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USA Racquetball

2014 Pan American Blogs

April 11, 2014, 9:01 p.m. (ET)

Daily Blog #10 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Saturday, April 19, 2014, 11:55 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk


Women’s Singles – Maria José Vargas (ARG) def. Susana Acosta (MEX)
Men’s Singles – José Rojas (USA) def. Andree Parilla (MEX)
Women’s Doubles – Susana Acosta/Samantha Salas (MEX) def. Maria José Vargas/Veronique Guillemette (ARG)
Men’s Doubles – Daniel De La Rosa/Edson Martinez Morales (MEX) def. José Rojas/Bobby Horn (USA)
 
José Rojas bested promising junior player Andree Parilla, 17, in the final with scores of 15-4, 15-11.  Said Coach Ellis, “It’s obvious that José defeated a great talent of the future.”
 
So, in the person of José Rojas, U.S. Wins Gold! After an interview with John Scott of eNetLive.tv, José was inundated with requests for photos and shirt- and ball-signings. Three kids came up right after his win with their “Suerte José” sign – so cute!
 
The doubles match was close in the first two games, 15-14, 12-15. In the 1-11 tiebreaker, though, the Mexicans found a chink in the U.S. armor with a lob serve that forced tough returns from 39 feet. José’s left leg muscle strain didn't help matters. Bobby and José switched sides and tried some other strategies, but it was not to be: a silver medal for the US Men's Doubles team -- not a bad week's work!
 
At the awards ceremony after the final match of the event, we knew that the U.S. had earned gold (José) and silver (Bobby and José). We presumed we would place #2 in the Men's Team standings (we did). But, what came as a very pleasant surprise was that the U.S. placed #2 in the overall team standings! Every player and match counted toward the final point total that brought us in behind Mexico but in front of Argentina and Bolivia.
 
The awards ceremony at the club, including setup time, was 4+ hours. You would think we'd be so out of there as soon as it was over, but we all then enjoyed more photo requests and the opportunities to say goodbye to old friends and new.
 
At the traditional team meeting back in the hotel, everyone had a lot to say about the teamwork, camaraderie, and experiences over the last nine days. This team is returning home proud with three medals and two team trophies!
 
The team is enjoying a late dinner buffet here at the hotel as I write this, along with beverages of choice. It's a US Team rule that no one consumes alcohol until the entire team is done competing. Overheard: "Alcohol is never the answer!"
 
Overheard many, many times over these past 10 days:
"Put THAT in the blog!" – Dave Ellis
 
Well, that's nice in concept, Dave, but I have a journalistic reputation to protect...maybe next time!  J
 
The US Team wishes to deliver some very sincere thank-you’s:
 
Jonathan Clay of Rollout Racquetball for being Official Apparel Sponsor for USA Racquetball
 
Mike Lippitt for sponsoring the team dinner
 
All the individuals who made contributions large and small...every bit counts!
 
The local organizing committee (Roberto Aracena and Guillermo Saucedo)
 
The tournament staff (Osvaldo Maggi, Francisco and Amanda Kurzbard, Gary Mazaroff, et al)
 
The referees from countries including Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia
 
John Scott for bringing the semifinals and finals to thousands on the new IRF Network (for example, 5,000 just today!)
 
The many volunteers and employees who worked tirelessly in support of this event and its players, coaches and delegates from the 16 countries in attendance
 
Last but not least, Leo Vasquez who stopped whatever else he might have been doing as soon as a blog and photos were ready for posting!

Thanks for tuning in to the blogs. The team sends their heartfelt gratitude for all the support via Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages, and telepathy.

The US Team delegation departs the hotel at 6:30 de la manana on Easter Sunday, and we'll all be sleeping in our own beds tomorrow night.
 
Signing out from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, see you back in the States!

-- Cheryl Kirk



Daily Blog #9 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Friday, April 18, 2014, 11:05 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk

Quite a few of the semifinal matches were streamed today courtesy of the IRF Network and John Scott. Among those were both of the USA matches. Many who were watching today were from the US (as well as Mexico and Bolivia). Interestingly, of the 769 views in the first two matches, there were 93 watching from Europe. Gary Mazaroff sat with John Scott and provided streaming commentary throughout much of the day.
 
Hey, what a day for José, Bobby, and Team USA!
 
José's match vs. Polo Gutierrez of Mexico got off to a rocky start with a 15-6 loss. Things were a little dicey in the second game when, at 10-13, José dug deep and came out victorious to force a tiebreaker. While Polo played a great match, it was all José in the tiebreaker, 11-5. To the finals tomorrow!
 
Men’s Doubles: José and Bobby warmed up on the stadium court, then Daniel Maggi and Shai Manzuri of Argentina took their turn. It was an SRO crowd, and they were pumped for action! After a spirited first game where the U.S. prevailed 15-7, the Argentines came out ready to change the tide and fairly quickly built a 9-0 lead. A lot of folks' heads were already expecting a tiebreaker, but José and Bobby had other plans. Several points, and a couple more, and it was 5-12, then some spectacular shots brought it to 11-13...to 13-13...13-14...14-14...and USA wins 15-14! To the finals tomorrow!!
 
