hard and hopefully win a tournament. Looking forward to getting out there and competing!

Rhonda Rajsich

Let’s start with the lowlights…
Definitely a rough start at the beginning of the calendar year, just couldn’t seem to find my rhythm for months, concluding with a huge disappointment at the last Nationals that would ever be in Houston. The summer didn’t let up on the let downs either, as I missed my mark at the WOR Championships in Huntington Beach again too, but at least managed to get a great tan.  After taking some time to lick my wounds, the highlights began to take shape…

Now the good stuff…
Going back to Korea for the 2010 World Championships was a thrill in itself, but to come away with three Gold medals in that one was particularly sweet.  A bumpy start would follow in our WPRO season opener in Dallas, but I honestly did the best I could with what I had, and put it behind me quickly. Onto the first ever Grand Slam in another country, it was a joy to be a part of such a new and exciting event, and winning was just more icing on the cake.  Immediately following was the first-ever 3-Wall Ball Championships in Las Vegas.  It was an incredible sight to see all of the courts and the players in the parking lot of the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino, with the huge needle looming overhead.  Oh yeah, and winning that didn’t hurt either.  And finally the best and most memorable moment of my 2010 is absolutely getting my 4th US Open title in the new home of racquetball’s biggest Grand Slam, Lifetime Fitness in Minneapolis, MN. I’d manage a couple of more victories by the end of the year, but moving on to what’s on tap for 2011….

Predictions:
All I can say with any certainty is that I will continue to get better.  If 2011 brings me nothing else it will be improvement in leaps and bounds over what I have done and accomplished so far…and that is extremely exciting to me!! As much as I love my job, I have only scratched the surface of what I will do in this game…. Stay tuned….

Make sure to check back often for more updates from the dominant Racquetball Warehouse Pro Player Team!

Posted in The Pro's Perspective | 183 Comments »

The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol 4

January 10th, 2011 by Darrin Schenck

Gearing up for 2011

While the kids from ASU are still on winter break, I am doing my best to get into playing shape once again so we can prepare together for the Intercollegiate Championships in April here at ASU. Having a day job certainly seems to get in the way of my racquetball!!!

Our big focus for the New Year??? Two things: Serves and Return of Serve! The more consistently you can serve the better your chances of winning, period. A good repertoire of serves will be necessary to beat a variety of opponents, and practicing each one is important. I am continually surprised at when people play a lefty in a tournament their biggest concern is what to serve to them. This would not be a problem if you practiced ALL the serves, you would be armed with an answer for anyone you face. Drills as simple as standing a box or small garage can in the target area of your serve should finish is a fun way to see how accurate and consistent you really are. Most people are surprised, thinking they are better than in reality. Another way to practice for two people to for one to hit 10 of the same serve and someone else return each of those serves. The effectiveness of the serve should only be evaluated on the opportunity that you left your opponent with, not whether or not you win the rally. Errors and poor shot selection from the returner should be considered a bonus and not something you count on. Of course for the returner, their job is to minimize errors and reverse the advantage the server has with a smart return.

Since we are on Winter break I left everyone with warm holiday wishes and cautions to be careful on New Year’s Eve. I warned everyone before they left for Winter Break that they would need to come back from break in shape, as we will be hitting the ground running as soon as they return. We add a Saturday practice in during this ramp up time towards the big show, and this gets the kids on the court against local tournament players on a weekly basis. This year we are afforded the luxury (?) of having one tournament per month before the Intercollegiate event in which we can prepare. In past years, this has not been the case and I have felt we could have been a little more “tournament tough” before heading to compete. However there is always the concern for sore shoulders and court burns when you play tournaments that affect the following week’s practice time. But as we all know, this is part of the rigors of the game.

Circling back to the Saturday practices, after playing either me or the invited guests who show up, I usually take the team to run “The Hill”. Within about 5 minutes of the SRC there is a very steep and gravelly hill that is about a 200 sprint/climb to the top. It is a test of will and pushing through the barriers in your head that we all have. It isn’t the toughest climb in the vicinity of campus; the infamous “A Mountain” is notorious for breaking the spirit and endurance of many of ASU’s athletes. But this hill is ours. We run it as a team exercise, each of us individually but as a whole group to encourage and push one another. The main goal is to not slow down, pick a pace you think you can keep and no matter what don’t quit. I have never had someone quit; I did have someone who pretty much collapsed in effort to make it to the top, but she never quit. It develops mental toughness and prepares you for the pressure of all your team mates watching and cheering for you. A great addition to our training regimen.

