The 2012/2013 Race4Eight Season II is here! The Elite 4 wall players travelled to the Simple Green US Open of Handball to kick everything off October 25th-28th in Fountain Valley, CA. Then, they made a trek a couple weeks later to Tucson, AZ, for the Annual Y2K/WPH pro stop November 8-11th. In Houston (stop #3), the WPH had one of the most inspirational events before hitting Alaska over Valentines weekend (replacing the cancelled Juarez event). Jake Plummer returned to Colorado in March, then Salt Lake City (April) and the Player’s Championship (Seattle, WA) in May.
The full race schedule is posted here>
You won’t believe it, but the WPH has also added a Senior Pro Tour; where 40+ participants can enter the last four stops of the season. Senior Tour information is here>
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[fancy_header variation=”red”]THE FINAL DAY RACE4EIGHT 2011/12 SEASON WRAP[/fancy_header]
What happened last season?
The Final day of the Race For 8 Tour provided unparalleled fireworks as The Player’s Champion was crowned, the Race winner was awarded, and the Super Ball team trophy was rewarded. The Washington Athletic Club hosted the best event in recent memory complete with the most passionate and educated fans, the best championship venue, and one of the greatest facilities in the world. “The culmination of the Race 4 Eight at the Washington Athletic Club ranks in the top five of all time great pro stops held over the past 39 years since the inception of professional handball tournaments,” Says WPH President, Fred Lewis. “This tournament came together like a gourmet chef creating a masterpiece of a dinner fit for kings and queens.” The Elite 8 were treated like royalty throughout the weekend and responded by playing inspired and sensational handball. All of the Elite 8 spent the weekend socializing with the packed gallery, playing exhibitions with the sponsors and fans, and hosting clinics to grow the game. “The ingredients included spectacular athleticism from the players, a wildly enthusiastic and emotional gallery of spectators, and a masterful live webcast production by a crew of professionals on the leading edge of video technology,” says Lewis.
The first semifinal featured top-seeded and #1 ranked Luis Moreno facing #5 Charly Shanks (IRE). Shanks started the season without a ranking, but climbed into the top five with impressive wins over Moreno, Garner, and Chapman. Moreno simply dominated the Race For 8 Season with four wins in seven events entering the Player’s Championship; Shanks started the match playing his best handball of the season, building a 10-3 lead with a dazzling two-way hook serve and deep court rollouts. Shanks missed several relatively easy opportunities that could have extended his lead, and The Natural quickly shifted the momentum in his favor. The Natural patiently erased the Shanks’ lead with down-the-line drives and blistering two-wall passes. With the score tied at 12, Shanks was unable to capitalize on two opportunities, and Moreno completed the improbable comeback to capture game one 15-12. Shanks was completely exhausted in game two, and Moreno cruised to the final with an effortless 15-4 blowout. Shanks would later say that his lungs felt full because of the ability of Moreno to extend rallies and drive him into the deep court.
The second semifinal pinned Sean Lenning against perennial Race semis and finalist Naty Alvarado, Jr. Lenning has dominated this matchup since 2008, making this a completely one-sided rivalry. Alvarado fell behind 5-0 in game one, and it appeared that “The Freak” was on his way to another easy win over Alvarado. But, El Tigre pulled another amazing comeback out of his cap for some of his best handball of the year, scoring an incredible 15 consecutive points to shock Lenning and the “Lenning Lunatics” cheering for their hero in the nose bleed section of the sold out facility. Lenning jumped out to an early lead in game two and extended the lead to 11-1. Alvarado hit a fist shot back to himself in the frontcourt, but rather than moving, Alvarado simply stood his ground, not allowing Lenning to take a full swing. The Freak’s follow through extended directly to the nose of Alvarado, breaking it instantly; shattering his pricy Oakley Eyeware into several pieces leaving a blood trail from the point of impact to the door where El Tigre was found licking his wounds. After a 17-minute break and at least fifty grusome replays by the WPH film crew, plus some doctoring by WAC Handball President (seen realligning Alvarado’s nose moments before he steps back into the court), Alvarado steps back into the court to a standing ovation by the fans. After the bleeding stopped, Lenning scored three consecutive points to force a tiebreaker. Despite the broken nose, Alvarado battled like a warrior in that final game. Never known to play through injury, Alvarado has reinvented himself this season, routinely playing through knee pain, a pulled groin, and now a broken nose. Remarkably, Lenning refocused his concentration with the help of the “Lenning Lunatics” and his burning desire to win the TPC. Alvarado had several chances late in the tiebreaker, but he was unable to convert. The Freak advanced to the final in one of the most bizarre but entertaining matches in our history, 5-15, 15-1, 11-6.
