2014-2015 Race 4 Eight Season-Ending Awards
The 2014-2015 Race 4 Eight Tours Powered by ESPN and EDTL Handball featured six stops in six handball-crazed cities, with each stop featuring spectacular individual performances, comeback players and rookies making huge impacts. The World Players of Handball is proud to announce these season-ending awards.
Through the R48 IV’s five regular season events, Paul Brady complied an astounding 20-0 record, winning all five of his regular season starts with alarming ease against the world’s best players. Brady lost just one game in 41 games played, outscoring his opponents by a combined 650-257 (2.5:1) in 20 matches. Aiming for the first perfect season in Race 4 Eight history, Brady was forced to withdraw from his opening round match at the WPH Aces Player’s Championship with a quad injury. Brady’s five regular season victories and 50.5 R48 IV ranking points placed him 15.5 points ahead of his nearest competitor, making him the runaway R48 IV Player of the Year
Catriona Casey entered the WR48 II season as the only undefeated player in the history of the Race 4 Eight, winning the first three WR48 events in the inaugural 2013-2014 WR48 season. Casey continued her unprecedented dominance in the WR48 II season, winning all four events en route to becoming the emphatic WR48 II Player of the Year. Casey outscored her opponents 440-116 (3.8:1) in 12 WR48 II matches over the four 2014-2015 WR48 II events, winning 24 of 26 combined games played in Southern California, San Francisco, New York and Salt Lake City
Marcos Chavez began his defense of his SR48 II Player of the Year with a statement victory over 20-year pro tour nemesis Naty Alvarado in the SR48 Tucson final, defeating “El Tigre” for just the second time in over 20 attempts. Chavez lost in the semifinals of the SR48 III Houston to Tyler Hamel and did not compete in the SR48 NYAC, placing his SR48 Player of the Year repeat in jeopardy. Chavez would need to win Salt Lake City’s WPH Aces Player’s Championship to have a chance to repeat as the SR48 Player of the Year, and he did just that, dominating Dan Zimet, Dan Armijo and Tom Sheridan en route to the WPH Aces Player’s Championship SR48 title and SR48 III Player of the Year
Sean Lenning was one of the R48’s greatest stars throughout the first two Race 4 Eight seasons, as he maintained a top two ranking throughout the first 16 Race 4 Eight events. Lenning experienced a slump in the Race 4 Eight III season, losing twice in the opening round and dropping to #9 in the R48 Rankings. Lenning rebounded in the Race 4 Eight IV season with a vengeance, advancing to two finals and capturing the WPH Aces Player’s Championship title with a thrilling finals victory over Mando Ortiz for his fourth Race 4 Eight title in 27 starts. Lenning is back with his sites set on #1
R48 Rookie of the Year: Daniel Cordova
Starting the Race 4 Eight Season unranked, Daniel Cordova joined the tour in Tucson in November of 2014, qualifying for the first time with an impressive win over Shorty Ruiz. In January’s 2015 R48 Houston, Cordova qualified and advanced to the round of eight for the first time, claiming fifth place by defeating Abe Montijo and Marcos Chavez. Cordova continued his white hot rookie season the next month in San Francisco, defeating Jon Iglesias en route to a 7th place finish. Needing to finish 9th in March’s NYAC stop to secure an Elite 8 invite to Salt Lake City’s WPH Aces Player’s Championship, Cordova defeated WPH #2 Luis Moreno and WPH #9 Stephen Cooney to clinch his first R48 invite in Salt Lake City. Cordova advanced to his first semifinal in Race history in Salt Lake City, defeating Stephen Cooney and Mike Schneider to finish the R48 IV season as the #7 pro
20-year old Irish sensation Martina McMahon was bounced in the round of 16 in her first WR48 start at the 2014 Simple Green U.S. Open, but returned to the WR48 tour a different player five months later, demonstrating more focus and determination in her next two starts. The silky smooth lefty defeated Shirley Chen, Danielle Daskalakis and Aoife McCarthy en route to a third place finish in New York, and validated that top three result in New York with another third place finish four weeks later at the WPH Aces Player’s Championship in Salt Lake City, defeating Jessica Gawley and Danielle Daskalakis. McMahon nearly advanced to her first WR48 final in Salt Lake City, pushing world champion Aisling Reilly to the limit in a three-game semifinal thriller. McMahon finished the season as the #5 WR48 pro
47-year old Irish legend made his first SR48 start at the WPH Aces Player’s Championship in Salt Lake City, advancing to the finals with outstanding victories over top five SR48 stars Chris Watkins and Andy Schad. Trailing Watkins 18-21 in their one game quarterfinal clash, Sheridan relied on his experience and dynamite left hand to overcome the “Waddy Dog.” Sheridan then battled SR48 #2 Andy Schad to a 21-21 tie in the semifinals, ultimately advancing 25-21 after one hour and 40 minutes. Playing his sixth match of the weekend, Sheridan pushed SR48 #1 Marcos Chavez in the final, trailing just 13-15 at halftime before succumbing, 25-15. Sheridan finished the season as the #6 SR48 pro
Sean Lenning advanced to the 2015 R48 WPH Aces Player’s Championship final with a dazzling display of offensive handball, defeating JT Hingey, David Fink and Daniel Cordova on his 30th birthday weekend. Mando Ortiz entered Salt Lake’s WPH Aces Player’s Championship with just a 6-8 record on the season and not having advanced past the quarterfinals in any of his five regular season R48 IV starts. Ortiz caught fire in Salt Lake City, defeating Luis Cordova, Emmett Peixoto and Luis Moreno to advance to his second R48 final.