The whole idea behind the practice sessions, practice matches and The Hill is that tournaments should feel like a vacation compared to what the kids “endure” during the weeks leading up to the events. I am big on having us aiming towards hitting a peak just in time for the Intercollegiate event in April. Using planned practice goals, tournaments as a barometer for progress, and scheduled training sessions which maximize fitness gains similar to on-court anaerobic needs we can get ready in an organized fashion and not a haphazard approach. Not only does this improve our chances for success, I hope that it teaches the students useful life skills as well.

Darrin Schenck

ASU Head Coach

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 162 Comments »

Racquetball Reality – Club Racquetball Questions

December 30th, 2010 by John Ellis

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions by email about situations that are coming up during club play for the players emailing me.  Most of the questioning has to do with how to handle situations that involve hinders or other interpretations of the rules.  So I thought I’d take a moment and address a few of these issues on the Racquetball Warehouse Blog……. First, let me start with the good ol “PENALTY HINDER”.  When should this type of hinder be called while playing non tournament or league matches at your local club?  Good question and one that will have a few different answers for different types of people.  For me, club play is just practice and meant to be a lot of fun.  I’ve been playing racquetball matches since I was five years old, so thirty-three years later, winning a club match for me doesn’t matter a lot and shouldn’t depend on a penalty hinder call.  Needless to say, I never call them on my opponent unless my opponent simply can’t live with themselves knowing they definitely were in a penalty hinder position or if they were lying on the ground right in front of me and couldn’t go anywhere.  I don’t really care about forcing a player to give me a point during practice, although I will take that same call in a tournament.  Why do I do this since you’re suppose to practice like you play?  Because it’s just practice to me and I’m not looking for freebies or static between me and my opponent if they don’t agree with the penalty hinder call.  Now, I’m not saying you should all be like me in this situation, but it’s an option.  If you can’t play that way, then take the call and get ready for the banter that could come with it.  And oh yeah, don’t get caught in a penalty hinder position yourself or one that’s even close or you’ll be giving up the call!!  A penalty hinder occurs when a player takes away an offensive opportunity for their opponent, regardless if they were trying to get out of the way or not.  Obviously without a ref, this situation will most likely be debatable………….. The next most popular topic players are reaching out to me about is the “HOLDING UP A LITTLE, BUT STILL TAKING THE SHOT”.  This one cracks me up when I see it at the club because it happens all the time, mostly at the A level and lower and it always produces some arguing on the court.  I love it when a player kind of holds up, yet still takes the shot and makes it.  They always walk up like they meant to do that and their opponent just stands there and looks at them like they’re scum for taking the shot.  OR, they miss the shot and then immediately call the hinder, which of course is really the conversation I’m wanting to see.  BOTTOM LINE IS THAT IF YOU TAKE THE SHOT THEN YOU LIVE WITH THE SHOT!!  If you don’t take the shot and you hold up for safety then your opponent should understand and oblige you with a hinder.  If they give you static because you held up for the hinder in that situation then you know what to do the next time that moment occurs, RIP THEM IN THE ASS.  Or the back of the leg, maybe the back fat just above the bum!!!…………. Last example for today is the “CALL FROM OUTSIDE THE COURT”.  This happens all of the time too and most of the time it’s a C player out there trying to interject.  People, if you’re outside the court and they want help from you on a call, forget about it!!  If you don’t say anything then you might find yourself watching an awesome conversation.  Why ruin that just because you can’t resist being apart of the play that you have nothing to do with?  Did you agree to ref the game before it began?  Probably not.  I can see maybe rolling your eyes a little to kind of tell them what you think, but don’t say a word.  Let them handle it on the court as they should be able to do in any practice play situation.  If they’re smart and understanding of the concept that racquetball is just a game then they’ll likely just replay the point.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very competitive and don’t like being taken advantage of, but I’m not that crazed about RB that I can’t just replay some points even if I think I’m getting the short end of the call.  I never go home thinking I should have won because of a call.  RB does not rule my dome like that and it shouldn’t rule yours either……….. If you find yourself reading this post and thinking that I’m that controversial guy or gal then now is your time to make a change.  It’s almost 2011 and you can add these concepts to your New Year’s Resolutions!!!  BTW, for those of you that read this blog, I’ll be back tomorrow midday for my Ellistyle Top 20 2011 New Year’s Resolutions.  All for now, keep em rollin………………..

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 138 Comments »

The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol. 4 – Making Do

December 6th, 2010 by Ben

Making do….

