My ‘Championship Team:’ Rocky Carson, Paola Longoria, and Taylor Knoth, all continued playing well coming out of the crazy month of October with 2 major championships – the US Open Racquetball Championships (US Open) and the 2011 Pan American Championships (Pan Am Games).
Rocky came in strong to the Seattle Pro/Am Racquetball Championships IRT Tier 1 event held in Seattle, WA, November 3-6, after mentally regrouping from the Pan Am Games. Visualization did him good as he did not drop a game on the way to the finals beating Chris Crowthers 3-0 in the quarter-finals (sweet revenge after losing to him in Davison, MI the week before) and Ben Croft, 3-0, in the semi-finals. Rocky served well, moved fluidly and was cool, calm, and collected as he aggressively marched through the draw; when Rocky came up against Kane Waselenchuk he lost 3-0, but not without a fight, losing a close 2nd game with the score of 12-10.
The IRT players played to a packed crowd all weekend long. The tournament, presented by my partner George Brewer and myself broke all records in Washington State for the largest event ever with 182 players. The energy, enthusiasm, and the show put on by the pros was phenomenal. We raised over $4,200.00 for our local charity of choice – The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Everyone had a great time and all the players received a souvenir pint-sized glass with the tournament logo which was autographed by the top eight pro players. The buzz is still ringing ALL OVER the Northwest Region. We had players competing from WA, OR, CA, UT, CO, and AZ.
Paola regained her #1 WPRO Professional ranking at the Puget Sound WPRO Tier 1 tournament held in Olympia, WA, November 18-20 by beating Rhonda Rajsich in the finals, 4 games to 1. In all the Tier 1 events this season and in the Pan Am Games, Paola has met Rhonda in the finals and has won which has moved her up to the #1 professional ranked player in the world. She took back the 2011 US Open Championship Title from Rhonda who had won it the last 2 years in 2009 & 2010. She beat Rhonda convincingly with her aggressive style of play.
Paola took home 3 Gold Medals at the 2011 Pan Am Games, 1 Gold-Individual Singles, 1 Gold-Individual Doubles and 1 Gold-Team Competition. She was the talk of the Pan Am Games because in November 2010 she won the award for Woman Athlete of the Year for all of Mexico, one of the highest honors an athlete could receive. The cameras and media were focused on her as they expected her to bring home GOLD for their country…and she delivered BIG time!
HOT OFF THE PRESS! Paola just won the Christmas Classic WPRO Tier 1 event held in VA, December 9-11, in a 5 game thriller against Rhonda Rajsich. She came from behind to win in 5 games after being down 2 games-to-zero. I was texted by someone telling me-“Paola is losing 0-2 in games.” I IMMEDIATELY texted her to call me and she did. Thank goodness she did; we talked the rest of the match during her time-outs and inbetween games. Paola’s mindset was negative as she said to me, “I am playing the worst match of my life.” The first thing I told her was to change the way she was thinking…get rid of the negative and think positive and to dig deep and play smarter and harder. I asked her to think of all the times she beat Rhonda and this was no different-taking it one point at a time. Whatever I said worked. She won the next 3 games, thus winning the match…a well deserved victory!
Taylor, at the ripe age of 20, qualified into the main draw of the pros at the 2011 US Open. He beat Juan Herrera, #14 in the world, in the round of 32’s to advance to the round of 16’s where he lost to Andy Hawthorne, ranked #4 in the world. Taylor played in the Open Division and made it to the finals after winning 2 tie-breakers in the quarter-final and semi-final matches. Taylor was a double winner at the Seattle Pro/Am IRT Tier 1 event in both the Men’s Singles and Doubles Divisions and took home a big pay day.