It's really so great to hear the crowd cheering for our players and, when it's over, to have people come over asking them for photos and autographs. These guys were gracious in victory and warmly open to the attention they received.
 
When José was done with his day’s work, he found he didn’t have a dry shirt to put on after his last match. Pablo Berriel, one of the IRF staff members, was kind enough to give José his own brand new shirt to wear.  This is one example of the many acts of kindness and friendship we have experienced here in Bolivia.
 
On the bus on the way back, when asked for quotes, Bobby and José responded with feeling, from the heart:
 
Bobby: "I'm feeling really excited to be playing for the gold medal with one of my best friends in the whole world."
 
José: "I'm tired."
 
Words to live by.
 
Player of the Day – José, naturally
 
José Rojas, 23, has played racquetball since the age of 5.
 
José, who hails from Stockton, CA, competes here in the #1 singles position for the US Team and is the #5 seed in the Men’s Singles division.  He is ranked #4 on the IRT Tour. When asked to describe his best moment in racquetball, he replied, “It used to be when I made it to any semis, but now I describe my best moment as last September at the pro stop in Kansas City when I beat Kane in the semis and then Rocky in the finals to capture my second IRT pro stop win."
 
A graduate of the University of the Pacific, José majored in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and Finance.  He is currently competing full-time on the IRT Tour.
 
José is the son of Miguel and Adelina Rojas of Stockton.  They, along with brothers Miguel (31), Marco (20), and nephew Francisco (12) are thrilled with José’s achievement of qualifying for the US Team.
 
"I want to thank my sponsors Ektelon and Play Racquetball. I also want to thank Jesse Serna, my strength and conditioning coach, and of course Jody Nance, Darren McNally, and Dave Ellis for their support over the years."
 
José said this evening, “This has been an awesome experience so far, a real honor.  I’m eager to show the world what I’m made of while representing my country and my team.”
 
US Team Staff Members
 
US Team Head Coach Dave Ellis, 69, has been married to Pat for 43 years.  Stockton, CA, is home to the Ellises. Dave and Pat are the proud parents of son John (married to Jennifer) and grandparents of Julius, 11, and Jordan (aka Chica), 6. Dave holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from the University of the Pacific and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He is particularly proud of his California State bilingual teaching credential. Dave taught Mathematics in both English and Spanish for 38 years, from fundamentals to advanced placement calculus.  He retired in 2006 and now devotes his full time and efforts to racquetball.
 
Dave began playing racquetball in 1975, moving up through the divisions and playing Open for a few years “before age seemed to catch up with me. Dave cites several “most memorable” moments in racquetball: Winning the Super Bowl Open in Stockton, 1982, by defeating Rick Ferrin in the finals… John winning the Pan American Games gold medal in 1995 in Buenos Aires…John winning two consecutive IRT stops...and coaching Woody Clouse and Willie Tilton to victory in the 2006 Pan American Championships in Guatemala.
 
“I consider it a privilege to be representing USA Racquetball as National Team Coach and working with our country’s athletes.  This team is especially unified, as was our world championship delegation. They are enjoying a camaraderie that does not usually exist in an individual sport. “I want to thank our staff members Cheryl Kirk and Brent Huff.  Thanks to the IRF for their positive contributions to racquetball and for their organization of this tournament.  Special gratitude goes to Roberto Aracena, our Bolivian host.  Last but not least, thanks go out to all the many sponsors of the US Team: organizations and individuals alike!”
 
Brent Huff, 38, of St. Charles, IL, is our US Team Athletic Trainer. He holds a Masters degree in Sports Medicine from the US Sports Academy and possesses 14 years’ experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer with NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association). He also holds certification as a certified strength and conditioning specialist and recently earned his tactical strength and conditioning facilitator certification with the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). He will be sitting for holistic lifestyle coaching certification in July with the C.H.E.K. Institute (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology). An employee of Midwest Orthopaedic Institute in Sycamore, IL, Brent thanks his employer for allowing him the flexibility to take time off to accompany the team to this event.
 
In his capacity as Team Athletic Trainer, Brent provides everything from prevention to assessment to emergency care. Rehab services for athletes and on-site coverage for athletic events are part of his repertoire as well. His experience encompasses everything from “little kids to the LA Dodgers.”
 
A Wilson- and Rollout Racquetball-sponsored player who took up the sport 30+ years ago, Brent is ranked 391st in the USAR system.
 
“Thanks again to those who provided references for my selection,” Brent said, "along with the positive feedback from the players and staff over the past two years, It’s a privilege and an honor to make the trip with the US Team again, an opportunity to work with the best racquetball athletes in the world and help out in a sport that’s my passion and my hobby as well. I would also like to say a very special thanks to my wonderful wife Tamarah for her support of me, my profession, and my love of racquetball."
 
