Idaho Race Stop #1
The Simple Green/WPH Race For 8 Pro Tour kicked off in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho with one of the most exciting and compelling handball events in recent history. The top 8 Men’s Pros in the WPH Rankings were invited to the Bash, and were joined by four qualifiers to complete the elite 12-person field.
The qualifiers traveled from across the United States, Mexico and Ireland to vie for a spot at the top of the sport. When the dust settled, Charly Shanks, Dessie Keegan, Luis Cordova, and John Bike earned the coveted spots in the 12-man field. The four qualifiers were thrown into a blind draw to face the five through eight seeds. The qualifiers were also drafted to one of the fours Race Teams.
Charly Shanks joined Naty Alvarado and Tommy Little on the Tucson Gunslingers, Dessie Keegan joined Luis Moreno and Andy Nett on the Idaho Spuds, Luis Cordova joined Allan “The Blond Bombshell” Garner and Armando Ortiz on the Salt Lake City Aces, and John Bike joined Sean Lenning and David Fink on the Seattle WACS. The four teams will be competing for the SUPER BALL, the team championship awarded to the winning team at the end of the Race Season at Players Championship at Seattle’s Washington Athletic Club.
Round of 16 action kicked off at the Helluva Bash with WAC teammates John Bike and David Fink clashing. Fink grew up idolizing his teammate, and had never defeated the Hall of Famer in tournament play. The Hall of Famer turned back the clock in game #1, and looked like The Bikerowave of old. Tied at 18, Fink ended the game with a three-point run. The Bikerowave cooled down in game #2, and Fink advanced over his teammate 21-18, 21-10. The Minnesota Dreamboat, Andy Nett rallied from a 21-2 second game loss, and a 6-0 tiebreaker deficit to defeat rising star Luis Cordova 21-14, 2-21, 11-7. Charly Shanks steamrolled Armando Ortiz in a surprisingly one-sided match, 21-3, 21-17. Dessie Keegan booked his spot in the round of 8 with a convincing win over Tucson Gunslinger Tommy The Gun Little.
The top four seeds began their quests for Race glory in the Round of 8. Seattle WAC’s Sean “The Freak” Lenning narrowly edged The Gunslinger’s Dreamboat 21-18, 21-19 in a match up of two of the hardest hitters in the sport. Idaho’s top Spud, Luis “The Natural” Moreno overcame a slow first game start, and a furious late second game rally from the WAC’s #2 player David Fink, and advanced with a 21-12, 21-17 victory. Salt Lake City’s top Ace, Allan Garner quickly dismissed the Gunslinger’s Dessie Keegan. The most compelling round of 8 match up featured Tucson’s top Gunslinger, Naty Alvarado facing teammate Charly Shanks. Shanks routed Alvarado 21-3 in game #1, and held an 11-4 lead in game #2 before Alvarado rallied. Alvarado captured game #2 21-17. The tiebreaker produced the most exciting handball in the round of 8 in recent memory. Shanks served for the match at 10-9, but a perfectly executed fist to the ceiling service return from Alvarado placed Shanks on his heels, and Alvarado won the rally, and served out the match for a thrilling 3-21, 21-17, 11-10 win.
Sean “The Freak” Lenning faced Idaho Spud Luis “The Natural” Moreno in the first semifinal. The Freak started slowly, and The Natural quickly captured game #1 21-11. Lenning rallied in game #2, and frustrated the top Spud with dazzling retrieves and re kills to even the match at one game all. Lenning forged to a 9-6 lead in the tiebreaker, but inexplicably double-faulted, handing The Natural the serve. The Natural never looked back, and scored five unanswered points to advance to the final, 21-11, 14-21, 11-9.
Alvarado started slowly in his semifinal match, and The Blond Bombshell took advantage. Garner methodically executed his two-handed attack, neutralizing the Alvarado Express 21-12. Alvarado continued to struggle with his movement and consistency in game #2, but managed to stay within striking distance of the top Ace. The Bombshell served for the match twice at 20-20, but failed to convert six setup opportunities, and Alvarado closed out the game with his patented right corner kill from one knee. Alvarado blitzed a deflated Garner in the tiebreaker, and survived match points for the second consecutive match to advance to the final, 12-21, 21-20, 11-4.
