USA Racquetball News 2021 IRF World Racqu...

2021 IRF World Racquetball Championships Blog

By Cheryl Kirk | Nov. 28, 2021, 7:28 a.m. (ET)

Blog #10
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Monday, December 6, 2021
 
Coach Jim Comments on the “Final Four”
Rhonda Rajsich faced Natalia Mendez of Argentina for the 3/4 seed at the World Games in Birmingham next summer. The two warriors, weary after six days of intense competition, still had the desire to do battle on the court. Rajsich had more game this day ad fought for a victory and the third seed.   
 
Kelani Lawrence made a tremendous and gutsy run to the finals, defeating Angy Barrios and Rhonda Rajsich in the quarters and semis. In Monday’s final, she faced off against three-time world champion Paola Longoria, the #1 player on the LPRT. Kelani in perhaps the biggest match of her young career, had a challenging time with Longoria. Paola’s precise serve and shots were impossible to get to even for the speedy Lawrence. Kelani could not find her drive serves, and Paola was too good on the ceiling for Kelani to score effectively in a defensive rally. It was all Paola in this final. Kelani will be back to win in the future. 

 

Kelani Lawrence - Women's Singles Silver Medalist

 
Rhonda Rajsich and Erika Manilla met the best doubles team in the world in the finals. Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas are a savvy and experienced doubles team. Team Erikonda made a tremendous push to 14 after being down 8-1 in the first game, but they could not convert point 15. Longoria and Salas dodged a bullet and won the first. ,Team USA rookie Erika showed her talent in the match, hitting key winners and making diving gets, but the Mexican team was too good. Game and match went to Mexico.  

 

Erika Manilla & Rhonda Rajsich - Women's Doubles Silver Medalist

 
Alex Landa, Team USA’s “quiet assassin” played an amazing final against Costa Rican Andres Acuña. Landa, playing with a fierce determination, was not to be denied a World Championship. An effective drive serve and clever nick lobs, half Z’s right, and forehand lobs kept Acuña off balance. Landa’s shot-making was superb, and if Andres did not roll the ball out, Alex was there to throw up ceiling balls or rally Z’s to stay in the point. Acuña played tough, but Alejandro Landa was on fire. The Costa Rican could not put a dent in Alex’s offensive armor, and the World Championship went to Landa in two games. 

 

Men's Singles World Champion, Alex Landa

 
Team USA Summary of Results -- Monday -- The Finals!
Rhonda Rajsich def. Natalia Mendez (Argentina), 15-12, 15-6
Alex Landa def. Andres Acuña (Costa Rica), 15-6, 15-6
Kelani Lawrence lost to Paola Longoria (Mexico), 6-15, 1-15
Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla lost to Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico), 14-15, 6-15
 
Question of the Day -- Final Edition
What’s on your bucket list?
 
Alex -- Get married
 
Charlie -- Visit Egypt
 
Jake -- Skydive
 
Kelani -- Lots of travel destinations are on my bucket list - Israel, Dubai, and Iceland to name a few. I would also love to go up in a hot air balloon someday!
 
Jim -- To explore the world with an open mind and heart.
 
Rodger -- Too big of a list πŸ˜Š - currently checking one off by being with Team USA Racquetball πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ in Guatemala πŸ‡¬πŸ‡Ή
 
Cheryl -- Set foot on the continent of Africa; learn American Sign Language; get better at Spanish.
 
Erika -- Skydive, backpack through Europe, #1 in the World for Racquetball, see Igaucu Falls between Argentina/Brazil/Paraguay, ski the Alps, and so much more! Good thing I’m only 23!
 
Rhonda -- Swim with sharks, no cage, must be great whites 20+ feet long
 
IRF World Championship Results 
Congratulations to all of the countries for their efforts and results at the IRF World Championships! Team USA was first in Men's Team, second in Women’s Team, and first in Overall Combined Team! We're really proud of the effort everyone put in to play their hearts out and support each other as spectators as well. Words can’t describe the euphoria you feel when you realize your team has come out on top. Great job, Team USA!!

 

 
Coach Jim Provides a Final Perspective on Team USA
Team USA arrived in Guatemala with a tremendous group of talented athletes looking to stand on top of the World Championship podium. 
 
Team Captains Charlie Pratt and Rhonda Rajsich exemplified the fearless courage and determination it would take to achieve that goal. The USA has faced strong competition from Mexico, Bolivia, and Argentina in recent years. These countries have formidable teams that have bested the U.S. since 2014. 
 
Kelani Lawrence overcame opponents ranked above her. Coached by Malia (her mother), she fought for every point and pulled off wins with guts and determination. Her play was an example to the whole team.  
 
Rhonda Rajsich turned back the clock and found her inner champion to beat LPRT #2, Maria Jose Vargas representing Argentina. That win advanced her into the semifinals against USA teammate Kelani Lawrence, guaranteeing the overall team the advantage of a place in the Women’s Singles finals. 
 
The relatively new doubles team of Rhonda Rajsich and Erika Manilla made an improbable run to the finals, capitalizing on Rhonda’s veteran savvy and Erika’s rookie energy.  
 
Jake Bredenbeck knocking out reigning World Champion Rodrigo Montoya was a huge piece of the United States’ Championship run. 
 
Alejandro Landa played inspired and passionate racquetball to win his first World Championship. 
 
The new team of Landa and Charlie Pratt won their pool and fought hard to advance to the semifinals and earn some precious points for the team.  
 
Team Leader Cheryl Kirk kept everything behind the scenes (COVID testing, etc.) from having any chance of hindering the team’s focus.  
 
Team Trainer Rodger Fleming readied everyone ready for battle. His contributions to the team cannot be overstated.
 
Coaches Jim Durham and Malia Bailey worked to keep the team’s focus on each point. The team’s mantra became “Get One,” meaning that the players must focus on one point: the next point. If you’ve heard the saying, “Keep your eye on the prize,” the team’s thinking was just the opposite. It was instead to keep your eyes on the next point, and then the next. That became “The Way.”  In the end, that focus earned us a World Championship.
 
Team USA Medalists
Singles
Alex Landa -- Gold
Kelani Lawrence -- Silver
Rhonda Rajsich -- Bronze
 
Doubles
Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla -- Silver
Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa -- Bronze
 
Overall Combined Team
1 - USA
2 - Mexico
3 - Bolivia
4 - Argentina
 
Men's Team
1 - USA
2 - Mexico
3 - Bolivia
4 - Costa Rica
 
Women's Team
1 - Mexico
2 - USA
3 - Argentina
4 - Guatemala
 
Division Winners
Men's Singles -- Alex Landa (USA)
Women's Singles -- Paola Longoria (Mexico)
Men's Doubles -- Rodrigo Montoya/Javier Mar (Mexico) 
Women's Doubles -- Samantha Salas/Paola Longoria (Mexico)
 
To view the preliminary rounds, main draws, and overall results, visit www.internationalracquetball.com.
 
Thank You’s
The US Team Delegation wishes to deliver our gratitude to those who made this event so truly memorable:
 
The Local Organizing Committee, headed by Dr. Estuardo Wer, for hosting this very successful event. The work behind the scenes to host a tournament of this magnitude is extensive. Congratulations for a job very well done! From the hotel to the transportation, the awards, the coordination, this experience was smooth and enjoyable. 
 
The club staff members, the many volunteers at the club, and the shuttle drivers who provided excellent service and hospitality. You did your country proud!
 
Marie Gomar deserves a very special thank you for the many, many things she did for Team USA and for the multitudes of questions she answered immediately upon receiving them. What a blessing to have such a wonderful friend to help us navigate logistics and details on this 11-day trip! 
 
Staff members who deserve so much gratitude and respect as well for their time and expertise. Mauro Grandio (Argentina), who has and is expertly organizing so many of the behind-the-scenes IRF functions, is joined at the tournament desk by Pablo Berriel, Adrian Macrino, and Veronique Guillemette (Argentina). Maria Paz Riquelme (Colombia) did a great job on the social media aspects of this event.  
 
The referees from six countries who were on hand to provide a quality experience for the players (see Blog #4 on 11/30/21 for names and nationalities).
 
Pablo Fajre, Dean Baer, and Gary Mazaroff for bringing many hours of live streaming of quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals action.
 
IRF sponsor Gearbox who contributes significantly to these international events.
 
IRF President Osvaldo Maggi and IRF Vice President Marcelo Gomez Pacheco for their leadership and dedication to Racquetball and its development around the world. Also to Luke St. Onge and Keith Calkins whose earlier work set a solid foundation for the future. 
 
Renée Isherwood for her considerable behind-the-scenes support such as booking flights, arranging insurance coverage for Team USA, etc., and Aimee Roehler and Renée who stopped whatever else they might have been doing as soon as a blog and photos were ready for posting. 
 
Last but not least, to all the readers of this blog, some reaching out with comments, who helped Team USA feel the love from back home! 
 
Team USA -- It’s a Wrap!
After the Awards Ceremonies, Team USA had one last team meeting, this time as the World Champion Team. T-shirts and posters were signed; Coach Jim gifted each person in the delegation with a Mayan warrior carved stone, symbolic of the team’s spirit and determination; USAR Board President Dan Whitley, Dan’s daughter Morgan, and USAR Executive Director Mike Wedel “zoomed” in with words of congratulations for the World Champions; and a few libations were enjoyed along with the delivery of heartfelt words of appreciation for each other. 
 
The traveling IRF World Championship traveling trophy was celebrated, subsequently went on walkabout for a while, then was returned for the trip to the United States. In the team meeting, Charlie, who is also the Junior Team Head Coach, dedicated, with everyone’s blessing, the trophy to the U.S. Junior Team in recognition of their hard work and desire to get back to competition. We look very much forward to having them back in international events again in 2022. 
 
Malia’s quote to finish off this final gathering tonight was perfect: 
 
He who dares, wins
He who sweats, wins
He who prepares, wins
 
On Tuesday morning, it’s time for Team USA to head home. Wishing them a very safe trip and great memories of this special time together. 
 
