Saturday, November 11, 2017

Two gold each in singles for the USA, Bolivia & Mexico at 2017 World Junior Championships

When a country hosts a sporting event, they hope the "home cooking" will benefit their players. That certainly seemed to be the case Saturday in the singles finals at the 29th International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Racquetball Championships at Lifetime Fitness Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the USA won two gold medals in the boys divisions.

One came in the premier Boys' event: U18, as American Mauro Rojas defeated Eduardo Portillo of Mexico in two straight games, 15-6, 15-14. After winning the first game, Rojas took a 6-0 lead in game two. But Portillo wasn't going to go that quietly, as he came back to tie it at 6-6, and they went back and forth from there.

Rojas did get another lead at 11-8, but it was Portillo who got to 14 first at 14-12. On his first game point, Portillo skipped a backhand, and that led to Rojas's 13th point. But Portillo got the serve back with a backhand pinch winner off Rojas's serve. Portillo couldn't covert his second game point, as Rojas smashed a backhand return that went off the left wall to the front wall a few feet off the floor and deep into the back court. It put Portillo in an awkward spot, and he couldn't get out of it.

Porteillo gave Rojas his 14th point on a silver platter as he blew up a backhand return, putting it right into the floor. On his first match point, Rojas hit a forehand pinch shot that Portillo could not retrieve, so Rojas is the 2017 World Junior Champion in Boys U18.

Akul Ramayani got the USA their other gold medal in Boys Singles, as he won Boys U14 by defeating Mexican Sebastian Longoria in two comfortable games, 15-10, 15-5. After a 7-4 lead in game one, Fernandez was never within fewer than three points of Ramayani except at the start of game two.

Perhaps the most dramatic final was in Boys U16, as Sebastian Fernandez of Mexico defeated Bolivian Gerson Miranda, 15-14, 15-11. Fernandez was down 14-7 in game one, but still came back to win. Then in game two, Miranda was ahead early, including an 8-3 lead. But Miranda was doing a lot of work in the match, diving multiple times on multiple rallies. It seemed that took its toll as game two went along, as Miranda appeared to be tired in the second half of game two. Thus, Fernandez caught up at 9-9, and then edged ahead to 13-10, and won it at 15-11, when he ended the last of the many long rallies the players had with a forehand cross court shot.

Gabriela Martinez will not return to Guatemala with a gold medal for the first time in World Cup competition. She'd won gold twice in both U14 and U16, but in her first U18 final, Martinez lost to Mexican Montserrat Mejia, 15-13, 4-15, 11-5. After splitting the first two games, Mejia got the first two points of game three. But Martinez responded with four straight points to make it 4-2, and it looked like she'd keep her gold medal run intact.

However, Mejia scored seven unanswered points to lead 9-4. Martinez did call a timeout at 5-4, but to no avail, as Mejia won the next three rallies. Mejia got her first match point with a backhand pinch that was flat out of the left corner. She converted that match point by hitting a drive Z serve to the left that Martinez returned with a backhand into the floor.

The win is a measure of revenge for Mejia, as she lost to Martinez in the Girls U16 final last year.

Bolivians won both the Girls U16 and U14 finals this year. Stefanny Barrios defeated Laura Flores of Mexico, 15-12, 15-13, for the U16 title, and Micaela Meneses Cuellar beat Guadalupe Griffin (Mexico), 15-3, 15-6, to win the U14 gold medal.

The IRF World Junior Championships concluded Saturday at the Lifetime Fitness Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

29th IRF World Junior Racquetball Championships
Minneapolis, Minnesota

U18 Boy's Singles

Final - Saturday

Mauro Rojas (USA) d. Eduardo Portillo (Mexico), 15-6, 15-14

U16 Boy's Singles

Final - Saturday

Sebastian Fernandez (Mexico) d. Gerson Miranda (Bolivia), 15-14, 15-11

U14 Boy's Singles

Final - Saturday

Akul Ramayani (USA) d. Sebastian Longoria (Mexico), 15-10, 15-5

U18 Girl's Singles

Finals - Saturday

Montserrat Mejia (Mexico) d. Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala), 15-13, 4-15, 11-5

U16 Girl's Singles

Final - Saturday

Stefanny Barrios (Bolivia) d. Laura Flores (Mexico), 15-12, 15-13

U14 Girl's Singles

Final - Saturday

Micaela Meneses Cuellar (Bolivia) d. Guadalupe Griffin (Mexico), 15-3, 15-6

Follow the bouncing ball….

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