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Day 3: Sunday
The 2019 R48, WR48, and SR48 Player’s Championships were on the line on Sunday at the Sports Mall, as the game’s elite aimed to seize the WPH Player’s Championship Belts and etch their names into Race 4 Eight history.
Killian Carroll entered Sunday’s final in search of his fourth consecutive Player’s Championship title, while Danos Cordova was making his first appearance in a Player’s Championship final. Carroll entered the final on the heels of a scintillating and grueling two-hour semifinal battle with Lucho Cordova that had more twists and turns than a roller coaster, while Danos dominated four of the five games he played on Saturday.
Carroll showed no signs of fatigue following a grueling Saturday night semifinal with Lucho Cordova, flying across the court with reckless abandon and keeping Danos on the run. The game was highly competitive, with both R48 stars able to handle one another’s best serves and shots. Carroll led 12-10 in a game that was impossible to predict. Carroll applied more pressure on the business end of the first game, going for his kills with both hands and clinching the one-game lead, 15-11.
Just as Danos had done to Sean Lenning on game two of their Saturday night semifinal, Carroll took control from the first ball and never allowed Danos into the game. Carroll ran away with his fourth consecutive R48 Player’s Championship, putting an exclamation point on his third consecutive year-end #1 season.
“I was tired in the first game but not the second,” stated Danos. “Killian just had me off-balance in game two and I just couldn’t really do anything.”
Final: Carroll def Danos 15-12, 15-3
Paul Brady played in the playoffs for the first time in his R48 career following his quarterfinal loss to Sean Lenning, advancing to the 5th place final with a victory against Vic Perez. Brady met R48 #5 David Fink in the final and was too strong for the SR48 Player’s Champion, downing Fink in a competitive one-game match.
Martin Mulkerrins regrouped after his opening round tiebreaker loss to Lucho Cordova by dominating the 9th place playoffs for the second time this season (Atlanta ’18), ousting Leo Canales, Jr., Fergal Coughlan, Jr., and the R48’s ironman Marcos Chavez to move into the R48’s top 14.
Ireland’s Peter Funchion clinched the inaugural “R48 Next Gen Cup,” honoring the top 26-and-under rising star on the tour. Surrounded by a more than a dozen R48, WR48, and SR48 stars, Funchion emphatically proclaimed, “I’ll be in the top 8 next season!” Funchion has defeated R48 stars Danos Cordova, Marcos Chavez, and Emmett Peixoto, amongst others, and will be a force on the R48 tour for years to come.
R48 Player’s Championship Finishes
11th: Pet. Funchion/Coughlan, Jr.
13th: Peixoto/Canales, Jr./O’Connor/Kerr
The best rivalry in handball was renewed in the WR48 final, as current Women’s World Champion Martina McMahon met 17-time WR48 champion Catriona Casey for the Player’s Championship. The pair has traded every major championship in the sport in the last two years, with McMahon winning all of the biggest titles in 2018 and Casey rebounding this season by defeating McMahon in the All Ireland 40×20 final. McMahon had defeated Casey in their last WR48 encounter (Tucson, ’17) and was aiming to stop Casey’s Player’s Championship title reign at five years.
Casey and McMahon did not disappoint in the final, showcasing the game at the very highest level. Casey and McMahon were playing chess at warp speed, moving one another from corner to corner and capitalizing on any offensive opportunity. Casey’s commitment to play aggressively was evident from the outset, as the WR48 #1 hit numerous left-handed fly kills and back wall kills. McMahon simply crushed every ball with both hands, with many of the lasers finding the bottom board.
Very little separated the pair in game one, as neither led by more than three at any point. With the game tied at 13, Casey executed a left-hand kill followed by a right-handed dump re kill to take game one. “I’ve been working on that shot and it paid off at that point,” stated Casey.
Tied at five in game two, an apparent lapse in concentration cost McMahon the next eight points. McMahon committed four unforced errors, three of those on relatively simple return of serves and was visibly shaken with her poor play. McMahon rallied, finding her stroke and turning a 14-8 deficit and a 12-14 deficit. McMahon has her favorite left-handed kill lined up for the 13th point but missed by an inch, handing Casey her second opportunity to win the match. Just as she had done in game one, Casey ended the game with a perfectly struck off-speed paddle kill, clinching her record-breaking sixth Player’s Championship.”