The ASU Racquetball team just wrapped up the annual Splat Classic Racquetball Tournament which we hosted for the third year in a row. The event itself is always fun, bringing old familiar faces and new friends together right before the Holiday. The tournament has sort of become our first semester ending event, and a gauge for where we are at in terms of our preparation for the Intercollegiate Championships in early April, 2011. While the ECRC schools and the WCRC schools are getting their tournament preparation in by playing other colleges, we have to make do with competing against local players in a regular tournament. Although I think it would be better preparation for us to play other schools for practice, this is the next best thing.

I would have to say one advantage to this isolation we have here in AZ is that we do not “show our hand” until we walk in the door for the Intercollegiate tournament event itself. It is nice to keep our competition guessing, and maybe have a few surprises that we can bring to the table come tournament time. I would assess our fitness level as adequate, but as my players know we will be doing our real training beginning in January when they return from Winter Break. We will be hitting the ground running in the New Year, gearing up for our big showdown in April.

Hosting the Intercollegiate Championships this year has its pros and cons. I would say that an advantage of traveling to a tournament is that for the most part you are totally focused and there for one reason. The kids all have class work to keep up with, and when not playing everyone is supporting their team mates. We spend 24/7 together; the 7 guys and seven girls who went to Springfield last year crammed into 2 rooms each, and I had a room in the middle. We eat every meal together, commute from the hotel to the club together, etc. for four days straight. It can be trying at times, but for the most part I love every minute of it. When we host the tournament, boyfriends/girlfriends show up, Mom and Dad come to watch, kids try to squeeze in classes between matches, and many other pressures and distractions can arise. But, playing on your home courts and sleeping in your own bed is nice sometimes, so I guess it all evens out. We hope to be adding another decal to the wall of Court 1 after this season’s event, but only time will tell.

Happy Holidays everyone, I hope Santa brings you that better backhand you are wishing for!

Darrin Schenck

ASU Head Coach

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 145 Comments »

Hi-Tec M550 – A Unanimous Winner

December 1st, 2010 by Ben

With all of the technology and engineering Hi-Tec has put into their designs, they really have shoe making down to a science. The M550 is the newest incarnation from Hi-Tec and our playtesters received it with open arms. This shoe hybrids technology and materials used in previous 4:SYS and H700 models to create the perfect player’s shoe. Unbeatable support and a light breathable upper combined with the locking lace system gives your foot the superior ventilation that is usually cast aside with the stifling materials used to provide support.

htm550w-1

Our testers tried this shoe out for an average of 20 hours and gave it an overall rating of 4 out of 5. Though views were slightly varied throughout the categories they all agreed that Hi-Tec has produced a high performance shoe for a wide range of skill levels. Our testers for this playtest ranged from B to Top 10 Pro in skill and from 15 to 55 in age. We have paraphrased our tester’s comments below for easier reading:

Comfort- 4

Out of the box, the shoes were comfortable to wear and had a minimal break-in period. Comfort and Arch Support both received a 4 out of 5 rating on average. After allowing adaptation to the new materials during court movement, all of the testers agreed that the shoes exhibited aspects of comfort that allowed them to forget that they were even wearing shoes, commenting that, “after the initial break in [they] were very comfortable. It is one of the few shoes I’ve worn that allows you not to think about the shoes while playing.”

Foot Support / Stability- 4.5

Stability is where this shoe really shined. All of our testers agreed that the stability was outstanding, “The most stable low tops I have worn.” Even our testers with ankle troubles found the shoe to be very supportive and reassuring when it came to planting and changing directions. Typically stability is sacrificed at the expense of comfort, as softer materials tend to be more comfortable, but lack the stability of a stiffer structure. This was not the case for the M550 as our testers found that the stability played nicely with the comfort.

Traction- 4.5

Backing up the stability was the traction of the shoe, which was well received by our testers. One of the players mentioned that, “On one occasion I was playing with an individual that was slipping all over the court, and I had no problems while wearing the Hi-Tec shoe.” The Peak Force gum rubber outsole is what can take credit for the great traction our testers experienced on a variety of different surfaces.

picture-2The only complaints to come from our testers pertained to the fit of the shoe, commenting that the opening seemed a little small, which caused some discomfort with the positioning of the tongue on the foot. The stiff materials presented a problem for some at first but after a brief break in period they could all agree it was not an issue.

