What an event in Salt Lake City! The Salt Lake City Aces lived up to its advanced billing as the “Player’s Stop,” hosting several tournament parties, providing endless hospitality, and showcasing the world’s best R48 and WPH Outdoor stars in one of the best facilities on tour.
7 Overtime Finishes at the Aces: The 2016 Salt Lake City Aces featured more overtime games and matches than any event in R48 history, with a number of critical matches being decided by mere inches. Billy O’Donnell rallied from a 20-24 deficit in the final round of qualifying to defeat Abraham Montijo, 26-24, while David Fink and Vic Perez won overtimes games in the R48 round of 16. Mando Ortiz survived five match points to force overtime in game two of his opening round R48 match against Luis Cordova (more on that below), while Luis Cordova needed overtime to defeat Ireland’s Peter Funchion in the 9th place playoffs. Alfredo Morales was pushed to overtime in defeating Shorty Ruiz in their quarterfinal WPH Outdoor clash, while O’Donnell also forced into overtime in defeating Shorty Ruiz in the first round of the 9th place playoffs. Of the seven overtime games or matches, three involved cross over star Shorty Ruiz (0-3)
Junior WPH Park City Clinic: Junior WPH was thrilled to host a junior clinic with the WPH sponsored JR WPH Park City junior handball program. The enthusiastic youngsters were treated to sidearm stroke instruction, target-hitting competitions and cross-training exercises with R48 Elite 8 pros David Fink and Daniel Cordova. “These kids are like sponges to the game,” revealed WPH Coach McManus. “We have a group text with more than 20 junior players during all of the R48 broadcasts and we are always sending messages back and forth about all of the incredible shots and matches during the great broadcasts.” Thank you to WPH sponsored Park City JR program head coach Ted McManus, the juniors and the WPH pros.
Junior WPH R48 Showdown: Two of the youngest qualifier hopefuls in R48 history squared off in a special Junior R48 Showdown match, with California’s Anthony Sullivan and Canada’s Michael Gaulton staging a sensational junior showdown match before the main draw commenced. The pair of future R48 superstars traded the lead 15 times in the one game match to 25, with Gaulton rallying from a 20-24 deficit to take a 25-24 lead, only to see Sullivan score the final three points of the match with three straight kill shots to claim the showdown title, 27-25.
Tournament parties and banquets: The Ace Disposal Team ensured that players and fans were treated to one of the best tournament weekends in history, with endless hospitality, sensational tournament parties, and one of the most organized events in the sport. Thank you to the entire Ace volunteer staff for making all of the players and fans feel so welcomed and appreciated. We’ll all be back in 2017!
Marcos Chavez vs. Timbo Gonzalez: SR48 #1 and R48 top 20 pro Marcos Chavez faced the #1 1-Wall player on the planet and the WPH Outdoor V Stop #3 Downey singles and doubles champion Timbo Gonzalez in a sensational semifinal WPH Outdoor clash at the Aces. Chavez and Gonzalez played the longest WPH Outdoor match at the 2016 Salt Lake City Aces event, battling for 90 minutes in a three-game thriller. With the score tied at three in game one, Chavez relied on his 20+ years of 4-Wall pro experience to score 18 consecutive points against a less-experienced Gonzalez to take a 15-3, 6-0 lead. Gonzalez overcame his 4-Wall inexperience by using his outrageous speed and re-kill ability to bounce back, scoring 15 of the final 19 points of the second game to force a third game. The momentum shifted several times in the decider, with both players appearing to be in control at different moments. Two crucial errors from Gonzalez with the score tied at eight ceded the momentum to Chavez for good, as the 42-year old scored seven of the final nine points of the match to clinch victory against his rival nearly 20 years his junior
Mando Ortiz vs. Luis Cordova: Mando Ortiz and Luis Cordova staged one of the most exciting matches in R48 history in their pivotal round of 16 R48 match at the Aces. Cordova needed a victory to move into the Elite 8, while Ortiz was aiming to continue his stellar play in Salt Lake City on the court that saw him make the final last year and defeat Paul Brady in 2014. Cordova controlled the action in game one, using the ceiling and the difficult left side glass to take a one-game lead. Ortiz raced to a 9-3 lead in game two, but Cordova scored 11 of the next 13 points to serve for the match at 14-11. Cordova served twice at 14-11 and served for the match for a third time at 14-13. Cordova appeared to have won the match with a blistering drive right at Ortiz, but Ortiz stayed alive with a between-the-legs reprieve followed by a dive to keep the rally alive. The rally ended in a hinder, giving Cordova another chance to win the match. Cordova appeared to have won the match for the second time with a drive down the right wall, but Ortiz dove towards the right wall and feathered a flat rollout in the right corner to earn a side out. Ortiz forced overtime and dominated the tiebreaker, becoming just the sixth player in R48 history to face match point and win the match (more than 800 total matches). A victory would have likely secured a season-ending Elite 8 finish for Cordova, while Ortiz kept his hopes for a season-ending #2 ranking alive with his miraculous comeback
Juan Santos Clinches His 2nd WPH Outdoor Title of the Season: Juan Santos proved that he is not only the best 3-Wall Big Ball player in the world, but also one of the best 4-Wall Big Ball players. Santos dominated the WPH Outdoor field in Salt Lake City, sweeping Alfredo Morales and Marcos Chavez in Sunday morning’s semifinals and finals. With his second singles victory in four stops this season, Santos is in position to win the WPH Outdoor Player’s Cup for the fourth consecutive year in the WPH Outdoor Race 2 Vegas
Cinderella Stories at the Aces: The R48 produced two stunning first-round upsets at the Salt Lake City Aces, with Jonathan Iglesias upsetting 9-time Race 4 Eight champion Luis Moreno and Vic Perez stunning R48 #4 Killian Carroll. Iglesias and Perez became just the second qualifiers to face one another in the R48 quarterfinals (Aa. Garner vs. Selestow, Houston ’13), with Iglesias defeating his former college roommate to advance to his first R48 semifinal
The Race for the Elite 8 Heats up for Portland and the WPH R48 V Player’s Championship: The final regular season event of the R48 V season in Salt Lake City saw R48 pros jockeying for position in the for the Player’s Championship in Portland. The top six stars have solidified their spots in the R48 V Elite 8, with Portland’s matches set to determine the order in which Paul Brady, Sean Lenning, Mando Ortiz, Killian Carroll, Luis Moreno and Emmett Peixoto finish inside the top six. The final two spots in the Elite 8 are still up for grabs, with David Fink, Daniel Cordova, Luis Cordova and Jonathan Iglesias separated by just four ranking points. Portland will match the 8 vs. 9 and 7 vs. 10 seeds in the round of 16, meaning that the four R48 stars will determine their fates in head-to-head clashes. Daniel Cordova and Luis Cordova will meet in the 8 vs. 9 match and will become the first brothers to ever play in the R48 main draw. Not only will the brothers have sibling bragging rights on the line, but also a likely spot in the season-ending R48 V Elite 8!
WPH Senior Writer