2011 Puget Sound Challenge
by Arun Rohila and Wanda Collins
With 136 participants, this tournament continues to be one of the big ones in Washington. It offers first rate competition and great hospitality to everyone who attends. The directors give a big shout out to sponsors and volunteers who helped to bring the Women’s Pros to Olympia. Thanks to Ektelon, Head, Gearbox, Racketskinz, PCI Pest Control, L&E Bottling, Izzy’s and of course Bally’s and John.
If any of the participants wanted to meet the women’s pro players and have the opportunity to get on the court with them, Thursday was the night!! Junior players got their chance to step on the court with Rhonda Rajsich. But she wasn’t allowed to use a conventional racquet. Each junior rolled a die and whatever number came up determined what object Rhonda used to play them. Anything from a big wig and sunglasses, to a rolled up newspaper, to a soda bottle and even a cereal box became her court weapon. The spectators had fun and the kids were so happy to play and get a participation medal and….get their picture taken with Rhonda.
Thursday evening saw a few other matches, but the main event that evening was watching Jeff Stark and Lon Bergstrom beat Tim Prigo and Grant Stalley in the Men’s Open Doubles match in two games…winning 10, 6. Go Washington!!!
Friday was a busy day, with a lot of great play. Jeff Stark took on young Josh Hungerford from Oregon, and pulled out a win with a tiebreaker. His next opponent would be Jimmy Lowe on Saturday. The Lowe – Stark match was one of the best of the day, with Stark and Lowe diving and working HARD for every point. Stark defeated Lowe in a tiebreaker, which has not occurred in quite some time. This match was a must see of the tourney.
In Women’s Open, Washington resident Grace Hughes continues to improve, and succeeded in taking out Keely Franks in a tiebreaker. Her next round was against Susana Acosta, sixth ranked on the pro tour. Grace worked hard, losing in a tiebreaker. Tourney director Cheyenne Hayes took on T.J. Baumbaugh, losing in the tie breaker. Wanda Collins took on Krystal Csuk and lost in another tie breaker, while Tammarrian Rogers took on Da’monique Davis and won in two straight. Saturday saw the field narrow to Jen Saunders and Susana Acosta, who met in the finals on Sunday, with Saunders claiming first place. Krystal Csuk took third.
In the WPRO event Grace Hughes got a chance to take on Paola Longoria. It was a great experience for Grace and gave her a list of things to work on! Cheyenne Hayes went against Rhonda Rajsich and lost in three, but she did some flying around that court. The longest match of the day went to T.J. Baumbaugh who lost in the tie breaker of a five game match to Cristina Amaya -6, 8, 2, -10, 8. Rhonda Rajsich and Paola Longoria showed why they are ranked as the top two players on the Women’s Tour, as neither dropped a game heading into the finals on Sunday. In the championship match, Rajsich pulled out the first game, Paola won the next two, and in an exciting fourth game, Rajsich came close, but lost 12-10. The shot of the match was the return of a wallpaper half lob served by Rajsich. Somehow Paola peeled it off of the wall, hitting a winning splat shot to the same side. Wow!
The tournament utilized two venues on Saturday, which kept things on time and running smoothly, with a blip now and then as a player occasionally needed to be in two places at one time. LA Fitness saw a great match with the team of John Coate and Billy Johnson beating out the team of James Kimball and Wayne Parker in a tiebreaker. While they fired up the courts at LA Fitness, Bally’s had a look at the Men’s Open semi finals – Anthony Herrera (#10 on the Men’s Pro Tour) bested Jeff Stark with scores of 7 and 10; and up and comers on the pro tour Taylor Knoth and Jansen Allen worked hard, with Taylor winning in a tiebreaker 11-9. On Sunday, Taylor persevered, winning a tiebreaker against Herrera 11-9.
Sunday saw racquetballs flying everywhere as well as players…diving here, sliding there, all for the love of the game – and a little money. We also saw a double winner: Jennifer Coate placed first in Women’s A and first in Women’s B. Congrats, Jennifer! It’s not often one gets this to happen. It was great to see the ladies play in the C and D draws as well. Way to represent! Be sure to follow up with a few more tourneys this year , ladies!
In Mixed Doubles, there were some great matches, with Angle Doyle and Bill Cumming taking first in the Mixed A’s with a tough tiebreaker (-11,11,9) against Juanita Rockwell-Names and Rob Beach. Wanda Collins and Vince Kiteley continued their run of wins in Washington, with victories against four other teams in Mixed Open Doubles. There were great draws in the Men’s A and Men’s B Divisions, with Eddy Hayte taking honors in B’s, and Loupe Chavez in A’s.
Until next time…as they say at the Racquetball Blog (http://theracquetballblog.blogspot.com/)…”follow the bouncing ball”.