Saturday featured the men’s and women’s 4-Wall semifinals, men’s 3-Wall big ball singles and doubles late round play, and men’s and women’s 1-Wall action at the Simple Green’s U.S. Open of Handball, honoring Naty Alvarado Sr.
Women’s 4-Wall Singles Final
Casey vs. Reilly
Catriona Casey entered the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open Women’s Final as the most dominant player in the history of the Race 4 Eight, as she had won every Race 4 Eight match in which she had started. Casey’s undefeated Race 4 Eight streak would be in jeopardy in the final against Aisling Reilly. Reilly defeated Casey to win the All Ireland Championships in April and the World Championship in August, while Casey captured the WPH Player’s Championship and USHA Four Wall Nationals in tiebreaker finals wins against Reilly. Tied at five in the first game of the Simple Green U.S. Open final, Casey scored 16 of the final 17 points of the game to take a one-game lead. Reilly regrouped between games one and two, playing with purpose and authority. Reilly used the walls and her devastating power to even the match at one game apiece. Casey raced to a 7-0 lead in the tiebreaker in her first service inning, seemingly just moments from clinching her eighth consecutive Women’s Race 4 Eight final. Reilly earned a side out and quickly evened the match at seven. With the gallery on the edge of their seats, the two greatest women players in the world traded points and side outs to a nine-all tie. Reilly scored the final two points of the match to secure her first Race 4 Eight title and to complete the World Championship-U.S. Open Double for the second time in her illustrious career. “It just feels great to have been able to replicate what I did in 2012 with the World Championship and U.S. Open titles,” revealed an ecstatic Reilly following the dramatic victory. “I just want to thank Naty Alvarado and the WPH for organizing such an incredible event and streaming the coverage across the world.”
Men’s 4-Wall Singles Semifinals
Brady vs. Lenning
Just less than two months removed from claiming his fifth consecutive World Handball Championship, Paul Brady faced the hottest player of the summer. Sean Lenning clinched his first major title of 2015 at the WPH Player’s Championship and added majors titles at the WPH Outdoor Xrossovoer Championships, the USHA Three Wall Nationals and the WPH/WOR 3WallBall Outdoor World Championships. Brady and Lenning dueled to a thrilling 11-10 tiebreaker in the finals of the 2007 Simple Green U.S. Open, and Lenning fans were hoping that Lenning’s recent form and near misses against Brady would propel “The Freak” to his first win against “The Gunner.” Lenning started quickly against Brady, defending Brady’s best serves and applying pressure with his dominating serve and unique shot making abilities. Lenning took a one-game lead against a seemingly out-of-sorts Brady, 21-14. Brady assumed control in game two, building a 10-2 lead and poised to force a third game. Three hand errors and a Lenning hot streak quickly led to a tie at 12, and with the pair tied at 15, Lenning stood just six points from defeating Brady for the first time. With Brady clearly uncomfortable and unable to end rallies with his normally reliable kill shot, a seemingly exhausted Lenning was unable to capitalize, losing the final six points of the game. With Brady serving at 1-2 in the tiebreaker and winning a seven-shot rally, Lenning argued that the ball had broken during the rally. After a close inspection of the ball by the referee, the ball was deemed to be intact. Brady’s first serve did break the ball, inciting an eruption from Lenning and the pro-Lenning gallery. Brady used the controversy to fuel him, as he discovered the game that has made him one of the sport’s greatest ever champions. Brady fired four aces and added five kills to score nine consecutive points to advance to the final.