Signing off from the IRF World Racquetball Championships and anticipating more U.S. Team excitement at the Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), Easter Week, this spring. 
 
To put icing on this delicious cake, we’ll end with our mantra over these days in Guatemala...
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
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Blog #9
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Sunday, December 5, 2021
 
Coach Jim Delivers His Analysis of the Day
 
Alex Landa got the day started for Team USA with a tremendous win over the mercurial Bolivian Conrrado Moscoso. Landa started slow, and Moscoso was hitting with precision right out of the gate. Alex was flying his backhand off the back wall, and Conrrado was deadly at putting them away with pinch rollouts and straight-in kills. Landa’s serves weren’t going in, and he had no effective second serve either. The Bolivian won easily 15-3. Alex settled down and settled in to the second game. His drive serves still weren’t going in, but he found an effective combination of second serves. A nick lob forced Moscoso into shooting low percentage pinches from the deep court, and a clever half lob Z to the Bolivian’s forehand started to get some points. Moscoso used the same overhead service return to the left, and Alex began to time it and re-kill it down the backhand line. Alex began to find his backhand cross court shot and used it well to keep Moscoso off balance. The Bolivian skipped points away and soon it was Game 2 to Alex. The tiebreaker saw more of the same. Landa’s backhand cross court was becoming a real offensive weapon. When Moscoso got to it, he skipped. Alex mixed in a few well-timed pinches, and you could see the Bolivian’s frustration. Landa ran out to a 10-4 lead and then stalled out a bit. Moscoso fought for each point, and Landa was stuck on ten. Moscoso got to 10-6 when a tremendous rally ended with Landa hitting a thirty-foot between the legs rollout to earn the victory. 

 

Alex Landa vs. Conrrado Moscoso in Men's Singles semifinal action. Dean Baer interviewing Alex Landa after his semifinal win.

 
Next up: Kelani Lawrence and Rhonda Rajsich. Kelani has one of the best forehands in the game, and Rhonda’s backhand is as good as they get. Kelani played smart and steady ball while Rhonda struggled to find her game. Lawrence has tremendous speed that she uses to chase down every shot. That pressure and her shot-making ability led her to an early lead. Both players had some unforced errors, but Kelani was the steadier of the two, and she took Game 1, 15-12. Kelani settled into Game 2, and you could see her confidence growing. Drive serves to both sides resulted in setups that she put away with sizzling backhand and forehand passes. Her ability to take defensive shots out of the air and put them away generated points and frustrated her opponent. Kelani kept the pressure on, and Rhonda couldn’t find a way to counter her offense. Game and match to Kelani 15-7.

 

Rhonda Rajsich vs. Kelani Lawrence in Women's Singles semifinals.

 
Charlie Pratt and Alex Landa (Charlejandro) met Mexico’s Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya in the men’s doubles semi-finals. Mar/Montoya are, perhaps, the best doubles team in the world. They have vast experience together and they have won many titles. Landa/Pratt have not played together. Charlie won National Doubles with Rocky Carson, and he picked up Landa after Carson decided not to participate. They were definitely underdogs. They couldn’t find any magic in the first game and lost 15-3.  The second game wasn’t so easy for the Mexicans. Pratt started painting the backhand down the line, and Landa was pinching, rolling, and passing well and making gets up front. Lob serves were working for both of them, and they battled to a 10-10 tie. The Americans found themselves serving at 13-12, and Pratt had a setup off of the back wall that he just barely skipped. Mar and Montoya got the serve and ended the game and match 15-13. 
 
The last match of the day was the women’s doubles semifinal -- Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla (Erikonda) vs. Natalia Mendez/Valeria Centellas of Argentina. In the first game, the Americans made too many unforced errors, and they weren’t generating much offense. The Argentinians played tough and won. In the second, Erikonda came alive. The unforced errors of the first game became kills and passes. Erika brought a fiery forehand to the contest and Rajsich kept finding bottom board when she had a setup. Manilla scrapped for every ball up front and killed setups down the right wall. The Americans took the second game. The tiebreaker started with Erika hitting a precise lob serve along the glass of the forehand side. Centellas tried her best to scrape them off the wall, but she either set Erikonda up or skipped. The Americans ran out to a decisive lead, and the Argentinians decided to switch sides. This worked for a bit, but the Americans made some good adjustments, played solid steady racquetball, and won the match.  
 
Team USA Summary of Results -- Sunday
#1 Alex Landa def. #5 Conrrado Moscoso (Bolivia), 3-15, 15-8, 11-6
#11 Kelani Lawrence (USA) def. #15 Rhonda Rajsich (USA), 15-12, 15-7
#4 Alex Landa/Charlie Pratt lost to #1 Rodrigo Montoya/Javier Mar (Mexico), 2-15, 13-15
#6 Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla def. #2 Natalia Mendez/Valeria Centellas (Argentina), 6-15, 15-9, 11-8
Men’s 05-08 -- Jake Bredenbeck def. Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 14-15, 15-13, 11-4
 
An Unanticipated Arrival
On Saturday evening, Lea Waide, Rhonda’s girlfriend, flew in for the last two days of the tournament. Rhonda had no clue whatsoever. The surprise was especially satisfying because Rhonda is a smarty pants -- you don’t get much by her. How great to see Rhonda so happy, and how equally great to see the wool pulled over her eyes. Welcome, Lea! Team USA is glad to have an extra cheerleader.
 
Question of the Day
If you could shop for free at any store, which store would you choose?
 
Alex -- Nike
 
Charlie -- REI (outdoor store)
 
Kelani -- TJ Maxx / Home Goods
 
Jim -- REI
 
Rodger -- Amazon (not sure if that’s really a store)
 
Cheryl: For my blog (and my purposes), we’re allowing Amazon to be called a store. Woo hoo!
 
Jake -- Koenigsegg Automotive
 
Erika -- Whole Foods
 
Rhonda -- Apple and Nike
 
Malia -- So. I hate to shop. But if I could, I would go to a car dealership. (Blogger’s note: We have a winner!)
 
Letters from Home_v2
Bill Roberts (Illinois) 
Thank you for your daily recaps of the exciting matches. Team USA is giving it their all with great results. GO TEAM USA!!
 
Joanne Pomodoro (Massachusetts)
What a great opportunity you all are living ... to represent your country, our country, my country. Can’t wait to root for Team USA tomorrow. Focus on the task at hand, one point at a time! Know that we are all proud of TEAM USA, and we thank you for playing with USA ON YOUR HEARTS.
 
Kendra Tutsch (Wisconsin)
So once again my cat became mesmerized by racquetball on my iPad while I was mirroring it to our big TV! Great tournament and blogs, safe travels home to all!
 
A Shout-Out to Luke
I mentioned several days ago that Luke St. Onge was having a birthday and that he has been ill. Today I was so happy to receive a call from Luke. He said he had just had the best two days since he went into the hospital, which means things are looking up. Luke, if you are seeing this, there are so many people thinking of you and wishing you a speedy recovery! 
 
Friendliness While Wearing Masks 101
Communication is important, and it comes in many forms. When 14 countries and multiple languages are involved, ways need to be found to connect. 
 
I grew up in business working for McDonald’s, and we were encouraged to acknowledge people in a friendly way who passed within three feet of us. Gosh, with mask usage (mascarilla in Español) being mandatory, it’s even harder. How do you do that without your best smile?
 
Acknowledgment in passing:
An appreciative nod, accompanied or not by a tilt of the head
A friendly wave or waggling fingers
If you really want to study this, visit: https://thoughtcatalog.com/manjari-fergusson/2013/08/8-different-waves-and-what-they-mean/. It’s kind of funny.
 
What do you want to get across:
“I am mad” --  Hopefully not. Forehead wrinkles aren’t worth it. 
“I am happy” --  Crinkly eyes, nodding the head, clapping hands silently
“I approve” -- Thumbs up
“It’s a secret between you and me” -- a slow blink of the eyes, hold for 1-2 seconds
“I understand how you feel” -- also a slow blink of the eyes
“Even though I asked you to put your mask on right for the third time, I still like you” -- A verbal gracias/thank you, thumbs up, a friendly pat on the shoulder
 
In a follow-up to the 101 curriculum:
Exaggerate your gestures, a bit like Charades. 
Give them a cookie or a holiday Tootsie Roll. Maybe holiday stickers. 
 
Nigh onto 103:
Embrace that bucket list item and learn American Sign Language.
 
Team USA Schedule for Monday -- The Finals!
Well, we’re down to the wire, and thanks to the results on Sunday and the hard work that was a precursor to that, Team USA is in three finals matches tomorrow, the last day of competition! 
 
10:00 am -- Rhonda Rajsich vs. Natalia Mendez (Argentina)
11:00 am -- Alex Landa vs. Andres Acuña (Costa Rica)
12:00 pm -- Kelani Lawrence vs. Paola Longoria (Mexico)
4:00 pm -- Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico)
 
All matches will be livestreamed from the stadium court (times are the same as U.S. Central time). For those who have been watching matches online, you already know that patience and flexibility is key. If matches run long, that means everything to follow gets backed up a bit. It all adds up!
 
After the last match has finished, it all happens very quickly from there. Gather medals, pack, sleep, ride to the airport, check bags, and they’re off and running back to the U.S. with hardware hanging around their necks (possibly setting off the metal detector at the airport!).“Oh, that’s just my medal(s) from the World Championships.” 