“I just love playing the tour and having the opportunity to travel to all of these great venues and competing against the best players,” stated Casey. “I want to thank the WPH and Aces for another great event. See you in Tucson in November!”
Final: Casey def McMahon 15-13, 15-12
Aoife McCarthy demonstrated her sensational skills in clinching the WR48 5th place playoffs, overcoming Tracy Davis in the final.
WR48 Player’s Championship Finishes
3rd: Tully/Ni Churraoin
David Fink and Marcos Chavez met for the sixth consecutive SR48 final, starting with Fink’s first SR48 start last season in Las Vegas. Fink had won four of their first five SR48 encounters, but Chavez entered Sunday’s final as the SR48 Player’s Champion, having defeated Fink in a dramatic SR48 Player’s Championship final last year.
Chavez earned a side out on a Fink error to start the match and converted, scoring 12 of the first 13 points of the match. “I played a great rally on the first rally of the match and earned my favorite setup, a left-handed swing from the short line into the left corner,” stated Fink. “When that shot skipped I had a bad feeling and I was right.”
Chavez caught fire, firing aces down the left and right and hitting one-inch high kills on any ball that touched the back wall. Trailing 1-12, Fink started to climb back into the match. Fink would trail 7-13 and 8-14 but continued to play aggressively. Chavez served for the game four times, each time coming up just short. “Marcos had some really good looks on game point and just missed,” stated WPH ESPN play-by-play announcer Dave Vincent.
Fink would eventually tied the game at 14, only to see Chavez serve for the game for the fifth time at 15-14. Fink earned the side out and scored three consecutive points to steal the game.
Chavez was not sharp to start game two, falling behind 0-6. “At that point I had scored 21 of the last 24 points but I never feel comfortable with Marcos,” stated Fink.
Chavez scored nine consecutive points, finding the groove he felt in the first half of the first game. “I finally relaxed and just started going for my shots,” stated Chavez. “Unfortunately, once I got to nine I tightened up again.”
Fink quickly tied the score at nine and never looked back, ending the match on a 9-0 run to clinch his first SR48 Player’s Championship.”
“Marcos really played great ball today,” stated Fink. “He was really anticipating my shots and making me second-guess my shot selection. I am really thrilled to win. I want to thank the WPH staff and broadcast team for another incredible season and to the Ace Team for being such incredible R48 hosts for the eighth consecutive year.”
Final: Fink def Chavez 17-15, 15-9
Jim Karner bounced back from a close two-game loss to 4-time SR48 champion Marcos Chavez in the quarterfinals to clinch 5th, defeating New York’s Victor Stevenson in the 5th place final.
SR48 Player’s Championship Finishes
3rd: Price/Garcia, Jr.
Thank you to the Aces Team for the eighth consecutive sensational Race 4 Eight Aces event. Special thank you to Lon Stalsberg, Matt Stalsberg, Ruben Garza, and Gary Scogin for donating their money and time to make the Aces Player’s Championship an outstanding event.
Thank you to the WPH staff and broadcast team of David Vincent, David Fink, Lolita de Vincent, Ashley Moler, Shorty Ruiz, Che Lowenstein, Kris Gurrad, Jeff Kastner, Jean Kastner, and Linda Manning for an incredible season. “I’ve never seen a group work so hard and come together like our team this season,” boasted WPH Executive Director Dave Vincent. “The WPH team is so creative, professional, and passionate, and we are so lucky to have this team promoting and growing our great game.”
Special thanks to Steve Soto, Nick Flores, Kevin Price and all who made the 2019 Aces Player’s Championship such an incredible event.
“I want to thank the WPH for the best Race 4 Eight season in history,” barked WPH referee and R48 and SR48 star Pete Papathemetrios. “There is nothing about the tour I would change. I love the format, the broadcasts, and all of the tournaments. Everything about the Race 4 Eight tour is so professional and we are so lucky for what the WPH does to grow this game we all love.”
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WPH Senior Writer
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