Team Leader Cheryl Kirk, 58, grew up in Decatur, IL, and resides in Naperville, IL, with her husband of 16 years, Kit Lawson, dog Hayley and cats Emily Sue and KC. She is involved with animal rights issues and recently helped create a not-for-profit organization, Spay Neuter Illinois PetS (SNIPS).
 
Cheryl began playing and competing in racquetball 37 years ago but didn’t really get heavily into the administrative side of things until after retiring in 2007 after a 27-year career with McDonald’s Corporation (Operations/Training/Olympics activation).  Cheryl served as President of USA Racquetball from 2008-2012.  She is now Vice President of the Illinois State Racquetball Association and Board Member/Press Officer on the Executive Boards of the Pan American Racquetball Confederation (PARC) and the International Racquetball Federation (IRF). 
 
Cheryl states, “Being US Team Leader is an honor. I enjoy ensuring things go well, removing extraneous logistical worries or concerns from the athletes’ minds so they can go onto the court and do their best. I couldn’t be prouder of Rhonda, Janel, José, and Bobby for their skill and their heart on and off the court.”
 
 
Note: A fun point to mention about the women’s doubles match between Ecuador and Argentina is that one player on each side was named Maria. Their partners were Veronica and Veronique, respectively. How often do you see that??
 
To recap the day, Coach Dave Ellis commented, "To say that both of our wins today were exciting would surely be an understatement. José was down 1-0, managed to find z-serves to both sides that put Polo on the defensive. After winning the second, he played a very solid tiebreaker. Both matches were hard-fought exciting wins. In spite of some confusion in the doubles, our guys stayed steady, played with heart and character, and ended up winning in two games. The finals are tomorrow...we're looking for three gold medals: one for Bobby and two for José!
 
So we’re down to the last four matches before the awards presentations late Saturday afternoon.  Here are the match-ups:
 
Women’s Singles – Susana Acosta (MEX) vs. Maria José Vargas (ARG), 11:00 am ET
Men’s Singles – José Rojas (USA) vs. Andree Parilla (MEX), 12:00 pm ET
Women’s Doubles – Susana Acosta/Samantha Salas (MEX) vs. Maria José Vargas/Veronique Guillemette (ARG), 1:00 pm ET
Men’s Doubles – Daniel De La Rosa/Edson Martinez Morales (MEX) vs. José Rojas/Bobby Horn (USA), 2:30 pm ET
 
Sogni d’oro!  GO TEAM USA!!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. Here’s hoping Tom Travers and Tom Cain both had very nice birthdays today!

Daily Blog #8 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:20 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk

Coach Dave Ellis reports, “Tough day today as we dropped three matches.  A bright spot is Jose Rojas who is in the semi’s in singles and along with partner Bobby is also in the semi’s in doubles. Hoping for a couple of wins tomorrow and a solid chance at the Men’s Team Championship!”
 
So, it was an up-and-down tiebreaker kind of day for Team USA. We’re sad that Rhonda, Bobby, and the doubles team of Rhonda and Janel went out in the quarterfinals in tough, hard-fought matches, but as Coach said, we also rejoice that Jose in singles and Jose and Bobby in doubles advanced to the semifinal rounds tomorrow.
 
Here’s how it unfolded today…
 
Jose vs. Luis Perez (Dominican Republic), 14-15, 15-3, 15-1
Bobby vs. Polo Gutierrez (Mexico), 5-15, 9-15
Men's Doubles vs. Manolo Sandoval/Edwin Galicia (Guatemala), 10-15, 15-6, 11-6
 
Rhonda vs. Cristina Amaya (Colombia), 15-2, 7-15, 9-11
Women's Doubles vs. Veronica Sotomayor/Maria Paz Muñoz (Ecuador), 8-15, 15-8, 6-11
 
In the last match of the day, the Men’s Doubles, a new nickname for Bobby Horn has emerged, courtesy of Gary Mazaroff. After Bobby made an unbelievably excellent shot (really, it was poetry in motion), Mazaroff exclaimed, “Horn of Plenty!” We’ll add that one to the growing list…
 
John Scott is in the House
 
John Scott of eNetLive.tv arrived red-eyed on the red-eye American flight Wednesday morning (the one we all know and love), and after recovering a bit, he was on-site today setting up streaming for the semifinals and finals matches on Friday and Saturday. According to a recent (and extremely well-written and typo-free) IRF press release:
 
“Racquetball fans may now go to www.irfnetwork.com and register with an email address and a password. There will be no cost associated with the viewing of live and videotaped IRF competitive events.
 
“Inaugural live streaming will take place in April at the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where teams of athletes representing 20 countries will compete for top honors and seek to qualify for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
 
“On Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19 (times to be announced), men’s and women’s semifinal and final matches will be available to registered viewers around the globe.”
 
So, the day has come…streaming tomorrow will be on Court 1, but I can’t tell you exactly which semifinals matches will be featured. What I can tell you is that women’s singles are scheduled for 11:00 am ET, men’s singles at 12:00 ET, women’s doubles at 3:00 ET, and men’s doubles at 4:00 ET.
 