 

The Streaming Team behind the scenes at the IRF World Championships

 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. Wishing Jenni Mazaroff (Gary’s exponentially better half) a very Happy Birthday on Monday, 12/6!  <3

 

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Blog #8
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Saturday, December 4, 2021
 
Coaches’ Comments
 
Coach Jim reports on Friday matches -- Alex and Rhonda 
Alex Landa vs. Juan Jose Salvatierra of Guatemala. Alex had his foot on the gas and a determination to reach the semifinals. He played a solid serve-and-shoot game that gave Salvatierra few chances to hit offensive shots. Alex was hitting everything well: splats, down the lines, and cross courts, often giving Salvatierra a classic tour of the court. Landa went the entire game without a skip, 15-8. Game #2 saw Salvatierra returning serve much more offensively, and Alex was just a little less sharp than in the first. Salvatierra’s serve to the right was hugging the wall and carrying nicely into the back corner. He led much of the game until late when Alex reverted back to his Game #1 form and stormed to a 15-12 victory, earning himself a spot in the semifinals against Conrrado Moscoso of Bolivia on Sunday. Live streaming will be a given -- enjoy!
 
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Maria Renee Rodriguez of Guatemala. This match would determine which player would make the semifinals on Sunday. Rhonda was playing well, drive serving Maria Renee’s backhand and putting away any errant returns. Rodriguez also started out tough, hitting quality drive serves to Rhonda’s forehand and putting away her setups. Rhonda, however, just kept getting stronger as the match progressed, drive serving to both sides and using an accurate half-lob as a second serve. When Rodriguez left her ceiling shots just a little long, Rhonda put them away. When Rodriguez left them just a little short, Rhonda put the setup away. Maria fought and scrapped like the professional veteran that she is, but on this day it was all Rhonda, 15-7, 15-1. Rhonda will play Kelani Lawrence of the United States in Sunday’s semifinal. Be sure to tune in to that one to see which of Team USA’s Women will earn a spot in the final!
 
The Saturday Doubles Wars
Team USA’s Men’s and Women’s Doubles teams played their quarterfinal matches today. 
 
Charlie Pratt and Alex Landa (aka Charlejandro) squared off against Ecuadorians Juan Francisco Cueva and Jose Daniel Ugalde. In pool play, the Americans squeaked out an 11-10 tiebreaker win against them. This time Charlejandro were a team with a plan and the determination to carry it out. Charlie’s nick lobs were working and forcing ceiling balls and skips. Alex used a straight-in high lob and got the same results on his side. Alex was using wide angle passes to get weak returns, and Charlie was putting them away. Landa’s reverse pinches caused havoc, forcing Ugalde into diving gets and weak returns. Pratt was putting forehand and backhand setups away, and Landa’s pinch and down-the-line passes were deadly as well. Ugalde and Cueva fought hard but were overwhelmed by the Americans’ attack. Team USA won convincingly, 15-5, 15-5. 

 

Charlie Pratt & Alex Landa, Men's Doubles Quarterfinal action,

Photo By: Asociación De Racquetball De Guatemala

 
The Women’s quarterfinal featured Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla (aka Erikonda) vs. Angy Barrios/Micaela Meneses of Bolivia. Both are relatively new doubles teams finding their strengths and learning what court coverage and shot selection works for them. The first game was close early with both teams feeling each other out. Erika was using wrap serves into the glass, lobs, and Z’s to Meneses. Her clever use of the lob proved to be the winning touch on the right side, hugging the glass and frustrating Micaela. Rhonda was using her half lob left and drive left to good effect against Barrios. Once the Americans settled in, they played a beautiful serve-and-shoot match with Manilla putting away everything that came off the back wall and Rajsich hitting tight down-the-line pass kills and cross court winners. The match ended with Rhonda making a marvelous diving re-kill winner in the front left corner. Enough said: it was USA, 15-10, 15-5.

 

 Erika Manilla & Rhonda Rajsich in Quarterfinal Doubles action.

 
Team USA Summary of Results -- Saturday
#4 Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa def. #5 Juan Francisco Cueva/Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 15-5, 15-5
#6 Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla def. #3 Angy Barrios/Micaela Meneses (Bolivia), 15-10, 15-5
 
Question of the Day
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
 
Alex -- Don’t do it because they are gonna do it to you and you’re not gonna like it
 
Charlie -- You can be happy, or you can be right.
 
Kelani -- People are always more important than things
 
Jim -- Remember that you’ll die soon.
 
Rodger -- Have faith, be honest and care about others. 
 
Cheryl -- Be interested...in those around you. Be sympathetic, but avoid internalizing their problems or behavior. You can only steer your own ship. 
 
Jake -- Life is on you. Own it.
 
Rhonda -- Are you dead yet? Then you’re not done.
 
Malia -- The best advice for me: that we love each other as one big family. 
 
Erika -- Every morning we wake up with the decision to be happy. It is a choice we make every day. Choose to be happy. 
 
COVID Testing
Of course, the subject that crosses everyone’s lips daily, everywhere, is the pandemic. COVID has affected everyone in some way, whether by inconvenience, discomfort, disruption to life as we used to know it, uncomfortable differences of opinion with others, or much, much worse. 
 
Wearing masks is the law here in Guatemala, and the IRF and the Guatemalan federation are doing their best to enforce this as a mandatory practice at these World Championships. The delegates of the 14 countries signed an Obligatory Use of Masks agreement, and it was and is their responsibility to communicate this to their delegations (players, staff, family members, et al.). Attendees noticed as not complying are reminded to put on their masks and/or adjust them correctly. Repeated reminders turn into warnings and then possible removal from the club. 
 
Regarding the U.S., as the day of departure approaches for the athletes and staff, we thank the Guatemalan Federation for their assistance in contacting a professional laboratory in the area to administer timely testing. With travel requirement changes from the CDC due to the emergence of the Omicron variant in the past week, regulations have tightened. Travel from international locations back into the U.S., as of Monday 12/6,  at 12:01 a.m. EST, require that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must report and document with the airline a negative viral test result no earlier than one calendar day before departure. Arrangements have been made for this delegation to be tested timely on Monday for their flights on Tuesday back to the United States. 
 
Team USA Schedule for Sunday
But there’s still work to do here! Good luck, Team USA, as you move closer to achieving your ultimate goals in representing your country, your fellow team members and coaches, and your families and friends back home!     
 
Draws can be viewed at www.internationalracquetball.com
Times are the same as U.S. Central Standard time.  
 
* = Live streamed on International Racquetball Federation Facebook page (click on Videos)
* 10:00 am -- #1 Alex Landa vs. #5 Conrrado Moscoso (Bolivia)
* 12:00 pm -- #11 Kelani Lawrence (USA) vs. #15 Rhonda Rajsich (USA) 
* 2:00 pm -- #4 Alex Landa/Charlie Pratt vs. #1 Rodrigo Montoya/Javier Mar (Mexico)
  3:00 pm -- Men’s Singles 05/08 -- Jake Bredenbeck vs. Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador)
* 5:00 pm -- #6 Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla vs. #2 Natalia Mendez/Valeria Centellas (Argentina)

 

Sunday's Streaming Schedule at the IRF World Championships

Photo By: International Racquetball Federation Facebook

 
As we contemplate our good fortune in being able to travel here to Guatemala and play well, we know that everyone from 14 countries arrived with the same aspirations. We respect our fellow racquetball players and those who work so hard to support them. Malia has been sharing some meaningful quotes in our time here, and she gave us one at this evening’s team meeting that resonated with everyone. 
 
Be strong, but not rude
Be kind, but not weak
Be humble, but not timid
Be proud, but not arrogant
                        -- Jim Rohn
 
Wishing everyone an exceptionally enjoyable Sunday glued to your computer screen watching Team USA take on some of the very best players in the world! 

 

Erupting Volcano in Guatemala.

 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. A shout-out to my dear friend Sharron. For her, December 5th each year is a day filled with memories of loss and love.

 

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Blog #7
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Friday, December 3, 2021
 
Coach Malia’s Comments -- Kelani and Jake
 
Kelani Lawrence’s quarterfinal opponent was Angy Barrios of Bolivia. Going into this one, Kelani had an 0 and 2 record in previous matches against Barrios. She was a little uncertain, but as the match went on, she became more and more confident. Once the nerves left her, Kelani’s shot-making was impeccable. Her passing shots kept Angy reaching and just trying to chase them down. Once the passing game was established, Kelani started to throw in some pinches, which helped to shake up Barrios and kept the pressure on. Angy started to rush and missed some shots she would normally make. Kelani kept her composure and won in two straight. 

 

Collage of Kelani Lawrence's Friday matches. 

 
Jake Bredenbeck and Mario Mercado (Colombia) took to the glass back and sidewall stadium court in this long-awaited live streamed match that began two hours behind schedule. With patience and anticipation, I’m sure the fans both online and in person were anticipating exciting rallies with great show-making. They were not disappointed with this action-packed epic battle. Mario started strong while Jake was working on getting his legs moving to where he wanted to be. After being down several points, Jake turned  it up a notch and made a near-win comeback using some great z-serves throwing in drives to the forehand as well as utilizing beautifully executed jams. Mario managed to pull out the first game. Second game, Jake had the momentum and the beast came out. Utilizing the glass and wide angle passes, both players were literally throwing their bodies around the court. Lots of floor drying time. No one could suggest either player wasn’t trying their hardest. Jake won the second, forcing a tiebreaker. The breaker was just as exciting though Mario managed to take advantage of the opportunities he was given. Mario managed a couple of ace serves. Jake continued the charge, going after every shot. In the end, Mario prevailed and both players left everything they had on the court. 

 

Men's Quarterfinal action between Jake Bredenbeck (USA) vs. Mario Mercado (COL).

 
Coach Jim will give his commentary of Alex’s and Rhonda’s matches on Saturday along with tomorrow’s recap of the doubles action yet to come!
 
Team USA Summary of Results -- Friday
#1 Alex Landa def. #9 Juan Jose Salvatierra (Guatemala), 15-8, 15-12
#11 Kelani Lawrence def. #3 Angy Barrios (Bolivia), 15-13, 15-11
#15 Rhonda Rajsich def. #7 Maria Renee Rodriguez (Guatemala), 15-7, 15-1
#3 Jake Bredenbeck lost to #6 Mario Mercado (Colombia), 13-15, 15-11, 4-11

 

The International Racquetball Federation Streaming Crew hard at work. The Friday crowd at the IRF World Championships.