With comfort, traction, and stability highlighting the performance of this shoe, it is easy to see how Hi-Tec hit the mark for those looking for a competitive high performance shoe. The testers spoke on their experience and Hi-Tec has the science to back it up, now it’s your turn to give these shoes a run for your money and see how a well-made shoe can amplify your experience on court.

picture-5

Posted in Product Reviews | 220 Comments »

IRF Junior Worlds In LA

November 18th, 2010 by John Ellis

On the road again….. I’m heading down to Los Angeles this morning to watch a little junior racquetball while representing the best company in racquetball, Ektelon!! I’m excited about this trip as I’ll be travelling with my homies from Stockton. Making the five and a half hour trek with me is Jose Rojas, Bobby Horn, Jose Serrano and Jesse Serna. We’ll be heavily supporting Jose Diaz and Markie Rojas as they make their way through the Boy’s 16′s Singles and Doubles draws. Naturally I’ll be pulling for the US Team but it’s not that clear cut for me anymore as I’ve gotten to know a lot of international racquetball families and there are a few players outside of the US that I’ll be rooting for. All in all, this will be a great three day trip and allows me to stay in touch with junior racquetball.

So, as I look at the Playoff Bracket Draws this morning, I’ve noticed a few interesting match ups that will happen in the next few days. Here’s my take on the FIVE MOST INTERESTING MATCHUPS @ THE JUNIOR WORLDS………

5) I’ll begin with my girl Devon Pimentelli and her future semifinal match with Maria Jose Vargas. Devon is a player that I work with about once a month and she has a ton of natural talent. However, she’s a shy little thing and sometimes that personality trait comes out on the court, causing her to play unagressive. That can’t happen vs Maria Jose as she packs a ton of energy and desire into her game. Maria has owned the matchups so far but I know Devon has been chomping at the bit to get another chance at Maria and she’ll get it in the semis Friday at 2PM.

4) Thanks to the upset loss by Alex Cardona in his pool play, he’s now seeded 8th and staring directly at Taylor Knoth in the quarter finals of the Boy’s 18′s Singles. This is not good for either player as Alex beat Taylor in the finals two years ago in the 16 & Under Worlds. But times change and now they’re playing early. Advantage Taylor in this one as I believe he’ll carry more confidence this year, his last as a junior. He’s a strong dude that has had some good experience over the last two years. If he plays as well as he can, he’ll win in two.

3) Staying in the Boy’s 18′s, whomever wins the Knoth vs Cardona match will then have to deal with Carlos Keller, assuming he can get by Mexico’s Jaime Martell. I believe he will and Carlos will advance to the semis and in my opinion, beyond. Carlos is my pick for the Boy’s 18′s so I expect him to work his way through the draw and meet Brad Kirch in the finals. I’ve been aware of Carlitos for some time now as I’ve traveled through Bolivia in the past and had several games against him. He’s an awesome talent that will threaten to be a top player on the IRT some day. He’s my pick for the next two years!!

2) Making my way back to the girls and you find maybe the match of the tournament in the Girls 18 & Under semi finals with Aubrey O’Brien vs Jessica Parrilla. This isn’t a sure thing as Jessica will have to get by Maria Paz, but she will and she’ll be ready for Aubrey in that semi. Aubrey is a top level WPRO player at 18 years of age with a ton of great experience. Jessica is a lot of fun to watch with her all out style on the court and serious attitude if things aren’t going her way. I expect a tough tiebreaker in this one and I’ll resist the urge to make a pick this time. I’ll be rooting for Aubrey as a Nor Cal player but wouldn’t be too bummed if Jessica won. Match of the tourney and seats will be tough to come by.

1) Lastly, I have to go with my favorite junior match up out of all of them. Jose Diaz vs. Markie Rojas in the Boy’s 16′s final. Now, both are definitely no sure thing and I dare to say that Markie will have a tough time making it to the finals. But I’ve learned never to count these two out when they have a chance to play each other because at only 17 years of age for each, they’ve played a ton of mathes already and always seem to find each other in draws, whether it’s junior or open play. The way these two communicate with each other is hilarious to watch and I probabaly like that part of the match better than the play. Diaz is always a showman and Markie always looks so stressed against Jose. Jose Diaz won the last match at a tourney here in Stockton a few months ago, but that’s certainly not the finals of the Junior Worlds. Markie’s ankle was badly sprained about eight days ago and I’m sure it’s affecting him. Both have a long way to go and a couple of Mexican players to get by first, but if they do then I’ll take Diaz is this match as he’ll pounce on Markie and the bad ankle, making sure to make the most of the opportunity.

Okay, I’ll try to blog again on the morning of the finals, which will be Saturday. I’m sure some of these matchups won’t take place but I sure hope they all do!!