Women’s singles match-ups are Salas (MEX) vs. Vargas (ARG) and Acosta (MEX) vs. Amaya (COL). Men’s singles match-ups are Gutierrez (MEX) vs. Rojas (USA) and Parilla (MEX) vs. Gagnon (CAN).  On the doubles side for the men, it’s De La Rosa/Martinez Morales (MEX) vs. Monroy/Keller (BOL) and Maggi/Manzuri (ARG) vs. Rojas/Horn (USA). The women’s division stacks up as Acosta/Salas (MEX) vs. Grand’Maitre/Lambert (CAN) and Vargas/Guillemette (ARG) vs. Sotomayor/Muñoz (ECU).
 
Player of the Day
 
Rhonda Rajsich, 35, of Phoenix, AZ (born and raised), has played racquetball for 33 years. When asked about her occupation, she says with a smile, “Pro racquetball player, lover of life.” When she’s not playing the tour, she conducts racquetball and basketball lessons and clinics.
 
Winning the IRF Worlds in Ireland in 2008 was Rhonda’s most memorable racquetball moment to date. “I wasn’t supposed to be there and ended up winning
the World Championship. That was my first title, with the second in 2010 in Korea.”
 
She continued, “It’s such an honor to wear USA on our backs as we put our hearts and talents out here at these Championships. Thank you, all of you, for your support, your contributions, and your belief in us as we represent and do our best!”
 
Rhonda thanks her sponsors (Ektelon, Rollout Racquetball, Racquetball Warehouse, Restrung Magazine, and Advocare). She wants to recognize her father Dennis Rajsich and mother Deneen Thurow for their lifelong support, and she thanks Kim Russell-Waselenchuk, Coach Jim Winterton, Trainers Jarrett East and Jim Walter as well. She also thanks Letty Maldonado for her constant support.
 
Rhonda dedicates this tournament to Mitchell Kasovac and family.
 
U.S. Citizens/Residents Playing for Other Countries
 
Some of you know these folks from your state and local tournaments in the U.S. Pretty cool that heritage allows for players to represent the countries they and/or their families came from.  
Gustavo Farell of Texas, playing for Uruguay
Shai Manzuri of Texas, playing for Argentina
 
Playing for Puerto Rico:
Mary Diaz, Florida
Jayson Jordan, Texas
Leticia Maldonado, Illinois
Fernando Javier Rivera, Illinois
Miguel Santiago, Texas
 
Friday…
So, it’s Jose vs. Polo Gutierrez (MEX) at 12:00 ET and Jose/Bobby vs. Daniel Maggi/Shai Manzuri (ARG) at 4:00 ET.
 
Send lots of great vibes...GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk



Daily Blog #7 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 10:00 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk

The day dawned brightly and continued so throughout but for some intermittent wind mixed with dust. (The club is open air at the entrance and out the back, so it creates a bit of a wind tunnel effect down the middle beside the stadium courts.) To our way of thinking, this is much better than heat and humidity! A little mosquito repellent, and life is good…
 
Team USA logged great results overall. In Janel’s second match, she fought hard but left the singles draw in the round of 16, losing to veteran player Susana Acosta of Mexico. However, Janel is still alive in doubles where she and Rhonda did a fine job this afternoon!
 

Jose vs. Miguel Flores (Honduras), 15-4, 15-9
Bobby vs. Edwin Galicia (Guatemala), 15-8, 15-6
Jose vs. Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 15-3, 15-2
Bobby vs. Conrado Moscoso (Bolivia), 15-14, 15-9
 
Doubles: Jose/Bobby vs. Selvin Cruz/Sergio Baires (Honduras), 15-1, 15-4
 
Rhonda vs. Maria Rene Rodriguez (Guatemala), 15-2, 15-5
Janel vs. Merynanyelly Delgado Araujo (Dominican Republic), 15-2, 15-12
Janel vs. Susana Acosta (Mexico), 15-13, 7-15, 4-11
 
Doubles: Rhonda/Janel vs. Johan Martin/Raquel Perez (Puerto Rico), 15-1, 15-3
 
Big Story
 
Bobby the Warrior shall be his new moniker after a disconcerting occurrence during his second singles match. After winning the first game, it was tied at 8-8 in the second when he dashed back to retrieve a shot. After he took a backhand shot, he slammed into the glass door and it shattered into a million (or so) pieces. Bobby didn't go down, rather staggered forward and laid face down on the right side of the court across the service box. There was some blood from multiple cuts. Trainer Brent Huff and a number of other miscellaneous LOC (Local Organizing Committee) people entered the court to minister to him. Brent took control, assessed the situation, got Bobby to the locker room to shower off any glass shards, and taped him up. Bobby returned to a (different) court and won the game 15-9! As I write this, he and Jose are warming up for their doubles match. Despite the blue tape (a new fashion trend, everyone wants some now), Bobby looks like nothing ever happened. Tough!
 