 
Guatemala National Racquetball Association(Host Country)
Those of us who run tournaments as part of our racquetball lives do partially understand the hard work and challenges that are faced by the people in the club, or the city, or the state, or nationally. Then, take it a step further to the international level, to put everything in place, all of the logistics, for 13 arriving country delegations who speak multiple languages. It’s a lot -- hotel, airport transportation, communication, transportation from three host hotels to the club, laundry arrangements, assembling of player bags, service to the international federation with their requests, COVID testing information/assistance for departures, and so much more. Warm thanks and admiration go to these wonderful individuals from Guatemala who are our hosts for this event, working so hard to manage all of the details and putting lots of TLC in our direction. They are a treasure. 
 
President: Dr. Estuardo Wer
Leadership: Erny Escobar, Osniel Urquijo, Francisco Castellanos, Marie Gomar
Office Staff: Cindy, Emerson, Hilda, Heydi
Volunteer: Gerardo Lopez
 
We are also grateful for the diligent volunteers who keep everything neat and orderly in the face of more people than they’ve ever experienced in these four walls since the club opened in the beginning of 2020! What great teamwork! 

 

Friday at night in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

 
Question of the Day
What would your dream vacation look like?
 
Alex -- In Dubai
 
Charlie -- Golf trip to Europe
 
Kelani -- Traveling to another country or tropical island with a group of my closest friends and husband. There will be tons of outdoor activities, exploring, and amazing food and drinks!
 
Jim -- There would be a river, an ocean and people I love.
 
Rodger -- Anywhere with minimal responsibilities and free margaritas.
 
Cheryl -- Relaxing in Sedona, Arizona
 
Jake -- Having closest friends go to a tropical island
 
Erika -- One dream vacation would be a hiking trip with family/friends! A couple day hiking trip, where we camp overnight to an incredible spot that you can’t get to by car! No cell phone service, just good people and good times!
 
Rhonda -- Bora Bora with Lea, experiencing everything possible, of course staying in the best “floating hut” out in the middle of the crystal-blue water. 
 
Malia -- Island hopping in Hawaii, spending four days on each. Lots of beach time. Enjoying the local life. 
 
QOTD -- IRF/PARC Responses
Why should the US Team Delegation have all the fun? Here are a few more answers from our IRF/PARC racquetball family!
Cuales son tus vacaciones soñadas?
 
Osvaldo Maggi (IRF President) -- My dream vacation is 15 days on a beach with all my family.
Marie Gomar (PARC Women’s VP) -- Anywhere with the whole family.
Dean Schear (IRF/PARC) -- At least 6 months around the world
Marcelo Gómez Pacheco (PARC President) and wife Marcela --  A cruise in the Greek islands, staying a couple of days on each island. 
 
Letters from Home
I prepare a “sneak peek” list every time the blogs come around as part of international events. There are probably about 200 people on it, and every day we hear back from a few. Team USA, you have fans!
 
Maurice Miller (Georgia)
Thank you for this!!! Everyone, please be safe!
 
Bill Roberts (Illinois)
I viewed a virtual tour of the courts....they look great!!
 
Margo Scott (Florida)
Thank you so much for doing the blog! This is awesome!  I was busy all day and couldn't watch anything and this is a great recap!
 
Lisa Bachar (Illinois)
I especially loved the information on the detection dog paying special attention to the doggie treats! πŸ˜‚ Priceless! Be safe and I’ll be rooting for Team USA!
 
Maureen Keough (Illinois; my neighbor, friend, and faithful blog follower)
Looks like some familiar names and a few new ones on the team? I’m sure it will be an exciting week! I’m jealous of the weather but not the smoking volcanoes.
 
Laura Pesek (Indiana)
Wonderful!  Go Team USA!
 
Mike Mahon (South Dakota)
I love the blog, stay safe, and Go Team USA
 
Enrique Carbajal (Colorado)
Thank you for these blogs, they keep us in touch as to how Team USA is doing and the ins and outs about the tournament!  Let’s go TEAM USA!
 
Nancy Manilla (Colorado)
Have fun...this being the first World tournament that the kids have played in that we are not in attendance, we are having withdrawals!!!
 
Keith Calkins (California; former IRF President)
Really enjoyed watching the matches today. Look forward to the ones to come. Go USA!
 
Scott Fish (Oregon)
I was really excited to see these updates start coming through! 
 
John O’Donnell, Jr. (Illinois)
Let the team know we are following their progress - - - Go Team USA! Thanks for the coaches’ experienced insight into the strategy and play of each match. Very interesting descriptions! You've got some very thoughtful team members - - with their choices for items needed on that island! 
 
Dave Ellis (California/retired Head Coach)
Thanks for the blogs.  They're helping me deal with my withdrawal pains. From the photos, it sure looks like a beautiful facility. Go Team USA.
 
Todd Burris (Illinois)
Thank you for the blogs and hope you are having a good time in Guatemala.
 
Mike Lippitt (California; RYDF)
Every day I look forward to reading what's coming next.
 
Joanne Pomodoro (Massachusetts)
I have been watching and rooting every minute of the day. So proud and in awe of these athletes representing me, us, all of USA. Go team go! Respect, Honor, Dominate 
 
Kendra Tutsch (Wisconsin; WSMRA President)
I am enjoying the blogs very much! Always something fresh to learn! Please give my warmest regards to Marie! I’ll end by saying- GO USA! 
 
Note: I didn’t have the space for everyone’s comments, but please know the fact that you all reached out to encourage our delegation is so appreciated! 
 
Saturday’s Schedule for Team USA -- Doubles Day
Every singles player has more matches to play, so stay tuned! But first, note that Saturday’s schedule contains no singles matches -- the only two matches for Team USA will be the doubles quarterfinals that will lead inevitably to the semifinals on Sunday and the finals on Monday. 
 
4:00 pm -- #4 Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa vs. #5 Juan Francisco Cueva/Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador)
4:00 pm -- #6 Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla vs. #3 Angy Barrios/Micaela Meneses (Bolivia) -- scheduled for live streaming
 
Reminder -- the time here is the same as U.S. Central time.
 
Good luck to all as we head into the final three days of competition. Team USA is giving it everything they’ve got, and their results are outstanding. Fans at home, as we move into Saturday, please keep reciting this mantra in your head at least until early next week...
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 

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Blog #6
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Thursday, December 2, 2021
 
Coaches Jim and Malia Report In on a Very Good Day
Rhonda Rajsich and Kelani Lawrence started the day for Team USA...
 
Jim:Rhonda faced off with the scrappy Merynanyelly Delgado of the Dominican Republic. Delgado played and served well in the first. She killed the ball well with her forehand and used a mostly defensive backhand to keep rallies alive until she could get a forehand to put away. Rhonda played well in spots and was able to stay close, but Delgado had just enough to take the first game, 15-14. In Game 2, Rhonda played some solid strategic racquetball, serving and shooting mostly to Delgado’s backhand. This kept the ball on the left  side of the court where one of the best backhands the women’s game has ever seen won point after point with scorching down-the-line passes and kills. Rhonda’s forehand was solid as well, and it proved too much for the Dominican. Second game 15-3 to the American. The tiebreaker was more of the same. Delgado made some adjustments and fought hard, but it wasn’t enough: Rajsich 11-5. 

 

Team USA Ladies Singles Matches being played at the same time.

 
Malia: Kelani’s first (as it turned out) match of the day was against Aisling Hickey of Ireland. Kelani was a bundle of nerves while her opponent was executing her serves and hitting her shots the way she wanted. Once Kelani settled down, she made an attempt to come back but she was down too far. Game to Aisling, 15-7. Going into the second game, Kelani used the momentum to start off stronger. Her serves started to come in and her shots became more accurate. It was still a battle, and Kelani was able to get to the breaker. Kelani didn’t stop her momentum and took advantage of her worn-out Irish opponent, winning the match.

 

Kelani Lawrence defeats Aisling Hickey in a thrilling match in Round of 16 action.

 
Jim: In the 8s, the USA’s Rhonda Rajsich confronted the second-ranked player on the LPRT, Argentina’s Maria Jose Vargas. Vargas is known for having the best power game on the women’s tour. Vargas started hot, crunching forehand winners, stretching for every shot to extend rallies, and playing with focus and pride. Rhonda was hitting and playing well but not quite finishing rallies that Vargas would keep extending with her athletic gets. First game to Vargas 15-5. In the second, Rhonda started to find the legendary game that she always has in her: drive serves that pin her opponent in the back corner followed by winning backhand drives too low and accurate for her opponents to handle. Both the drive and her half-lob left kept Vargas from mounting an offense, and Rajsich stayed solid and consistent throughout. Game #2 to Rhonda 15-5. Vargas started off serving in the tiebreaker and showed the athletic prowess and mental determination that have driven her to the #2 ranking. Rhonda showed every bit of the same. They battled back and forth with Vargas holding a slight lead. The Argentinian surged to a 10-7 advantage and it looked like she had a win, but Rhonda was not through. At this point it became a clash of two warriors with diving gets, ripped winners, and passion. Rhonda fought off three match points, and after four or five fierce rallies she found herself serving at 10-10. Vargas made an all-out dive to just barely get a passing shot to her forehand side. She scrambled up but was too late to avoid a penalty hinder in the back right corner. Game and match to Rhonda. 

 

Rhonda Rajsich vs. Maria Jose Vargas

 
(Blogger’s note: All I could say to Rhonda after this win was, “I have no words.” That just about never happens. There could have been a euphoric expletive of celebration in there. I don’t exactly remember.)
 