Keep em rollin……………. Elli

Posted in Product Reviews | 142 Comments »

The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol. 3 Part II

November 4th, 2010 by Ben

Make sure to read Vol. 3 Part I prior to reading this post.

Here is one example of a match from that week: Kristen Frisk was a senior at ASU; she had played for me for three years. Just to round out our history together, she got “volunteered” about one month before we went to the 2008 Intercollegiate Championships in Kansas City. She was friends with one of the guys on the team and had never played racquetball before. My number six girl had a knee injury 7 weeks before the event that year, and we were going to be one girl short if we didn’t find a replacement. You are not eligible for the team competition if you do not have a full squad of 6 guys and 6 girls. She lost every match, with no experience and no help during the event (I figured she was going to lose anyway). By the end of the week she was serving to win her first game. Oh, by the way, I made her play number 1, knowing this would be better for the team as a whole in terms of points.

Two years later to the day she is in the semi finals at the number 5 position. Both of her knees hurt, her swing is still terrible (I never was able to fix that) and when she warms up she looks like she’s never played before. I would hear her opponent’s excitement when they watched her for the first time, thinking she was terrible and that they would win easily. But once things got started, she was tough as nails. She slowly squeezed people to death, rarely making an error and her hustle making up for her technical inefficiencies. She executed every game plan I ever gave her and never, ever complained. Down 11-13 in the first game of the semi’s, I made her call time out to talk to her. She complied and came off the court. I told her to switch her serve, and hit a lob Z to the forehand of her opponent. She looked at me like I was crazy. I told her to trust me, and so she did. As I hoped, her opponent attacked the first serve she hit and dumped it into the floor. The next one she went conservative and hit it to the ceiling, only to sail it off the back wall and give Kristen an easy shot up front. She dinked it for a winner, tying the game at 13-13.

Her opponent called time out and came off the court looking rattled. Kristen came bounding out of the court looking very confident. As they walked back in to court, I said aloud “Do the same thing” and shut the door behind her. Kristen’s opponent looked back at me with a scared look in her eyes, knowing she was going to see more of the same. Kristen served out, hitting a clutch forehand winner to seal game one. Game two was very similar, with Kristen hanging around and frustrating her opponent by getting to good shots and extending rallies. Thirteen all…here we go again. She calls time out and walks off the court. I looked at her and said “You know what to do” and she smiled back at me. I was so nervous for her, but I never let it show. She went back in and battled her way to another 15-13 win, making the finals and having a shot at gold.

The next day Kristen played in the finals and lost. She gave everything she had. The picture says it all.

kristen-frisk

I was so proud of her, and I get chills just thinking back to this one of the many moments for that week. She graduated and is now back on the East Coast and working in her career of choice. I have no doubt if she applies half of the determination she did on the court to the rest of her life, she will be very successful.

I am so proud of all my “kids”; we work together for six months to play this four day event. All of them represent the school and themselves with class and sportsmanship that would make any coach proud. The lack of money is irrelevant; I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Darrin Schenck

ASU Head Coach

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 184 Comments »

The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol. 3 Part I

November 1st, 2010 by Ben

People often ask me why I spend so much time working with the ASU team when I don’t get paid for it? I have to laugh to myself, and then remember that they have not experienced what I have in the past four years as a coach. I have coached and instructed individuals for about 20 years now, but nothing compares to coaching a team of players. I will try to elude what the experience is like in the following post. All of the following experiences took place at the Intercollegiate Championships in 2010 in Springfield, MO.

We begin practice for the season in September to coincide with the beginning of the school year. I have a core group of players who were returning, and I needed to make a few additions as well. As the year progressed it became obvious that I would have to have a playoff for the positions on the Men’s team as we have a few more players than spots since we were traveling and didn’t have the finances to bring everyone. So I was forced to do the thing I hate most in my role as coach, break the news to several of my players that they are not going to make the trip to Springfield. I hate it, more than I can really explain. I want so badly for them to have this experience, make the memories and have fun that it kills me to have someone not be able to go. We established an in house tournament and had a playoff for the six positions on the team. I literally couldn’t watch.

