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Engel/Witsken Stop Kowalik/Metzler’s 19 Match Winning Streak
February 11, 2013
St. Louis, MO
There were quite a few firsts associated with this year’s St. Louis tournament. The APTA moved us into Region VI and made us a National Ranking Tournament (NRT) for a two-year trial run. The move into a new region couldn’t have been better as it has generated much buzz. The communication amongst the regional tournament directors has been fantastic – quick and informative.
On to the action. The match of the tournament occurred in the quarter-finals of the consolations. Second-to-third year paddle players John Kanaga and Ryan Metzler took on Kyle O’Leary (1st year) and Taylor St. Eve (2nd year). In what was described as a two hour twenty minute war of attrition, Kanaga/Metzler outlasted O’Leary/St. Eve by the score of 6-4, 6-7, 7-6. Kanaga/Metzler would go on to win the consolations with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Scott Schmid and Chris Wright.
There were surprisingly few close first round matches. The one exception was Scott Sables and Brian Windisch putting a scare into the team of Mark Jeffrey and Earle Weaver, before falling 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. The one jolt to the proceedings was Bryan Freel and Paulo Gonzalez’s 6-1, 7-6 victory over the #3 seeds, Paul Feder and Kyle Shoff. I blame the tournament director for not gathering reliable intel.
The quarters brought some semblance of order as the tournament committee projected some results based on local knowledge of past participants. The last few years have seen us kick off the tournament with a few Friday night matches. Ryan Dickherber and Eric Schrump are still on the rise, but could not overcome the veteran formation of Bill Stude and Tom Fluri. Dickherber/Schrumpf fell 6-4, 7-5.
Before finishing discussion of the main draw, it is worth recognizing the rest of the back draw winners. Champions for 2013 included: Chace Brundige and Rafael Abreu (1st year player); Mike Anzalone and Matt Edwards; Brock Borman and Ian Hintz (1st time participants); O’Leary/St. Eve; Frank Childress and Brian Gesme; and Ray Tarasi and Jeff Troutman (1st time participants).
We had our first ever weather delay. While thunderstorms were predicted all week, the committee was uncertain of how it would react if the storms became a reality. As lightening was in the area, Sunday matches were pushed back a half hour and an attempt was made to limit back draws to 8-game pro-sets. As you know, paddle players will gut it out in almost any type of weather. While the lightening subsided, the rain took hold for another few hours. Many of the back draw participants still decided to play two-out-of-three sets. There was one coin flip, although that was due to injury instead of weather.
The semi-finals saw Kevin Kowalik and Andy Metzler take out Roy Brammer and Bob Curtis with a 6-3, 6-4 win. Marty Engel and Rick Witsken bested Travis Helgeson and Pete Stroer with a 6-4, 6-1 triumph. Prior to the finals, Kowalik/Metzler had never lost a match in the St. Louis tournament as they ran their winning streak to 19 matches. Kowalik had not lost a match in the St. Louis tournament period. That all changed. I didn’t see much of the final but what I did see was impressive. Explosive two-handed backhands and volleys handling thunderous drives were the norm. In the end, Engel/Witsken took home the title with a 6-1, 7-5 win in the championship.
As with any paddle tournament, all participants had a chance to renew old friendships and to create new ones. Brock Borman and Bryal Freel have ties to the area and introduced themselves to the current paddle scene. Ray Tarasi has a relatively new tie to the area which will only become stronger; not to let the cat out of the bag.