Malia: Kelani’s second match of the day was against Carla Muñoz of Chile. After Kelani’s earlier match going to a breaker and Carla having a bye, the biggest concern was fatigue. Fortunately, Kelani just played Carla in Chicago two weeks ago and won, so we had a feel of what would work. Carla came out strong with some great serves, but Kelani had answers for most of them. Fatigue didn’t seem to be a factor for Kelani, who moved around the court looking fresh. She mixed up her serves with drives to both sides, throwing in some z-serves as well. During the rallies, Kelani utilized her passing shots effectively, keeping Carla guessing with some pinches, too. She pulled out the win, 15-8, 15-13, putting her into the quarterfinals on Friday. 
 
...then it was time for the Men’s Singles.
 
Jim: The Men’s Singles began with Alex Landa vs. Shai Manzuri of Argentina. Shai is a crafty and skilled veteran and Alex had to bring his “A” game to the match. In the first, it was classic Alex Landa hitting scorching drive serves and blasting down-the-line and cross-court passes by Shai for winners. Landa 15-6. The second game saw a different Manzuri. He returned serve solidly and kept Alex in the backcourt with an exceptional forehand lob serve. A few errors by an over-aggressive Landa and some great shot-making by Manzuri catapulted him to an early 8-3 lead.  Alex, not wanting to go tiebreaker, found his Game #1 form and cruised past the Argentinian for a 15-9 win and a date with Juan Jose Salvatierra of Guatemala in the quarters.
 
Malia: The last match of the day was Jake vs. Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico, reigning World Champion). I will begin by sharing a message I received from a Jake fan. “Please for the love of all that is good, can you please stream Jake’s noon match tomorrow?” All I can say is, Jake did not disappoint his fans. His match was exciting, entertaining, and exhilarating. The match started with each player testing each other’s athleticism. Great shot-making coupled with diving gets contributed in this exciting match. Through the last few points, Jake was set on cruise control, winning 15-10. Second game, Montoya’s drive serves starting going in, but Jake managed some great returns. Finding himself down 10-7, Jake put himself in “beast mode.” Despite getting a technical for not having his wrist cord on when stepping back onto the court, Jake worked back into the game with his z-serves and, of course, his amazing shots and gets. Jake squeaked out the win in two straight games, 10 and 14. 

 

Jake Bredenbeck defeats Rodrigo Montoya in two straight games.

 
All four Americans advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals with the men’s matches at 12:00 pm and the women’s at 1:00 pm. Good luck, Team USA!!  πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
 
Team USA Summary of Results -- Thursday
#11 Kelani Lawrence def. #22 Aisling Hickey (Ireland), 7-15, 15-12, 11-5
#11 Kelani Lawrence def. #6 Carla Muñoz (Chile), 15-8, 15-13
 
#15 Rhonda Rajsich def. #18 Merynanyelly Delgado (Dominican Republic), 14-15, 15-3, 11-5
#15 Rhonda Rajsich def. #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada (Argentina), 5-15, 15-5, 11-10
 
#1 Alex Landa def. #16 Shai Manzuri (Argentina), 15-6, 15-9
 
#4 Jake Bredenbeck def. #14 Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico), 15-10, 15-14
 
Question of the Day
If you had to spend a month on a deserted island and could only take three items, what would they be? 
(Note: People are not items; and sadly, there is no WiFi.)
 
Alex -- Book, picture of my daughter, and my racquet
 
Charlie -- Telescope, ukulele, astronomy book
 
Kelani -- Sunscreen, fishing pole, knife
 
Rodger -- Bible, tacos, and 30-day supply of margaritas 
 
Erika -- If I don’t have supplies: a tent, warm sleeping bag, a multi utensil tool. If I have supplies, things so I don’t get bored!! If there’s another island that I can talk to people with a walkie talkie? (If so, a walkie talkie). Paper and pencil for drawing. 
 
Jim -- Knife, fire starter, water
 
Jake -- Good book. Month’s supply of whiskey and scotch. My dog. 
 
Malia -- My Bible, my hunting dog, and fishing gear
 
Rhonda -- A book, a knife, TRX straps
 
Cheryl -- Fire starter, flashlight/batteries, protein bars, blanket, insect repellent, book. Yes, that’s technically seven, but it’s my blog. I need stuff, and I always break my own rule on this question. 
 
Little Green Frog in the Blog
People at international events often bring small gifts for others. Allan Chacon Salgado, a friend from Costa Rica and one of their junior coaches, arrived today, and I became the grateful recipient of a keychain featuring a rana (frog) found only in Costa Rica. “Oh, how cute! It’s a little green frog,” I enthused. “Allan, thank you! What is it called? Como se llama?”
 
I was thinking he would say something that maybe included the genus, order, species, etc., por ejemplo, Agalychnis callidryas. Allan gazed into space thoughtfully for a moment and said, “Little green frog.” 
 
Alrighty then. Well I love this keychain, even after finding out that this little guy (a real one) would be the furthest thing from kissing a frog that charmingly turns into a prince. Indeed, if you kissed him, you could die. He’s poisonous. 
 
I don’t need a frog prince anyway -- I have the charming Kit Lawson. πŸ’šπŸΈ

 

Little Green Frog in the Blog Keychain

 
Friday’s Schedule for Team USA -- Singles Day
12:00 pm -- #1 Alex Landa vs. #9 Juan Jose Salvatierra (Guatemala)
 
1:00 pm -- #11 Kelani Lawrence vs. #3 Angy Barrios (Bolivia)
1:00 pm -- #15 Rhonda Rajsich vs. #7 Maria Renee Rodriguez (Guatemala)
 
3:00 pm -- #3 Jake Bredenbeck vs. #6 Mario Mercado (Colombia) -- scheduled for live streaming
 
Saturday’s Schedule for Team USA -- Doubles Day
4:00 pm -- #4 Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa vs. #5 Juan Francisco Cueva/Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador)
4:00 pm -- #6 Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla vs. #3 Angy Barrios/Micaela Meneses (Bolivia)
 
Live Streaming Schedule and Link
Apologies for my misstatement last night about streaming. Pablo Fajre and Dean Baer set up all the equipment today in readiness for streaming to begin tomorrow with the quarterfinals. The schedule is generally available first thing in the morning of each competition day for the day ahead at www.internationalracquetball.com
 
As this blog was being written, a message came through with the following streaming schedule for Friday:
 
11:00 -- Moscoso (Bolivia) vs. Parrilla (Mexico)
12:00 -- Longoria (Mexico) vs. Salas (Mexico)
1:00 -- Ugalde (Ecuador) vs. Acuna (Costa Rica)
2:00 -- Martinez (Guatemala) vs. Mendez (Argentina)
3:00 -- Bredenbeck (USA) vs. Mercado (Colombia)
 
ENJOY!
 
For Team USA, a big thank you goes to Malia Bailey and Erika Manilla who have streamed matches onto Facebook over the past four days. I’m guessing if some of our matches aren’t streamed, our internal social media department (that would be Malia and Erika) will continue with their exemplary service!
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. Wishing Luke St. Onge a Happy 80th Birthday! Luke is a real treasure and a historian for Racquetball. He has been under the weather over the last month, and we wish him a speedy recovery so he can get back on the courts asap! 

 

View at nighttime

 

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Blog #5
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
 
Coach Jim Reports on the Day
Jake Bredenbeck started the day off for Team USA against the speedy Kim Mingyu of Korea. Jake (The Beast) was in no mood to play around. He kept his foot on the gas for the entire match, never letting Kim feel comfortable or gain any momentum. The Korean champion had game but he was no match for “The Beast.” It was Jake, 15-4, 15-2.
 
IRT stalwart Alex Landa was up next vs. Costa Rica’s veteran Felipe Camacho. Alex’s concentration and skill were evident from the start. He was blasting perfect drive serves that Camacho had no chance of returning effectively. When Camacho did manage to get into a rally, Alex’s precise shot making were too much for the Costa Rican. Camacho is known for his excellent retrieval skills and he gamely fought to win points, but Alex kept him off balance by hitting behind him and mixing pinches and passes superbly. Indeed, Alex was hitting on all cylinders and took the match, 15-5, 15-4.
 
Our third match of the day featured Rhonda Rajsich against the ever-improving Aisling Hickey of Ireland. Hickey is an old school control player, and her game was keeping Rhonda guessing. Hickey served well and controlled the rallies, running out to a 14-10 lead. Then Rhonda found her stroke and serve. She stormed back with her patented serve and shooting game, nipping her Irish opponent for a 15-14 win. The second game was all Rhonda. Her game was flowing, and Hickey had no answer. Rhonda’s powerful and precise backhand won point after point, and her forehand was devastating as well. Rajsich, 15-0.

 

Rhonda Rajsich in action at the IRF World Championships.

 

USA’s first doubles match pitted Pratt and Landa against Cottrell and Tynan of Ireland. Hats off to these two Irish lads for making the trip to Guatemala to test themselves against the world’s best. Charlejandro were just too much for the gentlemen, and there was no Irish luck this day. Landa and Pratt, 15-3, 15-2.
 
The final match of the day was a much-anticipated one with Rhonda Rajsich and Erika Manilla (Erikonda) matched up against the finalists at the recent LPRT stop in Chicago, Natalia Mendez and Valeria Centellas. Both games followed a similar pattern with Erikonda playing steady and smart and running out to a four or five point lead, only to see it slip away. The Argentinians fought back with intense play from both sides. Centellas was scrappy and getting to every shot, and Mendez was finishing off the rallies with rollout winners. Centellas’ lob serve was effective, and the Argentinians took advantage, running away with wins in both games. 
 
Team USA Summary of Results
#3 Jake Bredenbeck def. #17 Kim Mingyu (Korea), 15-4, 15-2
#1 Alex Landa def. #15 Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), 15-5, 15-4
#9 Rhonda Rajsich def. #21 Aisling Hickey (Ireland), 15-14, 15-0
#3 Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa def. #11 Ken Cottrell/Eoin Tynan (Ireland), 15-3, 15-2
#2 Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla lost to #8 Natalia Mendez/Valeria Centellas (Argentina), 9-15, 6-15
 
Question of the Day
Where is your favorite place in the world?
 