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[fancy_header variation=”red”]FINAL SHOWDOWN[/fancy_header]
The final was a showdown between the two superstars that have dominated the Race For 8 tour throughout the entire season. The Natural and The Freak have combined to win six of the seven Race stops this season. The atmosphere was electric, as the number one and number two ranked players squared off for the most prestigious title of the Race season. Moreno would have to deal not only with the incredible shotmaking of his former mentor, but also the hometown crowd that reveres him. The Natural and The Freak awed the gallery with incredible power, reflexes, speed, and two-handed offense.
Moreno and Lenning played virtually even throughout much of the first game, but several Lenning errors and incredible retrieves from Moreno were the difference. Moreno captured game one 15-11. Moreno appeared to be in control of game two and the match after falling behind 2-6 early in the second game. Moreno continued to play consistent handball, making only two errors to Lenning’s ten, building a 14-10 lead. Moreno served for the match, the Player’s Championship, and the Super Ball Title, and the pressure and enormity of the situation seemed to overcome him. Moreno overhit a paddle killshot attempt with Lenning completely out of position, and Lenning ultimately won the 19-shot rally with a flat rollout from 30 feet. Moreno served again for the match at 14-11, and inexplicably skipped a right hand setup from the short line that would have ended the match and this long season. Moreno served for the match for a third time at 14-13, hitting a second serve two-wall lob that The Freak flat killed from 39 feet. The Washington Athletic Club erupted, and Lenning carried the momentum into the next two points, rolling out two consecutive front courtkills to force the tiebreaker.
Moreno appeared to be fresher in the tiebreaker than at the start of the tournament, a testament to his incredible conditioning and preparation. Sean Lenning appeared to be cramping in the tiebreaker, unable to bend or produce the snap of his shots necessary to end rallies. The tiebreaker proved to be anticlimactic with Lenning making 11 errors and Moreno remaining consistent and aggressive. Moreno captured the unprecedented Triple Crown: The Race Season Championship, The Player’s Championship, and the Super Ball for the Idaho Spuds. The Natural was clearly emotional after his incredible accomplishment, a triumph that may never be repeated. Moreno finished the season with five wins in eight events, and a future that seems destined to be even brighter.
The 5th place playoffs/semis provided even more excitement to Saturday’s action at the TPC. Allan “The Blond Bombshell” Garner rallied from a 19-11 deficit against Andy “MDB” Nett to advance to the 5th place final with a 25-22 win. Once down 19-11, Garner changed to the Marcos Chavez Serve and outscored the dreamboat 14-3 to take the points. David Fink defeated the rapidly improving Luis Cordova, Jr. 25-14 in a very exciting matchup between two players with very similar styles of play to advance to the 5th place final.
TBB started very hot against Fink in the 5th place final, amassing a 15-2 lead at halftime with frontcourt kills, deepcourt kills, aces, and very steady defensive play. Fink rallied after the half with some incredible shotmaking and the support of his WAC fans. Fink cut the TBB lead to 19-22, but two service return errors and a TBB rollout ended the spirited comeback bid. TBB won 5th place for the third time this season. Fink took sixth.
Luis Cordova easily defeated MDB 25-6 to capture 7th place.