Once that was behind us, we made arrangements for 7 girls (one of my girls was struggling with an injury and so we elected to not have her play doubles) and seven guys (one of the guys paid his own airfare and played in the “extra” divisions that are available) to travel the event. We rented two vehicles and my only graduate student on the team was designated with the task of carting half of the team around all week. We randomly split up the crew, and switched people around frequently to avoid getting sick of one another. We all stayed at the same hotel, rooms right next to one another, ate every meal together, and were basically together non-stop for the five days we were in Springfield. All of the kids had class work to keep up with, so they were preparing to play, cheering on their team mates who were playing or on the computer keeping up with their class responsibilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 123 Comments »

My Take On The US Open Finals

October 24th, 2010 by John Ellis

I slept in today as it’s 7AM PST and I just drilled a 5 Hour Energy to get going. The Big Show is about to begin and I’m looking forward to taking in some great racquetball for the next four hours or so. Of course, setting my NFL fantasy lineup and making sure I’m ready to go for a big day of watching NFL football takes precedence these days…… What a great day of watching racquetball yesterday. The WPRO matches were a little anti climatic but we all kind of expected that and actually hoped that would be the case. We want Paola vs Rhonda, period. The IRT matches were both very intriguing and high quality entertainment. I preferred the Beltran/Croft match just a bit more because of the evolution that we all witnessed in the greatness that is Alvi!! I mean he completed looked out of it in the first two and by game three I thought there was no chance of Alvi even competing in the match. Then all of a sudden, there he is, getting better with each rally until there was absolutely no denying him. Ben aided the cause a bit with average play, but let’s not forget that Ben’s average play up 2-0 on most players easily wins the match. Alvaro took it from him because he’s a veteran that’s been in a ton of huge matches and he wanted it more. That’s the bottom line, Alvi wanted in more than Ben deep inside his sole. That’s some cool stuff right there!!!…… With the Kane/Jack match, we knew Kane would get it together at some point. For a second I thought Jack might win but then Kane went on a 29-2 run and was up 2 games to 1. Props to Jack for playing very well and giving himself a chance to win. More props to Kane for winning a tough match when he was playing average for himself. BTW, he still won kind of easily in four, although he didn’t cover my line of 15 total points for Jack……… I did not watch any CPRT matches yesterday but my finals prediction is in place and it should be a decent match today. I’m pulling for my boy Woody Clouse!! Here we go………

IRT Finals (12PM): #18 Alvaro Beltran vs #1 Kane Waselenchuk
This is a classic finals match up of two veteran players. Kane is the greatest of all time already and may just be playing at his peak these days. Alvi is the greatest of all time never to win an IRT Stop and that isn’t even debatable. What is debatable is whether Alvaro has won a stop or not. He did win a Tier One event in Virginia back in the early 2000’s but there is a definite asterisk on that win. The asterisk wasn’t applied to the finals in which Alvi beat Jack in an awesome five game win. But rather the round of 32 and 16 as the courts were so wet and slippery that all of the players got together and decided that everyone would get the same prize money and ranking points but play out the event at their own risk. By the finals the courts were fine so I’m not sure if Alvi claims the victory and I don’t mind if he does because I know I made the same money that weekend and same ranking points. So you decide for yourself and Alvaro can as well. If he wins today then there are no more questions about the topic. What a first win it would be too!! However, it’s not going to happen and it won’t even be close. I believe that Kane will come out and put so much pressure on Alvi that he won’t be able to get the himself even into the match enough to elicit the crowd’s help in route to a win. The crowd will want to pull for Alvi to make it a great match and even win but Kane will have none of that today. I’ve seen it twice before with Kane beating up on the second greatest ever in Clifford Swain at the US Open Final. Kane had his close match yesterday, which obviously had him concerned throughout the match. He’ll loosen up today and the talent will be on full display in a three game win that will last about 50 minutes. Great tourney for Alvi and he’s one of my favorite players, but like I mentioned yesterday, we’re just in the middle of the Reign of Kane. We still have another 6-8 years of this conversation to go. He’s that good and the rest of them are that average.

WPRO Finals (11AM): #2 Rhonda Rajsich vs #1 Paola Longoria
This is obviously the match of the day and could have even been played after the IRT match and most would stay to watch. I know I would if I was in Minneapolis. Both ladies are rolling through the draw, taking out tough opponents yesterday without much concern. This is meant to be this year and could also be the finals match up for the next few years. I have no idea what the overall match up record is and to be honest, it doesn’t matter that much to me. I’ve noticed that generally there are no runs of three wins in a row for either gal. Sometimes one or the other will win two in a row but then it ends at that. Who’s turn is it? I have no idea on that either as I do not follow every Rhonda vs Paola match up. Ask my dad and he’s liable to tell you who won the last 25 match ups as he’s the “gopher boy” for Shannon and the ladies of the WPRO!!! Actually, not sure now that I want my dad to read this, I might get in trouble!!…….. I’m going with Rhonda Rajsich today in a really exciting and hard fought five games. No real reason why I’m picking Rhonda over Paola, just a gut feeling. I hope it does go five for all of the fans in attendance and all of us at home watching. The WPRO Finals going five actually gives the IRT match a little more hype as the fans will feel the excitement build with each close point. Plus, I love the idea of many of the players in attendance racing through the Minneapolis airport frantic, trying to catch the last flight out so they can get back to real life at home and away from the Racquetball Vacation they were all on!!! I don’t miss that at all!! Enjoy these two drastically different women get it on in what promises to be an epic encounter.