Alex -- Rball court
 
Charlie -- Maui
 
Kelani -- At home cuddling with Sam (hubs) and Nala (pup)
 
Jim -- The Northern Coast and Forests of California
 
Rodger -- Anywhere with my family
 
Cheryl -- 1. Home, 2. Southwestern U.S.
 
Rhonda -- Someplace I haven’t been yet...Amalfi Coast? Santorini? Bali? Bora Bora? Malta? 
 
Jake -- Home is my favorite place to be. 
 
Erika -- Country wise that I have visited, Spain. The culture, the people, walking everywhere on cobblestone… Absolutely amazing! Other than a country, favorite place is wherever my whole family meets every year. Sometimes it’s only a couple times, sometimes every month (can be tough to coordinate schedules) but whenever I’m with all my siblings, parents, nieces/nephews it doesn’t matter where we are, it’s simply the best place! 
 
Team USA’s Secret Weapon -- Rodger Fleming
We are extremely fortunate for the presence, service, skill, and knowledge of Rodger Fleming, our athletic trainer. Rodger worked 10 years in professional baseball; toured with a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musician; worked on the set of “42” as an athletic trainer and Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) for a lead actor; worked with Cirque Du Soleil performers from “Quidam” ... and much more. To say he is a master of his trade would be an understatement, and Team USA is the grateful recipient of Rodger’s care and expertise. This is his first time working with racquetball athletes, and he has fit in beautifully. 
Rodger holds a BA, Interdisciplinary Studies in Athletic Training from the University of Toledo. He owns Body Awareness Performance + Therapy in Macon, Georgia, a fitness recovery and wellness center. Find out more about Rodger and his business at www.bodyawarenessmacon.com. Also, check out his social media presence at Body Awareness Performance and Therapy on Facebook, @bodyawarenesstm on Instagram, and bodyawarenessga on Twitter. 
 
Rodger is married to his high school sweetheart, Michelle, and they have a son Chandler, 15. Thank you, Michelle and Chandler, for loaning Rodger to Team USA for this 10-day trip!

 

Team USA’s Secret Weapon -- Rodger Fleming (Athletic Trainer)

 
Friends Missed for Too Long
Although we haven’t all been together for a good long time at an IRF World Championships––August 2018 in Costa Rica, since this event is biennial and we missed 2020 due to the pandemic––we do tend to see a lot of the athletes from North, Central, and South America at IRT and LPRT pro stops. We usually don’t get to see, however, our friends from Ireland, Japan, and Korea. It’s so great to have them here! The limited English of the Koreans and Japanese (and our even-more-limited skills in their languages, as in “nonexistent”) is supplemented by technology, and we’re all grateful for enhanced opportunities to communicate. Of course, we all love memorializing our experiences with photos, and a few accompany this blog #5 on usaracquetball.com. Thank you to our friends who made very long trips to unite with their racquetball family members from 14 countries here in Guatemala!

 

Friends at the IRF World Championships

 
Juniors Arrive
The atmosphere of the club changed today when Juniors and their families began to arrive for practice to prepare for the IRF World Junior Championships to begin on Friday. Youthful energy (the 18-and-younger variety) was injected into the club! Welcome to the 104 players from nine countries who will compete here through December 11th for their own individual medals and team trophies. How great to have the future of our sport here with us. 

 

Junior Players begin to arrive at the IRF World Championships

 
Team USA wants to recognize with pride and admiration the athletes of the U.S. Junior National Team. They are not making the trip this year, but they continue to work hard in anticipation of next year’s event. We can’t wait to see you back in competition!
 
Thursday’s Schedule for Team USA
Now we’re in the main draws as of tomorrow morning. These draws look very different from the ones you may have been viewing over the past several days on www.internationalracquetball.com. Recall that for the singles divisions, it’s not a “single elimination” scenario since more matches will continue in order to assign a place to each and every male and female singles player competing here. This is because this event serves as a singles qualifier for The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, next July. 
 
Between four (and hopefully) six matches will be competed by Team USA on Thursday. 
 
10:00 am -- #11 Kelani Lawrence vs. #22 Aisling Hickey (Ireland)
A win at 10:00 am brings a 1:00 pm match vs. Carla Muñoz (Chile)
 
10:00 am -- #15 Rhonda Rajsich vs. #18 Merynanyelly Delgado (Dominican Republic)
A win at 10:00 am brings a 1:00 pm match vs. #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada (Argentina)
 
12:00 pm -- #1 Alex Landa vs. 9:00 am winner of #17 Francis Guillemette (Canada) vs. #16 Shai Manzuri (Argentina)
 
12:00 pm -- #4 Jake Bredenbeck vs. 9:00 am winner of #19 Lee Connell (Canada) vs. #14 Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico)
 
The doubles teams, Charlejandro and Erikonda, will be cheering on their teammates competing in singles until their main draws begins on Saturday. 
 
Live Streaming Schedule 
Pablo Fajre and Dean Baer are in the house! The schedule is generally available first thing in the morning of each competition day for the day ahead. Go to www.internationalracquetball.com to discover which matches will be streamed on Thursday.
 
GO TEAM USA!!

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Blog #4
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Coaches Malia and Jim Recap Day Two

Going into today’s match against Korea’s Sumin Lee, we had no prior knowledge of her skill level. Kelani started with a good variety of serves testing her opponent. We quickly learned that Sumin Lee was quite formidable with an excellent backhand and beautiful drive serves. We established a serving game that kept the Korean from getting comfortable, and Kelani moved her strategically around the court using passes and pinches to claim the match in two games, 15-7, 15-4. 

The second game of the day pitted Rhonda Rajsich (the reigning U.S. Singles and Doubles Champion) against Colombia’s Cristina Amaya who is currently ranked 15th on the LPRT. The first game started with both players trying to find the range with their drive serves. Rhonda was energized and her diving paid off. At 9-9, Amaya found the range with her drive serve and ran out to a 13-9 lead. Rhonda called a much-needed timeout and adjusted her service strategy. She went back onto the court and sided Amaya out. Rhonda proceeded to use a mix of precise Z-serves and lobs to Amaya’s forehand that generated easy setups. Rhonda put them away with powerful backhands down the line. Amaya had no answer, and Rhonda finished her off 15-13. In Game 2, Amaya jumped to a big lead with a barrage of perfect drive serves to Rhonda’s backhand. Rhonda’s stroke was a little off, and she skipped enough shots to make Amaya‘s job easier. The Colombian stayed solid and finished off Game 2, 15-5. In the tiebreaker, Cristina’s drive serves were wickedly productive in keeping Rhonda pinned in the back corner and stretching to hit an effective return. Rhonda was getting some setups of her own when she won the serve, but she struggled to capitalize on them. Amaya ran out to a 10-3 lead. Rajsich mounted a tough comeback, diving and hustling to extend the rallies. She got to 10-5 before Cristina sided her out and hit another excellent drive serve and then a perfect down-the-line winner off of a slightly long ceiling ball. Game and match to Amaya.

Rhonda Rajsich and Christina Amaya with referee before their match.

Team USA -- Summarizing Tuesday’s Results

#11 Kelani Lawrence def. #14 Lee Sumin (Korea), 15-7, 15-4

#9 Rhonda Rajsich lost to #16 Cristina Amaya (Colombia), 15-13, 5-15, 5-11

Americans (Et al.) in Guatemala 

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Travers’ wife Victoria and little daughter Gladys Celine today at the club. Tom now lives in Guatemala and is a business owner here in addition to coaching the Costa Rican team. Gladys is fourteen months old and seems well on her way to mastering Tom’s cell phone. Victoria asked for a photo of little Gladys with me, which I loved a lot more than Gladys did. I usually have a way with kids, but Gladys immediately started crying. Was it the stranger holding her or the interruption of the video she was watching? We’ll never know, since she can’t talk yet. 

Tom Travers and Family  Cheryl with Tom Travers' crying child

Besides the U.S. Team Delegation (and Tom), we also have several other Americans here. Dean Schear (Texas) manages WADA (anti-doping) for the IRF, and Gary Mazaroff (New Mexico) is the very experienced and highly tenured floor manager of the event. And, we have heard a rumor from a very good source that Dean Baer (New York) will be arriving to assist Pablo Fajre with streaming. That rounds out the “Americans in Guatemala” feature of Blog #4.

But wait.

It’s a pleasure to additionally take this opportunity to name each of the referees (arbitros) I mentioned as a group in Blog #2. Many thanks to these individuals for their expertise and long hours in support of Racquetball and the IRF:

Fabian Torres, Francisco Gómez (Colombia), Ricardo Gonzalez, Jaime Martell, Ivan Valdez, Susy Acosta, Diana Aguilar, Christian Longoria, Alejandro Morales (Mexico), Alvar Yañez (Chile), Miguel Santiago (Puerto Rico), Franco Capandegui (Argentina), Fernando Perez, Hanzel Martinez, Julian Cruz, Geovani Mendoza (Guatemala). Joining the group as the Juniors arrive and begin to compete are referees Merynanyelly Delgado, Ramon De Leon (Dominican Republic), Cristina Amaya (Colombia), and Roland Keller (Bolivia).

Referee group at the World Championships

Staff members deserve so much gratitude and respect as well for their time and expertise. Mauro Grandio (Argentina), who has and is expertly organizing so many of the behind-the-scenes IRF functions, is joined at the tournament desk by Pablo Berriel, Adrian Macrino, and Veronique Guillemette (Argentina). Maria Paz Riquelme (Colombia) is working on the social media aspects of this event.   

IRF  staff Pablo and Mauro

Thanks to all!

Question of the Day

What are your favorite three movies?

Alex -- Scarface, Man on Fire, Titanic 

Charlie -- Dances with Wolves, The Martian, The Lion King

Kelani -- White Chicks, Legally Blonde, Zootopia

Erika -- I have no idea!! Childhood favorite, Annie. Love any of those cheesy chick flicks, and/or a good action packed movie. 