The WAC Pro Stop #8 and the Player’s Championship (rankings) ended with nearly the same result; with just points separating Shanks and Garner for 4th and 5th place in the rankings: Seattle Tournament results: 1st- Moreno, 2nd- Lenning, 3rd- Alvarado, 4th- Shanks, 5th- Garner, 6th- Fink, 7th- Cordova, 8th- Nett.
[fancy_header variation=”red”]A Special Thanks[/fancy_header]
Special thanks to the Washington Athletic Club, The WAC handball president, Brian Henson, Joel Carlson, Darin Barr, Jay Simpson, Randy Multack and volunteers and organizers. Special thanks to future USHA hall of fame member, John Bike, plus Chip Morales for keeping stats, reffing, and webcasting throughout the event. A special thanks goes to the WPH team of Fred Banfield, Dave Vincent, Fred Lewis, David Fink, Ashley Moler, Lolita De Vincent, Linda Manning, Kris Gurrad, Ben Gurrad, Omar Lemus, and Jeff Kastner. The WPH team coordinated, organized, and filmed the greatest season in the history of the sport from Idaho to Seattle. This season was truly groundbreaking with the efforts of all of entire crew highlighting the play of the most elite handball players in the world. To watch matches from this event, please purchase your Enet subscription at http://www.race4eight.com.
The WPH has multiple locations pinned down for Race Season II that will start in early October/Late September of this year. Full schedule here>
[fancy_header variation=”red”]RACE STANDINGS 2012[/fancy_header]
1. Luis Moreno
2. Sean Lenning
3. Naty Alvarado, Jr.
4. Charles Shanks
5. Allan Garner
6. David Fink
7. Luis Cordova, Jr.
8. Andy Nett
[fancy_header variation=”red”]Luis Moreno Dominates[/fancy_header]
Luis Moreno took home the final yellow jersey with come from behind victories in all three matches he played. The twenty four year old Moreno has developed an unflappable attitude that allows him to make adjustments in his game that eventually lead to victory. Sean Lenning’s second place finish was a huge disappointment to the hometown, partisan crowd. However Sean stood toe to toe with Moreno in what has become the Race’s best rivalry. His thrilling second game victory brought the entire gallery to its feet with cheering that was rumored to be heard on the first floor of the WAC. Handball has never been played at a more frenetic pace when these two are competing with each other at the top of their games.
Real drama began to unfold when Charley Shanks jumped out to big lead in his semi final match with Moreno. Luis was able to put the reins on Shanks and come back to take the first game 15-14. He got his big serve going in the second game and cruised to an easy victory. In the second semi final match between Lenning and Naty Alvarado Jr., Sean appeared to have the upper edge physically. He was focused and had his big serve working to perfection. A very sad moment occurred toward the end of the second game when Naty, not realizing how close Sean was positioned, back up and was hit in the nose by Lenning’s follow through. Blood immediately began to pour from Alvarado’s nose. After taking all of the allowable time available, he gamely came back and finished the match. “We could not believe what we were seeing as we were covering the event live,” claimed WPH announcer, Dave Vincent. “I thought Naty lost an eye because pieces of his goggles were flying all over the place and blood was flowing. It was hard to call this match because we really never know how to handle situations like this.” Vincent isn’t only the Executive Director of the WPH, but also the tournament director and lead commentator.
To the surprise of many, Alvarado and Shanks came back a few hours later after Naty had the broken bone in his nose set by none other than the host and president of the WAC handball club, Brian Henson. Alvarado appeared very confident and played his best match of the tournament to take third as well as finishing 3rd in the overall Race 4 Eight standings.
Following the final match, the WAC handball club hosted a post tournament party and press conference. This became an up close and personal event as some of the fans were able to question the players about preparation and philosophy of play.
In summation this tournament epitomized the ideal of bringing professional handball to cities that want to see the sport played at its highest level. In addition, the sponsors and spectators had the opportunity to meet and interact with the players on a very casual level.