FYI, there’s a video posted on Jose Rojas’ Facebook page…
 
Coach Dave Ellis had just one succinct comment about this day: “I’m thoroughly happy with today’s efforts on the court, and I’m especially happy that Bobby is okay.”
 
Player of the Day -- It has to be Bobby!
 
David “Bobby” Horn, 24, and ranked #15 on the IRT, hails from Stockton, CA, born and raised. His proud family members include his mother Michelle, sister Nichole, and grandmother Anna.
 
Bobby attends California State University East Bay where he is a junior majoring in Liberal Studies. He will be pursuing a career in teaching after graduation.
 
When asked how he started playing racquetball, he replied, “When I was 15 years old, Jose Diaz pulled me onto a racquetball court after basketball. At first I played
for fun to kill time and then ended up getting pretty good at it. I used to just play a few months out of the year. It was a hobby then. Now it’s the main thing, and all the other things are hobbies!”
 
On his off time, Bobby enjoys basketball and golf. He likes to play poker with a few buddies. “Also, I eat a lot…I’m a professional eater.”
 
Bobby wants to recognize and thank Dave and John Ellis, Jody Nance, Jesse Serna and everyone in Stockton (“the 209”). He cites his sponsor Gearbox for their support, and thanks the guys in the East Bay Area – Mike Lippitt and crew. He sends greetings to his friends at home: “They know who they are.” And he also thanks Carla Muñoz for her support.
 
Thoughts about being here in Santa Cruz? “It’s so much different from other tournaments, and I’ve always wanted to make the team since I was a junior player. It is a real honor to play for the USA.”
 
Thursday Quarterfinal Matches
 
Jose vs. Luis Perez (Dominican Republic), 1:15 pm
Bobby vs. Polo Gutierrez (Mexico), 1:15 pm
Men's Doubles vs. the winner of tonight’s Guatemala/Venezuela match, 5:00 pm
 
Rhonda vs. Cristina Amaya (Colombia), 12:30 pm
Women's Doubles vs. Veronica Sotomayor/Maria Paz Muñoz (Ecuador), 4:00 pm
 
A long day and a good day overall. A little room service (faster than the restaurant), then it will be a well-deserved long night of rest for the players.
 
Signing off, back tomorrow night,
-- Cheryl Kirk

Daily Blog #6 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 8:00 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk

Happy Tax Day to all!  While most of you (hopefully including my husband Kit Lawson) were at home putting the finishing touches on love notes to the IRS, I was doing my part for the Bolivian economy. Yes, souvenir shopping it was, nothing too extravagant, but it was nice to get out in the 70+ degree beautiful weather and see the principal plaza, La Plaza Central "24 de Septiembre" de la ciudad de Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
 
The city Santa Cruz de la Sierra has a unique layout. Instead of city blocks, there are 10+ concentric rings. A location is identified by naming the ring and a radius street inside the ring. For example, the hotel is in the second ring.
 
This website gives a lot of information about Santa Cruz:   http://www.boliviabella.com/santa-cruz.html
 
A couple of excerpts…
 
The department (state) of Santa Cruz occupies almost the entire Eastern and South Eastern section of Bolivia and is the largest of the country's nine departments. It borders Brazil to the East and Paraguay to the South and is mostly tropical and sub-tropical containing parts of the Amazon basin and rainforest to the North, desert-dry forest savannahs to the South, and the temperate foothills of the Andes Mountain range to the West. You can truly enjoy any type of climate or topography somewhere in Santa Cruz. Here, agriculture, animal husbandry and ranching are the main industries, as are timber, mining, oil and natural gas.
 
The city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra is located in the western section of the Department of Santa Cruz, and is its capital city. Situated at the foot of the sierras, where the Andes Mountain Range begins to rise off the tropical forest floor, its location is part of its name. According to the latest census, which was over 10 years ago, it has over 1.7 million inhabitants and is currently the largest city in Bolivia. However, current estimates put the population of this state at about 2.4 million.

Travelogue complete, back to the tournament!   
 
Here’s a historically popular item called “Player of the Day.” Over the next several days, one US Team player will be highlighted in each blog.
 
Player of the Day
 
Janel Tisinger, 31, hails from Simi Valley, CA (born and raised). She is ranked #26 on the LPRT. Her parents started her into racquetball at the age of 4 or 5. She comes by her racquetball talent naturally…her mother, Debbie Tisinger-Moore, is a USAR Hall of Famer with scores of titles to her name.  Janel says, “My mom has been a great coach to me. She gave me the talent and drive to play this sport. She guided me in the right direction.”
 
Some of Janel’s other family members include brother Devyn, sister Avree (both younger), and her uncle Jonathan Dunn who is one of her doubles partners and has assisted in her training. And, let’s not forget her two five-year-old cats Weasley and Spongebob!
 
Janel’s on-site cheerleader and boyfriend Eric Rose is here, a welcome addition to the delegation. “Thank you to Eric for being a big supporter of mine and of my love for the sport!”
 