Jim -- The Big Lebowski, Love Actually, Doctor Strangelove

Rodger -- Anything from Marvel comics

Cheryl -- My Cousin Vinny, Wonder Woman, The Sound of Music

Rhonda -- Jaws, Warrior, The Conjuring

Malia -- Any and all of the Kendrick Brother movies. And then of course John Wick.

Wednesday’s Match Lineup

10:00 am -- #3 Jake Bredenbeck vs. #17 Kim Mingyu (Korea)

11:00 am -- #1 Alex Landa vs. #15 Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica)

1:00 pm -- #9 Rhonda Rajsich vs. #21 Aisling Hickey (Ireland)

3:00 pm -- #3 Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa vs. #11 Ken Cottrell/Eoin Tynan (Ireland)

4:00 pm -- #2 Rhonda Rajsich/Erika Manilla vs. #8 Natalia Mendez/Valeria Centellas (Argentina)

The matches on Wednesday are the last of the round robin seeding rounds. Results from these past three days will now be used to create the main draws that will be played out in the last half of the tournament, resulting in finals and individual/team medals presentations next Monday, December 6th

Sunset over Guatemala CIty

GO TEAM USA!!

 
Blog #3
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Monday, November 29, 2021
 
Compliments and congratulations to the Guatemala National Racquetball Association for the debut of their racquetball facility: Domo Complejo de Racquetball. Nine beautiful courts awaited the players from the 14 countries. A tenth will be completed soon, but these nine are more than sufficient for the IRF’s needs at these World Championships. Our compliments, Guatemala, for producing this wonderful contribution to international racquetball!

 

Picturesque Mountains from the IRF World Championships

 

The weather today couldn’t have been prettier (sunny and 70s). Off in the distance just before entering the club are picturesque mountains and a couple of active volcanoes thrown in for good measure. They erupt from time to time, with not really fire but black smoke visible from a long distance. 

 
Coach Jim Recaps Day One
Alex Landa started the day for Team USA by defeating Ramon De Leon of the Dominican Republic. De Leon was quick and forced Alex to hit precise shots to produce winners. De Leon was a tough competitor, but Landa mixed his drive serves up well and used a great lob down the forehand side to win game one 15-5. The second game was hard fought with both players digging for the win. Alex started slow but soon found his game hitting down-the-line forehand winners with devastating accuracy. His return of serve made points difficult to come by for De Leon and he continued to serve well. Alex finished strong, winning the second game 15-7.

 

View of the racquetball courts from the IRF World Championships

 

Alex Landa vs. Dominican Republic in Men's Singles Pool Play


Jake Bredenbeck was next up against Juan Francisco Cueva of Ecuador. Cueva came out of the gate strong and jumped to a 4-0 lead. Jake was having trouble settling into his game, and Cueva took advantage of his mistakes. Cueva got a few points on questionable penalty hinders, and Jake had to shake off the calls and get to work. He finished the first game looking a little sharper but lost 15-11. In the second game, a settled and focused Jake took charge, hitting photon serves followed by scorching winners. He took the game easily 15-2. The tiebreaker was more of the same. Jake’s serve and shooting style was too much for Cueva. Jake took the tiebreaker and the match, 11-2. 
 
Match #3 was Kelani Bailey Lawrence against the highly regarded Maria Jose Vargas of Argentina. Both of these women have been playing well on the LPRT this fall. Kelani started well, hitting good serves and following them up with winning backhand pinches and forehands down the line. Vargas was making some uncharacteristic errors, leaving balls off the back wall that Kelani put away. Kelani’s ability to take balls out of the air and put them away kept the pressure on Vargas. Kelani stayed focused and tough, beating Vargas 15-11 in the first. Vargas bore down in the second game, playing her usual aggressive game style. Kelani fought hard stretching and getting to Vargas’s shots, but Kelani’s own offense sputtered a bit and Vargas took advantage, winning the second 15-7. The tiebreaker was a tough battle with both players digging deep. Kelani found her offense and was scoring well hitting pinch winners and precise shot down the lines. Vargas’s game was also sharp. Her drive serve was getting her setups that she was ripping both down the line and cross court.  At 7-5, Vargas went on a run aided by two penalty hinders that could easily have been called replays. That and some stellar playing brought Vargas the victory with an 11-5 tiebreaker win. 
 
Next up, Legendary Team Captain Rhonda Rajsich took on the young lioness from Team Argentina, Natalia Mendez. Rhonda came out firing, hitting backhand winners down the line and drive serving to the left side. Mendez quickly found her own game and the battle was on. They traded points, both serving and shooting with style. Rhonda’s drive serve stopped going in, and Mendez was handling the lob second serve well. Rhonda stalled out, and Mendez’s serve and shooting game was catching fire. Mendez took a close first game, 15-10. In Game 2, Rajsich began using a Z-serve to Mendez’s forehand that produced weak returns and points for Rhonda. Mendez has a unique backhand drive serve that is both precise and hard to read. She slices it, and the spin can produce errors from her opponent. She used it well in Game 2. Rhonda, always the warrior, battled Mendez right to the end. Natalia proved too much on this day and finished the game and match, 15-11. 
 
The next match was a long and exciting one between Team Captain Charlie Pratt and partner Alex “Chulo” Landa (the team now known far and wide as “Charlejandro”) vs. Cueva and Ugalde of Ecuador. Charlejandro were in control of Game 1, running out to a 14-10 lead. The Ecuadorians found a lob serve to the middle that gave Charlejandro some trouble. They skipped a few, left a few ceiling balls off the back wall, and BAM: Cueva and Ugalde had Game 1 in their pocket, 15-14. In Game 2, “El Capitan” Pratt caught fire, hitting near-perfect nick lobs and following them up with rollout backhand winners. Charlejandro took Game 2, 15-5. The tiebreaker saw the Ecuadorians playing superbly. Both Cueva and Ugalde were putting away their setups, and Team Charlejandro had a brouhaha on their hands. Landa was hitting an amazing variety of forehands for winners. Reverse forehand pinches, wide angle passes, and tight down-the-lines kept Ecuador guessing. Pratt was tough on the backhand side, and they took the tiebreaker, 11-10.

 

USA vs. Ecuador in Men's Doubles Pool Play at the IRF World Championships

 
In the last match of the day Rhonda “Captain” Rajsich and Erika Manilla, the team notoriously now known as “Erikonda,” took on the Canadian team of Lambert and Iwaasa. Erikonda started strong and never looked back. They mixed power with finesse and kept Canada continuously off balance. Erika mixed up her serves using wide jams, Z’s, and drives down the line. Erikonda took advantage of nearly every setup offered up to them. They won the first, 15-7. The second game, Erikonda really settled in and never let Team Canada get into the game, serving up a donut to take the match. 
 
Team USA -- Summarizing Monday’s Results
#1 Alex Landa def. #14 Ramon De Leon (Dominican Republic), 15-5, 15-7
#3 Jake Bredenbeck def. #12 Juan Francisco Cueva (Ecuador), 11-15, 15-2, 11-2
#11 Kelani Lawrence lost to #2 Maria Jose Vargas (Argentina), 15-11, 7-15, 5-11
#9 Rhonda Rajsich lost to #4 Natalia Mendez (Argentina), 10-15, 11-15
#3 Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa def. #6 Juan Francisco Cueva/Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 14-15, 15-5, 11-10
#2 Erika Manilla/Rhonda Rajsich def. #5 Frederique Lambert/Alexis Iwaasa (Canada), 15-7, 15-0
 
Question of the Day
What are your biggest pet peeves?
 
Charlie -- When someone doesn’t say “thank you” when you hold the door for them, bad parking, speaker-phone conversations in public
 
Alex -- Bad drivers 
 
Kelani -- Flakes, Fakes, Fights
 
Erika -- Alex Landa and Jake Bredenbeck telling me to laugh quieter πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ (just kidding!) they are the best teammates (I laugh loud, we all know it!) 
 
Jim -- Litter bugs, poorly built scofflaw trails, poorly informed decision makers
 
Jake -- Bad drivers, willful ignorance, lack of effort
 
Rodger -- Bad drivers, talking during a movie, loud cell phone games
 
Rhonda -- Snowbirds, people who drive slower than 90 (or at least the ones who don’t get out of my way while I’m doing 95), stupidity
 
Cheryl -- “Experts” who don’t have a clue, bad grammar and punctuation (bet you saw that one coming), having something go on sale right after you bought it
 
Tuesday’s Schedule
It will be a light day since four of the six possible matches have the bye in their round robin pools. Kelani and Rhonda will play their matches in the morning, and Tuesday really becomes a leisure day for Team USA from then on. 
 
10:00 am -- #11 Kelani Lawrence vs. #14 Lee Sumin (Korea)
11:00 am -- #9 Rhonda Rajsich vs. #16 Cristina Amaya (Colombia)
 
All divisions and draws can be viewed on the International Racquetball Federation website at https://www.internationalracquetball.com/xx-world-racquetball-championships-guatemala-2021/.
 
Live streaming will begin later this week, starting with quarterfinal matches and going all the way through to the finals. Look for more info here as it becomes available, and a link should be available right on the home page of the website. 
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 

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Blog #2
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Sunday, November 28, 2021
 
Yep, it was a busy one, all right! The athletes practiced this morning, then pursued other activities like eating, for instance. We definitely have some foodies, and tacos seem to be the favorite so far. I had the opportunity to visit Lavka yesterday, the vegan/vegetarian restaurant owned by Maria Renee Rodriguez’s father Horacio. It was beyond scrumptious. I have photos of the menu. 

 

Team USA Delegation

 
But hey, let’s talk racquetball. Today, as mentioned, at the end of yesterday’s blog, it all began with the Coaches and Delegates meeting where much information was imparted, entry fees were paid, passports were checked for citizenship, and the draws were delivered to the countries. Read on later for Team USA’s first-day match schedule.

 

Coaches and Delegates Meeting

 
In the meantime, though, there are 14 countries competing for gold and glory here in Guatemala City -- Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, USA. 
 
