Austin, TX, WPH Press, 11/17/19- The University of Texas Handball Team welcomed nearly 100 players to the famed Gregory Gym in Austin for the 2019 Texas Handball State Championships and R48/WR48 Pre Qualifiers. The majority of the Austin field was comprised of collegiate players, showcasing the present and future of handball.
R48 Pre Qualifier
Because two or more players currently ranked in the R48 top 25 entered the 2019 Texas Handball State Championships R48 Pre Qualifier, the winner would receive direct entry (bypassing the qualifier) and a travel stipend to the R48 IX Montana (January 24-26, 2020) of the R48 IX Houston (April 24-26, 2020).
The four favorites entering the Texas Handball State Championships R48 Pre Qualifier were R48 #22 Adam Bernhard, R48 #25 Loren Collado, R48 #25 Max Langmack, and former top 30 R48 pro Sam Esser. Joining Austin’s fearsome foursome were dangerous sharpshooters Memo Pallares, Garrett Bacon, Nate Frank, and Gary Scogin.
Bernhard survived a gauntlet en route to the final, overcoming a 4-21 first game loss in the quarterfinals to Memo Pallares to win in three games and defeating defending Texas State R48 Pre Qualifier champion Max Langmack to advance to the final.
Esser also survived a quarterfinal tiebreaker against MO State teammate Garrett Bacon then thumped the Olympic Club’s Loren Collado in the bottom bracket semifinal to advance to the final.
Very little separated Bernhard and Esser in the final, with both games coming down to a few shots. Esser was able to cross the line in both games with clutch shot making, earning the R48 Pre Qualifier title.
“I played pretty well,” stated Esser. “I bruised my left really bad in the semis against Loren so I just knew I had to make every shot count with my right and I was able to do that. I just tried to serve and shoot instead of getting into long defensive rallies with him because he is tough to beat that way.”
“That’s a good question,” remarked a baffled Bernhard in reference to the difference at the end of both games against Esser. “The first game I skipped about four shots and I don’t know why. I’m playing better but still a lot of slop and at least 10 back wall whiffs. Parts of Sam’s game are very high level.”
Bernhard def Langmack 21-15, 21-16
Esser def L. Collado 21-4, 21-8
Final: Esser def Bernhard 21-19, 21-16
Follow the results from the R48 Pre Qualifier bracket HERE
WR48 Pre Qualifier
Future hall of famer Jen Schmitt won the inaugural WR48 Pre Qualifier earlier this year in Austin and was aiming to go two for two in the pre qualifier on Sunday. Standing in Schmitt’s way would be fellow future hall of famer and WR48 stalwart Tracy Davis, tournament director Avery Shepherd, rising star Kristen Hughes, and a number of top collegiate stars.
Jen Schmitt cruised to the final in defense of her WR48 Pre Qualifier title that she won last spring, while Texas’ Kristen Hughes pushed Tracy Davis to the limit in the bottom bracket semifinal before Davis advanced.
Davis became the second WR48 Pre Qualifier champion (Schmitt) by defeating Schmitt in two games in the final, reestablishing herself as one of the top women’s players in the U.S. after a brief hiatus from the tournament scene with her convincing title run in Austin.
“The final was really good,” stated Davis, who had played a two-hour Men’s A final prior to the WR48 Pre Qualifier final. “Jen hit a lot of well-placed passing shots and she served tough Z serves to the left that kept her in the game. I was able to adjust enough to get into the rallies and my power serve helped to close the lead she was able to build. Fortunately I had enough left in the tank to close out the match.”
Davis def Hughes 21-11, 21-18
Final: Davis def Schmitt 21-14, 21-13
Follow the results from the WR48 Pre Qualifier bracket HERE
Follow all of the brackets from the 2019 Texas Handball State Championships and R48/WR48 Pre Qualifiers HERE
Thank you to tournament director Avery Shepherd, WPH all-star Kristen Hughes, and the University of Texas Handball Team for an outstanding event. Thank you to the Houston Handball Club for donating the travel stipend money for the pre qualifiers.
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WPH Senior Writer