A Pro Kennex and Rollout Racquetball sponsored player, Janel is a self-employed massage therapist. She likes to train with weights and work out every day. 
 
Her hobbies include photography and singing. She takes vocal lessons and calls singing “one of my greatest passions.”
 
When asked how she feels about being here, Janel responded, “I feel very blessed and honored to be here representing the team. I hope I can play my best and represent my country in an honorable way.”
 
Blogger’s note: I am pleased to clarify the pronunciation of “Tisinger” here in this blog. Of all the times we’ve heard Debbie and Janel’s surname (mis)pronounced over the years, this is (drum roll, please) the correct way. Think of a singer from Thailand: Thai singer. That’s it. This is a proud moment.
 
It’s Wednesday already?

Though the event’s seven-day duration (plus travel on each end) seems like a long stretch, time does pass quickly once the competition begins. The main draws were posted last night and can be viewed at www.internationalracquetball.com by clicking on the orange/red box in the upper right-hand corner of the home page.
 
Team USA’s Wednesday schedule is…
 
Jose vs. Miguel Flores (Honduras), 10:30 am
Bobby vs. Edwin Galicia (Guatemala), 10:30 am
In the event of wins, their second rounds play at 2:00 pm
 
Doubles: Jose/Bobby vs. Cruz/Baires (Honduras) at 5:30 pm
 
Janel vs. Merynanyelly Delgado Araujo (Dominican Republic), 9:45 am
In the event of a win, Janel’s second round plays at 12:15 pm
Rhonda vs. the winner of a Guatemala/Venezuela match-up, 12:15 pm
 
Doubles: Rhonda/Janel vs. Martin/Perez (Puerto Rico), 4:30 pm
 
So, the team members spent a restful day catching some z’s, catching some rays by the pool, catching up on Facebook… Some laundry was done, dinner was eaten, and it was early to bed in anticipation of a full and exciting day tomorrow. They’re ready!
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk

Daily Blog #5 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Monday, April 14, 2014, 1:15 am ET
by Cheryl Kirk

Well, it’s been a long day, and tomorrow is a free day with lots of time to devote to a more extensive blog.  But, I know you’re waiting for some news, so let me first give you the rundown and a story or two before my head hits the pillow…
 
Today’s matches concluded the round robin (seeding) portion of the event, and the US Team members all played in both their singles and doubles divisions.
 
Janel vs. Veronica Sotomayor (Ecuador), 4-15, 8-15 
Rhonda vs. Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador), 15-13, 15-7
Women’s Doubles vs. Maria Cespedes/Merynanyelly Delgado Araujo (Dominican Republic), 15-1, 15-2
 
Jose vs. Alejandro Herrera (Colombia), 15-2, 15-8
Bobby vs. Sebastian Franco (Colombia), 15-12, 4-15, 9-11
Joaquin Solera/Pablo Sauma Masis (Costa Rica), 15-6, 15-11
 
So with these results under their belts, the US Team came out like this in the main draws that were published this evening:
 
Rhonda is seeded #2 in Women’s Singles and Janel is #14
Jose is seeded #5 in Men’s Singles and Bobby is #9
Both doubles teams are seeded #2 in their respective divisions
 
Anecdotally speaking…
When Franco Capandegui of Argentina arrived at Court 2 to referee the Women’s Doubles match this afternoon between the US and the Dominican Republic, he noticed that all four players were wearing red shirts. Franco asked Janel if the US players could change to shirts of a different color so that he could tell the difference between the teams more easily. Janel replied that she and Rhonda couldn’t change because they didn’t have any more shirts with them. Franco then turned to Maria Cespedes on the Dominican team and asked the same question.
 
Those of us outside the court saw talking but couldn’t hear what was being said. But whatever it was Maria said to the referee, everyone on the court broke down in laughter. We later found out that when Franco asked Maria about the shirts, her reply was, “Well, we’re black and they’re white, so…”  Besides being a really funny story for my blog, a big bravo goes to Franco that the difference in skin color didn’t even occur to him!
 
The other story I have for you this evening is what happened after the team dinner at Hard Rock Café tonight where, compliments of a donation by Mike Lippitt, the delegation enjoyed great conversation, American food, and music videos (in English)! About midnight, after unabashedly posing for pictures as the tourists we are, we grabbed a couple of cabs back to the hotel. With three crammed into the cab, Janel’s boyfriend Richard, I mean Eric (a weightlifting kind of guy with the size to match) squeezed in as well. Famous last words were uttered, “We’re going to have a flat tire.” The poor old car must have taken this as permission, because less than a minute later, a “thump, thump, thump” was heard, and the driver asked everyone to get out of the cab. Yep, flat tire. Don’t worry, another cab drove right up, and everyone is safe and sound as of this writing.
 
Tuesday is a free day and the delegation members are looking forward to sightseeing, shopping, and some welcome down time.
 