The referees (in Spanish, arbitros) met next, and we grabbed a great group photo before their meeting started. They are the unsung heroes of each event, officiating many hours a day, which ensures that athletes get experienced referees and never have to think about being referees themselves. 

 

The referees, our unsung heroes.

 

 
At 6:00 pm, the World Congress was called to order, consisting of an official voting delegate from each country and a few more as well. We were so happy to see that the Japanese athlete and delegate in attendance have secured an interpreter who will help them be able to communicate more easily and feel more a part of the event. 
 
The World Congress meeting was about 2.5 hours long. Part of this was the expected challenge of translating back and forth between English and Spanish. Marie Gomar, with her perfect fluency in both languages, was another unsung hero today. She performs this service frequently, both formally and informally. It’s exhausting and time-consuming, but her sincere desire to assist with a smile is genuine and so appreciated.
 
The other reason for the length of the meeting was the full agenda that included minutes approvals; financial reports and an anti-doping update from Dean Schear; elections; and the President’s report that included three topics from the Technical Committee. A rules change will be coming relative to appeals; a change to future Junior division age categories will be announced; and the World Congress voted to direct the IRF Technical Committee and Executive Committee to apply the concept, research, and details of implementing rally scoring for the IRF. The latter, while a significant change in international racquetball, is a valuable long-term investment in our sport. More to come on all of the above...
 
Regarding elections, three IRF Board Executive Committee members were re-elected at-large by the World Congress and then voted by the Board itself to remain in their roles: President Osvaldo Maggi (Argentina), Vice President Marcelo Gómez Pacheco (Costa Rica), and Secretary Cheryl Kirk (USA).  

 

Group in front of standup from World Delegation Meeting

 
Let’s jump over to Team USA! Introducing the wildly popular Question of the Day that generally has racquetball fans (and also people who don’t have a solid clue about the sport) perched on the edges of their seats in anticipation. Here we go.
 
Question of the Day
Tell us something about yourself that the racquetball family doesn’t know about you.
 
Charlie Pratt -- I am very interested in astronomy.
 
Kelani Lawrence -- I don’t drink coffee.
 
Erika Manilla -- Many people within the racquetball family don’t know that I’m the youngest of 5! One brother, who many of you know, and three sisters (yes my brother is very lucky!). I am also blessed with 9 nieces/nephews! Other things that many people do not know is that I have my Bachelor’s degree in BioMedical Science, studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica, and will get my Master’s in Business and Administration in 3 weeks! 
 
Jake Bredenbeck -- I have a passion for cars. 
 
Alex Landa -- Diligently preparing for his match, he’ll chime in tomorrow.
 
Jim Durham -- When I fly fish, I’m happy if I don’t catch anything because at least I didn’t ruin a fish’s day. (Blogger’s note: Aww, love that!)
 
Malia Bailey -- Kelani (Bailey) Lawrence participated in the World Games in Holland in 1993 as her mother was pregnant with her at the time. Her mom placed 2nd to Michelle Gould. I guess you could say that makes Kelani the youngest player ever to compete in the World Games. 
 
Cheryl Kirk -- I like to memorize things, like “T’was the Night Before Christmas (A Visit from St. Nick), Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Also the baseball part (plus the rest) of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf.
 
Speaking of baseball, and continuing...
Rodger Fleming (new athletic trainer, first time with Team USA) -- Everything, but my name! Worked 10 yrs. in professional baseball. Tour(ed) with a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musician. Worked with Cirque Du Soleil performers from “Quidam.”
 
Rhonda Rajsich -- My dad’s whole side of the family played professional sports. My father: Pro baseball (2 years) and semi-pro basketball; his brother, Tim, pro baseball (2 years); his brother, David, pro baseball, several teams, has a World Series ring with the Yankees; his brother, Gary, also pro baseball for several teams, World Series ring with the Red Sox as a scout; his brother, Robert, still holds the record for the longest punt at the University of Miami (79 yards), then kicked for the Chargers, then became a professional golfer. (Blogger’s note: This explains a lot, Rhonda!)

 

Rhonda Rajsich, Erika Manilla, Charlie Pratt, Alex Landa, Jake Bredenbeck, Kelani Lawrence, and Rodger Fleming

 
Monday’s Schedule -- Day One of Competition
It’s time for action! The first part of the tournament is a round robin format, seeded by countries’ past results. The outcome will determine the seeding for the main (aka medals) draws. 
 
Here’s the Monday lineup:
 
10:00 am -- #1 Alex Landa vs. #14 Ramon De Leon (Dominican Republic)
11:00 am -- #3 Jake Bredenbeck vs. #12 Juan Francisco Cueva (Ecuador)
12:00 pm -- #11 Kelani Lawrence vs. #2 Maria Jose Vargas (Argentina)
1:00 pm -- #9 Rhonda Rajsich vs. #4 Natalia Mendez (Argentina)
3:00 pm -- #3 Charlie Pratt/Alex Landa vs. #6 Juan Francisco Cueva/Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador)
4:00 pm -- #2 Erika Manilla/Rhonda Rajsich vs. #5 Frederique Lambert/Alexis Iwaasa (Canada)
 
Okay, we’re settled in, settled down, and ready to go to work. Tomorrow night’s blog will include match results, coach comments, and continuing stories from Guatemala. Stick with us, there’s so much more to come!
 
GO TEAM USA!!

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Blog #1
International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Racquetball Championships
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Saturday, November 27, 2021
 
Greetings from Guatemala City, where the entire U.S. Team Delegation had arrived as of Friday. Team members will compete here in Singles and Doubles over the next week against 13 other countries. 
 
Introducing the U.S. Team Delegation
Let’s meet the Dream Team for this ten-day event!
 
Alejandro (Alex) Landa, Texas: #1 Singles
Jake Bredenbeck, Minnesota: #2 Singles
Charlie Pratt, Oregon, and Alex Landa: Doubles
 
Rhonda Rajsich, Arizona: #1 Singles
Kelani Bailey Lawrence, Virginia: #2 Singles
Erika Manilla (Colorado) and Rhonda Rajsich: Doubles
 
Supporting our US Team Athletes:
Jim Durham, California: Head Coach
Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey, Virginia: Assistant Coach
Rodger Fleming, Georgia: Athletic Trainer
Cheryl Kirk, Illinois: Team Leader   
 
Horizon of Guatemala from the plane.
 
Travelogue
Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala), is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 17.6 million, it is the most populous country in Central America and is the 11th most populous country in the Americas. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America.  
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemala
 
CurrencyQuetzal - same as the National Bird (about Q7.50 to $1 USD)
Population (Guatemala): 17.61 million
Population (Guatemala City): c.995,000
PresidentAlejandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla (2020- )
Official languageSpanish
 
Friday/Saturday -- Getting the Lay of the Land
We guess everyone else was either in stores or eating leftovers at their Thanksgiving weekend destinations, because Black Friday was a really good day to travel. Light traffic, planes not packed...lovely. Erika Manilla and I did experience mild (!?) disappointment about the lack of Black Friday deals in the Houston airport, but besides that, spirits are high. 
 
Six of us came in on one plane at 6 pm (the time here is the same as U.S. Central time); three touched down several hours later; and Coach Jim’s late night arrival rounded out the delegation. Everyone’s bags arrived, and we’re ready to roll (out). 
 
A Tail in Guatemala
 
Overview of Guatemala City, Guatemala from the plane.From the Internet: A detection dog or sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to use its senses to detect substances such as explosives, illegal drugs, wildlife scat, currency, blood, and contraband electronics such as illicit mobile phones. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detection_dog

 

Further, did you know... Although a human brain is ten times larger, the part that controls smell is 40 million times larger in dogs! While we have up to five million scent receptors, dogs can have as many as 300 million, though this varies depending on the breed.) 
Source: https://www.scottsdalepethotel.com/dogs-senses-compare-humans/
 
So where this is going is that there was a tense moment at the airport when a sniffer dog (a beautiful Husky) paid special attention to my bag, perhaps more than other bags around me. Uh-oh. What could be in there that he’s interested in?? All turned out well, I was “released” with no inspection, and when I unpacked later, I rediscovered the three bags of dog treats I brought along. That explained everything. Good doggie. 
 
Team Meeting, Etc.
Saturday morning at 9:30 saw all delegation members in Coach Jim’s room for our first team meeting. A number of topics were discussed:  format of the tournament, safety and security, COVID procedures (of course), team rules, using our athletic trainer to our best advantage, international competition protocols, rules differences, etc. 
 
The team went over to the Domo Complejo de Racquetball for practice this afternoon and all are complimentary of the nine beautiful new courts. Afterward some team members relaxed by the pool, and several went for tacos. 

 

Alex Landa, Kelani Lawrence, Charlie Pratt, and Coach Jim Durham after the first day of practice.

 
The traditional trip to the grocery store for (a lot of) water, snacks, fruit, bread, peanut butter, jelly, maybe a cookie or two, took a non-traditional twist. We are so blessed with Marie Gomar’s friendship and assistance, and while the team practiced, she personally took me, along with our Canadian friends Jen Saunders and Michel Gagnon, to La Torre, a beautiful, clean, and well-stocked supermarket that even had Bacon and Cheddar Cheezits for our trainer Rodger. 

 

traditional trip to the grocery store for (a lot of) water, snacks, fruit, bread, peanut butter, jelly, maybe a cookie or two, took a non-traditional twist.

 
What’s Next?
Sunday’s schedule will be a busy one! While our athletes have their second practice scheduled from 10 am - noon, the Coaches and Delegates meeting will commence at 12:00 at the host hotel (where a great deal of information about the event will be given, especially the draws/match schedules for the first phase of competition). At 6:00, Coach Jim, Coach Malia, and I will attend the IRF World Congress meeting. 
 
Matches will begin on Monday, and we can’t wait to see Team USA in action! Ending with the traditional phrase, and feeling the support from the States...
 
GO TEAM USA!!