Mando Ortiz continued his hot play in the final against Lenning, racing to a 6-0 lead and extending his early advantage with ace serves and bottom-board kill shots to take game one, 15-3. Lenning changed the momentum in game two, relying on his incredible serve and quickness to cool off Ortiz and force a tiebreaker. Ortiz regained the momentum in game three, building a 6-2 lead and seemingly on his way to winning his first WPH yellow jersey and becoming the R48 IV Player’s Champion. A timeout by Lenning cooled off Ortiz, and Lenning served and shot his way to match point at 14-8. Ortiz made three incredible retrieves in at 14-8 to force a side out, but Lenning earned his way back into the service box and finished the match on his second attempt, becoming the R48 IV Player’s Champion. “I’m just really happy and I’m really excited to win,” revealed Lenning. “Mando is playing amazing handball and it was great to come out on top.”
Catriona Casey entered the WPH WR48 Aces Player’s Championship in Salt Lake City seeking her seventh WR48 title in seven WR48 events, while current world champion Aisling Reilly was appearing in her fourth WR48 final, still in search of her first WR48 title.
Reilly attacked Casey in game one of the final, handing Casey just her second lost game in her WR48 career, 15-2. Casey changed her tactics in game two, building an 8-1 lead by keeping Reilly in the backcourt and keeping the ball off the back wall, preventing Reilly from executing her patented back wall kills. Despite Casey’s quick start in game two, Reilly nearly caught Casey, executing her offense from virtually everywhere on the court late in the second game, but ultimately falling, 15-12. Casey built an early lead in game three by making incredible retrieves and precise pass shots, and the match reamined in doubt until the very end. Casey would clinch her seventh WR48 title in seven starts and her second consecutive WR48 Player’s Championship in front of the largest gallery in WR48 history, 2-15, 15-12, 15-9. “I had to really play my best against Aisling,” revealed Casey. “The tour is so exciting with so many great players participating in the events. I am really looking forward to next season.”
Marcos Chavez and Naty Alvarado clashed in the finals of the 2014 Tucson Senior Race 4 Eight finals, continuing a 20-year pro tour rivalry that had been largely acrimonious and dominated by Alvarado.
Alvarado started the one game final to 25 in elite form, serving aces and finding the bottom board with both hands en route to a 14-10 lead. Alvarado dove and just missed a rekill attempt that would have given him a 15-10 halftime-lead, opening the door for a shocking momentum shift. Chavez completely dominated from that point forward, taking the halftime lead at 15-14 and outscoring Alvarado 10-2 in the second half with incredible serves, finesse kills, and theatrical gamesmanship. The intensity between the two competitors created an electric atmosphere, as Chavez’s 20-years of frustration in losing to Alvarado was set free on the Senior Race 4 Eight’s greatest stage
The battle for the eighth and final spot in the 2015 R48 Houston became the R48 Qualifier match of the year, as former Houston resident and top 20 WPH pro Adam Bernhard challenged former USHA qualifier Dave Munson on his former home court at the Tellepsen YMCA in downtown Houston. The contrast in styles between the two competitors created a riveting and compelling showdown, as the offensive-minded Munson looked to shoot for the bottom board from everywhere on the court, while the tactical Texan looked to use the ceiling and the angles and waited for the perfect opportunity to end the rally.
Munson electrified the partisan Bernhard gallery throughout the one-game qualifier final, hitting deep-court rollouts with both hands to lead throughout the one game match. Bernhard stayed within striking distance by slowing down Munson’s offense with perfectly placed ceiling shots and lobs, but Munson maintained the lead throughout, arriving at 24-20 and standing just one point from joining the R48 pros. Bernhard earned a side out and scored four consecutive points to force overtime, scoring the tying point on a daring back wall kill from 37-feet. Munson and Bernhard traded points to 26, setting a new overtime record for points scored in a qualifier match. Bernhard completed his improbable comeback on a deep court Munson error, taking the match 28-26.
Luis Cordova and Vic Perez are two of the Race 4 Eight’s most promising mid-twenties talents, possessing the skills and drive that will likely make both top five players in the next few seasons. Cordova and Perez staged one of the most physical battles in R48 history in San Francisco, with both pros blasting the ball on virtually every shot and diving with complete disregard for their bodies throughout the one-game thriller. After 60 minutes of extraordinary effort and excitement, Perez led Cordova 24-22. Perez would serve twice to win the match but Cordova stayed alive with incredible clutch shooting to force overtime. In overtime, Cordova scored two quick points to claim the match, while announcing one of the most exciting rivalries on the R48 tour.
WPH Senior Writer