On Wednesday the main draws will commence play, and I’ll have more background for you on that tomorrow after I shop for souvenirs.
 
The US Team members wish to thank Jonathan Clay of Rollout Racquetball for being their Official Apparel Sponsor. The uniforms look sharp and are well appreciated by all of us here.
 
Signing off, I’ll just say sogni d’oro (that’s Italian for “dreams of gold”).  Indeed!
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
- Cheryl Kirk

Daily Blog #4 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Sunday, April 13, 2014, 11:55 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk


Well, four out of five ain’t bad…the day was looking like a happy repeat of yesterday’s results until Jose and Bobby hit a Dominican buzzsaw…
 
Janel vs. Mariana Paredes (Venezuela), 15-2, 15-4 
Jose vs. Jared Torres (Puerto Rico), 15-8, 15-8
Bobby vs. Fernando Javier Rivera (Puerto Rico), 15-3, 15-5
 
Women’s Doubles vs. Melania Sauma Masis/ Sofia Sorey Saborio (Costa Rica), 15-11, 15-6
Men’s Doubles vs. Luis Perez/Junior Rodriquez (Dominican Republic), 10-15, 13-15
 
Those guys took us by surprise…they were that good. Line judges were called early on in the first game as the two teams battled full out with all four players making incredible shots. The DR scrappers just made a few more…  Tomorrow is another day, and Jose and Bobby will do their best to make the stars align and make every point count as the round robin concludes tomorrow afternoon and the results dictate how the main draw will be created.
 
Around the Club…
Racquetball CourtOne of the highlights of the day was the completion of the two beautiful show courts.  What a difference a couple of days make (see the before-and-after photos).  Due to the addition of the two courts, the tournament ran more closely on time today, to the delight of all concerned.
 
The facility takes the form of a T with six glass-back courts along the base of the T, and the two show courts on the top of the T, front wall against front wall. Each show court has three glass walls with seating all around.
 
The club’s Internet is spotty at best, and some individuals have been observed with a case of the shakes due to technology withdrawal. The glassy stares…the disbelieving looks…the welling of tears…  Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but people do seem to be talking to each other on a regular basis. Freaky.
 
Players are enjoying the typical Bolivian lunches that are served from 11 am-3 pm each day following a short bus ride between the club and the “comedor.” Channeling Cheryl Gudinas, occasionally US Team members will smuggle food to a couple of nearby canines. 
 
The weather has been generally cloudy with intermittent periods of rain and a goodly portion of wind. This is generating some sadness due to the number of swimming pools in the club area that are sitting underused at present. We hear it’s supposed to warm up this week…
 
Monday’s Match Line-up
So tomorrow the action ratchets up a notch with the #1 and #2 seeds in each group competing against each other. It's important that our singles players win their respective seeding groups. If they don't, two US Team players will have to play each other before the finals!
 
11:30 Janel vs. Veronica Sotomayor (Ecuador)
12:15  Rhonda vs. Maria Paz Munoz (Ecuador)
3:30  Women’s Doubles vs. Maria Cespedes/Merynanyelly Delgado Araujo (Dominican Republic)
 
1:00  Jose vs. Alejandro Herrera (Colombia)
2:00  Bobby vs. Sebastian Franco (Colombia)
5:30  Joaquin Solera/Pablo Sauma Masis (Costa Rica)
 
According to Coach Dave Ellis, in addition to our own US Team members, top women players to look out for in the coming days include Maria Jose Vargas, Cristina Amaya, Veronica Sotomayor, Jen Saunders, Samantha Salas, Frederique Lambert and Susie Acosta. On the men’s side, watch defending champion Polo Gutierrez, Carlos Keller, Vincent Gagnon, and Fernando Rios, along with our own Jose and Bobby, of course!
 
Back with you tomorrow night…
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. The US Team delegation thanks everyone who are reading the blogs, posting on Facebook and “liking” us. You like us, you really like us!  Younger readers, ask someone over 45 what that means…


Daily Blog #3 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 11:55 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk

Brent HuffTeam trainer Brent Huff was on the job this morning getting the US Team ready for their first day of competition. Even though the weather is rather cool and rainy, the sun shone brightly on Team USA as they took every match all day long in two games!
 
Janel vs. Giulia Barboni (Panama,) 15-6, 15-3
Rhonda vs. Mariana Tobon (Venezuela), 15-3, 15-10
Women’s Doubles vs. Irene Caballero/Giulia Barboni (Panama), 15-1, 15-1
 
Jose vs. Rodrigo Salgado (Chile), 15-2, 15-0
Bobby vs. Francisco Troncoso (Chile), 15-9, 15-4
Men’s Doubles vs. Gustavo Farell/Diego Vognione (Uruguay), 15-7, 15-8  
 
Full results can be viewed at www.internationalracquetball.com by clicking on the results box in the upper right hand corner of the home page.
 
Around the club…
 
Cheryl: “Wow, it's chilly today, isn’t it?”
Dave: “No, no, this is Bolivia, not Chile.”
Ha. Ha. Ha. Can I get a collective groan from the readers?
 