CPRT Finals (10AM): #14 Jeff Bell vs #1 Woody Clouse
Jeff Bell is very good for those of you who do not know who he is. He’s one of those guys that could easily by a top 20 player on the IRT if he dedicated his time to RB instead of the real life and job he has. I actually expected him to be in the finals today when I first saw the draw. Where in the hell is Cliff and Ruben? I know they’re both there and them not playing hurts this division and tour…… Woody is very well known and like Jeff could easily be a top 20 player on the IRT at 44 or however old he is. Whatever his age is, I know for a fact that Woody is in better shape then he was at 30 or even 25. Woody has dedicated himself to winning tournaments on the CPRT, making up for all of the losses he took as a full time IRT player. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, it’s hard to win on the IRT during any era. I really admire my great friend as he’s continued to grow as a player over the years and Woody at 44 would beat Woody at 25 at least 50% of the time. Woody at 50 may just be better than the Woody right now and that reminds me a lot of Ruben…….. I’m taking Clouse in four decent games today. It will be a very nice warm up match for the two big matches to follow and the level of play will be that of a Round of 16 IRT match so expect big time shot making. This is not old man’s ball with the idea of just entertaining. Real prize money is on the line and of course the title of US Open Champion.

Congratulations to Doug Ganim, the USAR and IRT Network for a successful US Open presentation. I have no idea if this event is indeed successful but from my angle it looks great. I hope the party was better than it was in Memphis over the last four years that I was there. I’m sure it was, Minnesota racquetball players know how to party and drink like Canadiens!!…….. This is my last blog about the Open. Check back for new topics later this week. As always, keep em rollin…………… I will be today if you know what I mean!!!

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 91 Comments »

My Take On The US Open Semi Finals

October 23rd, 2010 by John Ellis

It’s 5:07AM and I have a huge day planned!! Soccer game with Julius at 8AM (7:30AM warm up), picking up 50 homemade tamales from Carolina Diaz (mom of Jose Diaz) and heading to a golf scramble/birthday party in the East Bay……. Yes, I’d rather be with all of my 209 buds in Minneapolis getting ready to watch a great day of men’s, women’s and old farts racquetball!! I’m very thankful for the IRT Network as it was great to take in some matches yesterday. I would have liked to see a little bit of WPRO play in the morning but I’m sure John and his crew need a little down time as well……… So on with the pics for today’s Super Saturday Semi Finals.

IRT Semi Finals #1 (11AM): #18 Alvaro Beltran vs #3 Ben Croft
So Alvaro made sure I didn’t go 100% yesterday with my picks, which is no surprise really when I think back about the number of times I lost to Alvaro in key quarterfinal matches. Believe me it was a few too many times. Alvi looked smooth in his three game win over my boy Rojas. Jose will have to find his “ugly” side if he wants to win on tour. He is way too nice. It will be interesting to try and read Alvi’s body language today in his match up vs Ben. Is fatigue going to set in today? Is Avi the best “Rope A Doper” on tour? I believe the answer to both questions are a definite Yes!! Of course, Ben has his own unique path to the US Open Semi Final with his forfeit win over Mitch Williams while on the verge of defeat. Ben was extremely gracious in his victory and understanding of the difficult situation Mitch was going through………. Bottom line, I really have no idea who to pick in this match. Both are on a destiny trip to a beat down in the final. The match is at 11AM, which is strange for a US Open Semi and favors Ben. So, I’ll take Ben Croft today in five games. Someone has to outlast Alvaro. He’s not in good shape, that’s evident from 2,000 miles away. I’m just going to bank on the fact that Ben will not give up points as easily as everyone else has this week and that will extend Alvi past his limits. Funny thing is that I know Alvaro is a better player, but I’m still taking Ben.