The Saturday Night Live Final featured The Spud’s Natural challenging Tucson’s top Gunslinger. The match became contentious quickly as the referee came under fire early and often. Moreno focused on the task at hand, and overwhelmed Alvarado 21-7 in game #1. Alvarado had lost the first game for his third consecutive match, and as he had done in his previous two matches, Alvarado rallied. The Gunslinger built a lead in game #2, and maintained his lead until Moreno drilled four consecutive aces to tie the score at 15. Moreno was too strong and too fresh for Alvarado at the end of game two, and captured the game, the match, and the coveted Helluva Bash Race Title 21-7, 21-17.
Jake Plummer, his entire family, and dozens of volunteers made the fourth Helluva Bash an incredible experience for all the players and the fans. This event could not have been possible without the generosity of the WPH, Simple Green, the entire Plummer Family, and all of the players and volunteers that love handball.
In the Women's division, Jennifer Hinman upset #1 seed Tracy Davis in front of packed galleries and WPH cameras to capture the upper bracket semi; meanwhile, Samantha England stunned Ashley Moler in two straight to forge her way into the women's final.
Jennifer Hinman scrapped her way throughout the women's showcase match (finals), but could not gather enough points to take down the Canadian, Samantha England (now residing in New York). In the end, power and perfectly placed left kills and 2-wall passes ended the Hood River natives day, as England captures the first 4 wall pro stop victory of the season and her first ever Plummer trophy.
Big thank you to the WPH film crew for providing video coverage of the event for the duration of the pro qualifiers, men's top 12, women's pro singles and the JHA/Dave Fink Youth Clinic. Special consideration to Jeff Kastner, Linda Manning, Kris Gurrad, Omar Lemus, David Vincent, David Fink and John Bike for providing the webcasting service and presentation.
WPH would like to recognize Gary Retter from Peak Health and Wellness, Fred Schoener from Fairbridge Inn Express, Post Falls, Idaho, Enetlive.tv/WPH, Firstar Sports, Tucson Rolling Shutters, Mintec, Y2K, Tommy Little, Abe Montijo, Xyience, and all of the webcast advertisers and supporters and volunteers of the 4th Annual PFHHB to include, but not limited to: Jake Plummer, Campfire Kids, Jimmy Slavin, Roll-out Roland, Koko Plummer, Steve Plummer and the Plummer Family, plus all of those that made the hospitality and tournament experience such a great success.
Age division and all tournament classes continue their event with finals on Sunday.
To find the the full results, GO HERE>
SoCal Race Stop #2
The final day of The Simple Green U.S. Open and WPH Race4Eight Pro Series crowned champions in the Men’s Open Singles, The Women’s Open Singles, The Men’s Doubles, and the Men’s 3-Wall Big Ball Doubles. The action was thrilling and extremely competitive as every player competed for the cash, the U.S. Open crystal, and the WPH yellow jersey awarded to the winner of every pro event.
Robbie “Buzzsaw” McCarthy produced three consecutive clutch killshots when trailing 7-9 in the tiebreaker against countryman Charly Shanks, and served as ace at 10-9 to win the Men’s Open Singles in dramatic fashion.
Megan Mehilos rallied from a lopsided 21-7 first game loss to defending champion Aisling Reilly, and proved why she has been the top American woman for the past four years. Refusing to yield, Mehilos overcame a 15-17 second game deficit to win 21-17, and dominated the tiebreaker to claim the championship.
Paul Brady proved that he is the undisputed best player on the planet, and possibly the most electrifying player of all time by dominating the 4-time defending champions Marcos Chavez and Vince Munoz with partner Michael Finnegan. Brady and Finnegan were relentless with their power and offense in ending the four-time reign of Chavez and Munoz.
Samzon Hernandez and Ricky Ruiz completely dismantled Boxer Rosales and Raul “El Nino”Calvillo in the finals of the first ever 3-Wall Big Ball U.S. Open championship. Nearly 500 fans crammed the gallery at the portable court built specifically for the U.S. Open, and watched as the top big ball doubles team in the sport solidified their position atop the sport.
Congratulations to all of the winners, the WPH, the volunteers, and to Simple Green for an incredible event.