Packed bleachers were the order of the day, even with the security at the facility – no one without a chip-encoded badge may enter. (It’s an important badge…it’s also one’s ticket to lunch!)
 
Since the club is brand new and in fact two courts are still undergoing last-minute touches, we purchased welcome mats (in English!) at the grocery store (along with paper towels and Windex) to help our athletes keep the dust off their shoes. So far, so good…
 
Food!
Except for this evening, several meals with the team have revealed an interesting aspect, kind of like an extra course. First are appetizers, then salads and the entrees. Then, Bobby eats anything left that no else ate. After that, dessert. We’re beginning to understand why Bobby calls himself a professional eater…
 
Sunday’s Match Line-Up
 
Janel vs. Venezuela, 11:30 am ET
Jose vs. Puerto Rico, 1:00 pm
Bobby vs. Puerto Rico, 2:00 pm
 
Women’s Doubles vs. Costa Rica, 3:30 pm
Men’s Doubles vs. Dominican Republic, 5:30 pm
 
(Rhonda has a bye, no singles tomorrow)
 
Our US Team members were respectful, and honorable, and played with the heads and hearts of champions today. You would be so proud…wish you could all be here!

GO TEAM USA!!
 
- Cheryl Kirk


Daily Blog #2 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Friday, April 11, 2014, 11:30 pm ET
by Cheryl Kirk

The team relaxed this afternoon…well, all but Dave and me. We took a taxi in search of a Kinko’s/FedEx type of store to get copies of the draws for everyone (plus some copies for the PARC Congress meeting on Sunday).  The store wasn’t quite what we expected (a street-front store the size of a very small bedroom, maybe 8’ by 8’), but the guys there were great, they did the job fast, and at 2 cents a copy, the price was a dream!
 
Back to Hotel Buganvillas for a quick rest, then the team met back up to get on the buses to the Opening Ceremonies at the club. Did I mention that the club is new? It’s so new they were finishing the plumbing in the restrooms and putting the back walls onto the two stadium courts yesterday. It’s a different culture in Latin America relative to these types of things, but the job always seems to get done.
 
At the Opening Ceremonies, countries were announced and players marched into the court area, proudly wearing their official team attire.  Young people from the area in traditional costume carried the national flags for the teams as well as signs announcing the names of the countries. The traditional program of speakers, plus the athletes’ and referees’ oaths and a local music performance, capped off the festivities. Athletes headed to dinner and (presumably) to bed in anticipation of the first day of competition on Saturday.
 
Speaking of that, here’s the line-up for Team USA tomorrow (all times are US Eastern):
 
Janel Tisinger (#4 seed) vs. Panama, 11:30 am
Rhonda Rajsich (#2 seed) vs. Venezuela, 12:15 pm
Jose Rojas (#5 seed) vs. Chile, 1:00 pm
Bobby Horn (#7 seed) vs. Chile, 2:00 pm
Rhonda and Janel (#2 seeded team) vs. Panama, 3:30 pm
Jose and Bobby (#2 seeded team) vs. Uruguay, 5:30 pm
 
Back with you tomorrow night to report on the day’s results…
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
- Cheryl Kirk



Daily Blog #1 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Friday, April 11, 2014, 10:30 am ET
by Cheryl Kirk

After long flights out of Miami on Wednesday (five of us) and Thursday (the other two), the US Team Delegation is on the ground in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for the Pan American Racquetball Championships!

Introducing the athletes…

David “Bobby” Horn, 24, Stockton, CA
Rhonda Rajsich, 35, Fountain Hills, AZ
Jose Rojas, 23, Stockton, CA
Janel Tisinger, 31, Simi Valley, CA
Jose and Bobby will play singles and also doubles as a team, with the same for Rhonda and Janel.

Introducing the support staff…

Dave Ellis, 69, Stockton, CA, Head Coach
Brent Huff, 38, St. Charles, IL, Athletic Trainer
Cheryl Kirk, 58, Naperville, IL, Team Leader

Eric Rose of Simi Valley, CA (Janel’s boyfriend) is here as well to lend extra support for the team.
More on the delegation members in the days to come…

Bobby Horn and Jose RojasThe team practiced on the new courts at the Complejo de Raquetbol de la Villa Olimpica Abraham Telchi on Wednesday, Thursday and today, pronouncing themselves ready for competition!
Dave Ellis and I will attend the Coaches Meeting today, and the entire US Delegation will walk proudly in the Opening Ceremonies at the club tonight.

To stay up on events here, be sure to catch frequent blogs and photos at www.usaracquetball.com.

Round robin play commences Saturday…GO TEAM USA!
-- Cheryl Kirk



Daily Blog #1 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Friday, April 11, 2014, 10:30 am ET
by Cheryl Kirk


Daily Blog #1 From XXVII Pan American Racquetball Championships for Team USA
Friday, April 11, 2014, 10:30 am ET
by Cheryl Kirk
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