IRT Semi Finals #2 (3PM): #4 Jack Huczek vs #1 Kane Waselenchuk
This is the match of the tournament even if it’s a three game whooping for Kane. We know this, Jack will not win in three or even four for that matter. No way it can happen, Kane is playing at too high a level. Jack played well yesterday, getting past a very game Charlie Pratt. Kane was Kane was again and he looks like the type of champion that will continue to dominate for the next decade. I literally mean that by the way. I believe Kane will hold onto the #1 ranking for the next 8-10 years and force the world as we know it to take a good look at racquetball just for the simple fact that one person will have dominated the sport for 15+ years in a row. That’s how great I recognize his game to be. He’ll lose here and there and I’m sure Jack realizes that this is another great opportunity to get a huge win from the best. I think Jack will play well but still lose in three straight. If I’m setting the line, I’d put it at 16 total points for Jack in this Semi Final. Don’t think I’m being harsh here either, that total of 16 is only 5 points less than the total number of points Kane’s given up in the last three matches. Absolutely crazy!!!

WPRO Semi Final #1 (10AM): #22 Christie Huczek vs #2 Rhonda Rajsich
This is the first of two great WPRO Semi Final matches. Both Christie and Rhonda had convincing wins in their Quarterfinal matches and they certainly know each other’s game styles. This used to be the best rivalry on the WPRO, but with the emergence of Paola as the on again, off again #1 player, Rhonda now has two clear cut rivals and believe me, there is no fear what so ever in Christie’s mental make up. I’m sure she believes she should win this tournament…….. It’s tough to make a call on a Rhonda match without watching her play yet. I believe the outcome of this match will depend on whether Christie can keep the ball off the back wall. If she can then it will be a close match that she’ll have an opportunity to win. But, I think the court being as tough to play on as it is and the fact that she’s probably not in prime condition from all of her recent life changes will keep Christie from peaking today. I’ll take Rhonda in hard fought four game win. All of the games will be close and sparks could fly a little so tune in early. 10AM, what’s up with that???

WPRO Semi Final #2 (2PM): #5 Samantha Solis vs #1 Paola Longoria
Another great match to take in today and one that should make the Mexican Federation extremely proud of their junior programs. These two girls are very young still and each have a long future in the sport. Samantha seems to have her mental game in check these days, which is a major change from how she would handle pressure situations in the past. She’s more powerful than Paola, just as passionate and very intimidating. But, Paola is the smarter player of the two. She has the ability to find flaws in the other girl’s games and then just constantly attack those areas with a barrage of pressure. Samantha will have to treat this match like she’s playing one of the other girls that she dislikes, which is probably many of them. If she’s in there playing her good friend and doubles partner then she’ll go down because Paola has her eyes on the big prize always. Samantha has to make this an “ugly” match. There I go using that phrase again!!……… Paola is just too much for Samantha right now. Maybe that will change later in their career but for now I’ll take Paola in another four game battle. Paola and Rhonda are on a collision course and Samantha vs Christie would actually be a very entertaining match for 3rd place!!

CPRT Quarterfinal  & Semi Final Preview
I’ll leave my full breakdown for the finals tomorrow and just give you all my pics for today’s Quarterfinals and Semi Finals. It’s not that complicated on the top half as Woody Clouse will take down Mike Ray in their quarter and find himself matched up with Jimmy Lowe in one semi. Jimmy will outlast Louis Vogel in his quarter and their is no way Louis has the stamina to play with Jimmy Lowe. The bottom half is not complicated either for me with Doug Ganim advancing over Brad McCunniff and Jeff Bell getting past Dale Valentine…….. Things get a little interesting in the Semis as the match ups are legit pro level matches. The bottom will see the division’s first major upset as I’ll take Jeff Bell to get by Douglas in a tough five game battle. Doug will have a lot going on with the semis in the IRT and WPRO, but he’s a game and will put up a great fight. Jeff is tough and could play the tour and do well if he wanted…… I’ll take my boy Woody Clouse in the top half. Woody and Jimmy can be a very entertaining match if Jimmy brings out all of his antics while playing great. If he’s pressuring Woody and getting under his skin then this will be a five game battle. I’ll still go with Woody in four as I believe he’s the best athlete and player in the division. Hopefully Joe Lee is there to witness so Woody can talk even more dukie to Joe. BTW, I’ve seen Woody shut Joe Lee up in the lobby of the Downtown Houston YMCA and then take $100 off him the next day in a bet on a match. It was hilarious but not sure why I feel the need to share this………

Enjoy the matches everyone. I sure wish I was there but life is good in the 209 as well. Good luck to all players left in the draws. Keep em rollin………………

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 130 Comments »

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