Final: Brady vs. Moreno
Moreno vs. McCarthy
Luis Moreno and Robbie McCarthy met for the third time in Race 4 Eight play in 19 months, with McCarthy winning their first two encounters, including the finals of the 2014 WPH Player’s Championship. Moreno and McCarthy battled for nearly two-and-half hours for a spot in the final, with both late 20’s stars extending rallies with spectacular athleticism and keeping one another off-guard with massive hops and off-speed offerings. Moreno grabbed a 15-5 first-game lead and held off a late McCarthy charge to win 21-17. McCarthy appeared to have worn down Moreno in the second, as he cruised to a 21-11 victory. The tiebreaker produced one of the event’s most spectacular finishes, complete with controversy and incredible handball. Several video replays and a controversial overturned call on a kill shot that was deemed to have not hit Moreno’s shorts led to the score being tied at eight. Moreno executed his best shots of the match, including a power serve ace down the right on match point to advance to the final.
Final: Brady vs. Moreno
Men’s 4-Wall Doubles Semifinals
World Doubles Champions Robbie McCarthy and Diarmaid Nash were upset by a white-hot Mando Ortiz and 2014 Simple Green U.S. Open Doubles Champion Vic Perez. McCarthy and Nash had little trouble in game one and after building a 10-1 lead in game two, the match appeared to be just a formality. Ortiz caught fire, quickly tying the score at 13 with a barrage of kills from virtually everywhere on the court. Perez played steady on the right side, allowing Ortiz to flourish as the roaming gunslinger as the Americans evened the match at one-game all. The Southern Californians raced to an 8-0 tiebreaker lead and advanced to the final after an Irish comeback fell just short.
The first-time team of Paul Brady and Emmett Peixoto encountered little difficulty in disposing of current national champions Sean Lenning and Marcos Chavez to book a date with Ortiz and Perez in the final.
Final: Perez/Ortiz vs. Peixoto/Brady
Top seeded Juan Santos was stunned in the quarterfinals by former WPH Outdoor finalist Vic Duran. Duran validated his spectacular upset by defeating Gabino Velazquez in the upper bracket semifinals to setup a clash with defending champion Samzon Hernandez in the final. Hernandez overcame Kevin Gonzalez and Ricky Ruiz in Saturday’s quarterfinals and semifinals to keep his hopes of a Simple Green repeat intact.
Final: Duran vs. Hernandez
Timbo Gonzalez remained undefeated in 1-Wall at the U.S. Open, cruising past 1-Wall legend Peewee Castro in two game to advance to the final. Second seeded Tywan Cook dropped the first game against New York rival Kadeem Bush before dominating the second and third games to meet his greatest rival in the final.
Final: Gonzalez vs. Cook
Top seeds Danielle Daskalakis and Sandy Ng would both need tiebreakers to advance to the Women’s 1-Wall singles final. Daskalakis survived a first-game loss to Karen McConney, while Sandy Ng survived match point in the second game against the ageless wonder Yolanda Monroe to win a thrilling 11-8 tiebreaker.
Final: Daskalakis vs. Ng
Men’s 40+ Singles
Naty Alvarado Jr. eliminated good friend and weekly sparring partner Chris Watkins to advance to the 40+ final, while Marcos Chavez defeated former SR48 Player’s Champion Andy Schad to advance through the bottom bracket. Alvarado and Chavez will continue a pro rivalry that has often been heated and entertaining to watch in Sunday’s final.
Final: Alvarado vs. Chavez
To watch all of the action live, go to the Watch ESPN APP (here). Make sure you have an account with your cable company so you don’t miss a point! To follow all of the news from the world of handball and the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball, go to wphlive.tv. To follow the draws and results from the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball, click here
Broadcast Schedule Sunday:
ESPN Block 8am-4pm PST @ watchESPN.com, ESPN3.com or www.race4eight.com
8:00am – Luis Moreno vs Paul Brady – R48Pro Men’s Elite Finals
9:15am – Naty Alvarado vs Marcos Chavez- SR48Pro Men’s 40+ Finals
10:30pm – Men’s Pro Doubles Final
12:00pm – Men’s Big Ball 1 Wall Singles Final
1:00pm – Men’s Big Ball 3 Wall Final
2:00pm – Men’s 1 Wall Big Ball Doubles Final
3:00pm – Men’s 3 Wall Big Ball Doubles Final
WPH Senior Writer