Saturday, August 25, 2007

Nothing New to Report

That other comment section was getting too long, so feel free to post any further comments here.

I took a quick glance at some of the other Sectional championships and noticed that a former Houstonian is a key player on the 4.5 champion from the midwest. "Old timers" like David Hall will remember Alan Unnerstall, who was a fixture on some of Brad Davis' teams in the late nineties/early 2000's here in Houston. I'm surprised he is able to be a contributor on a team headed to Nationals in 4.5...makes me think the Texas 4.5 team can do well again this year.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Congrats to Austin

Kingwood's dynamic duo finally ran out of steam, as both Dibua brothers were unable to take their singles matches and as a result Austin trounced Kingwood 4-1. Stuart Holland dispatched Omon easily and Odion fell to Chad Case in a third set breaker. Case is now 13-0 on the season and Holland's lone blemish came at the hands of Grant Murphy.

Only Hurlbert/Armstrong were able to pull out a line for Kingwood. Hamilton/Barrera were waxed by Gold/Thurman and Huynh/Vu lost to Schlotterback and Strawbridge. Hai and Phi are on the state runner up team for the second time in 4 years.

The Rice 5.0 team has finished up. As expected, the competition was much too strong for them as they managed to get shut out in each of their team's five matches. Hernan's team was in the middle of the pack, but Dustin Phillips was a star and the self-rated 4.5 may find himself rated 5.5 at the end of this year.

Freeman to Nats...Part II

It looks like the Houston 4.0 team will be headed to Nationals. I've gotten word that they've won the first four lines to come off the court. More details as they come.

Also, Kingwood has again put out the Dibuas in singles against Holland and Case. Kingwood's doubles lineup: Hurlbert/Armstrong, Huynh/Vu and Barrera/Hamilton. Good luck!

Kingwood in...

Just got an update from Houston's tennis encyclopedia, Mr. Benzon. Kingwood has won their match over Fort Worth and will face Austin in the finals. Red says the Dibuas are on fire and that an "upset" is definitely a possibility in the finals.

Kingwood won 4-1, and seems to have found another doubles line, as Phi Huynh and Hai Vu ran their record to 3-0 on the weekend. The usual suspects (Dibua, Dibua, and Hurlbert/Armstrong) all cleaned up while Kilshaw/Wright lost a tight one at line 1. Omon took out Bobby Cocanougher, who I've been told is an 18 yr. old super champ type who's headed to Trinity to play tennis.

The season came to an end for the Hangovers as Austin's doubles proved to be as strong as their singles has been. Austin won 3-2, losing only at line 2 singles. Stuart Holland has destroyed everyone in his way this year, but lost to Grant Murphy. Those people complaining about Murphy being a "ringer" were probably's quite possible he was the best 4.5 player in the state this year. Unfortunately, he wasn't enough to carry the team to victory.

Austin also lost at #2 doubles. After the match was over, the players were asked to remain while the computer did its thing. Austin had some players with two strikes and sure enough, Bo Bowman was disqualified after he and Eric Strawbridge crushed Morton and Green three and two. I've seen many captains make the mistake of pulling their teams off the courts after they had secured three lines...BIG MISTAKE! In this case, coach Davis allowed his players to keep playing, as Bowman and Strawbridge were first off the court, and disaster was averted.

So, Kingwood will be facing a slightly weaker Austin team. Oddsmakers have made the money line Austin -180...

Hurricanes Breeze into Finals

The Hurricanes won an easy 4-1 decision against the 4.0 team from Austin early this morning, pushing them into an an 11:30 final with the team from Dallas.

Eddie Janek lost his match at #1 singles, but Sarosh Ahmed, Knutson/Wood, Kern/Veilleux and Patton/De los Santos all had easy matches and should be fresh if needed in the finals. Freeman's finals strategy should be interesting. Dallas' top singles player had an easy time of it this morning and should be ready to go. Does Freeman go with a rested Goldberg at 11:30 or move Kern or even Knutson into the singles lineup, weakening his doubles somewhat? Janek is a bit older, but still might be fresh enough and should still inspire confidence despite his morning loss. Either way, I doubt there will be TOO much trouble in the finals...

The 4.5 semis are still going on. The Hangovers have drawn Austin...I'll be curious to see if David B. and Grant Murphy are used in singles and just how they'll do against Holland and Case. I really think the Hangovers could pull off the upset if the ball bounces their way, though admittedly they're underdogs in this one.

Kingwood takes on a Fort Worth team that they should be favored against. I see no reason why Omon and Odion won't be able to play two singles matches today if necessary. I'd love to see an all-Houston final, but it's against the odds at this point.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hangovers in...

The Hangovers won their pool with a huge 4-1 victory over Dallas. Tim Green played line one singles and beat Wesley James in two tight sets. I can't even speculate on the amount of effort James gave, (I have seen him give up in a meaningless match in the past) but regardless, it was a great win for Green. Grant Murphy dominated at 2 singles, and Huffman/Benzon won at line 1. A 4-1 win was a must, and Bobo/Whitsett again came through in the clutch, this time squeaking out a win in the third set breaker.

I must admit I didn't think the Houston 4.5 league was all that strong this year, so advancing two teams to the final four is a great accomplishment. Props to Jimmy and Tim/Ken for getting their teams this far. Austin will be a mighty hurdle to climb.

As noted by the commenter, Austin lost what was, for them, a meaningless match and got the wild card slot. Fort Worth won Flight I. While the commenter was quite critical of Mike Davis, he must also take into consideration the fact that Davis, Jason Lee and Torch Acosta had made the trip and are at least somewhat competent players and certainly wanted to get into the action. Davis' first obligation is to his players and having a rested Case and Holland for tomorrow could be important as well.

The Rice 4.0 team lost its match 5-0, eliminating any chance at advancing. Quack Bui was trounced, making it less likely that he get bumped to 4.5 and more likely that some of us who've played him will remain 4.0 (where, unfortunately, we belong).

Incidentally, Betsie Hollis' women's 4.5 team rolled to an easy victory in their first match. Good luck to the ladies.


Congratulations to Kingwood and the Hurricanes, who have both clinched their flights and have moved into the semi-finals on Sunday.

Omon and Odion again took care of the singles for Kilshaw's bunch, and the doubles swept as well as the team blanked the Valley 5-0. I'm not sure at this point if the semis in 4.5 will be a three team round robin of flight winners or whether a wild card team will be added as has been done in the past. I'm sure someone could clue me in.

The Hurricanes have been almost spotless thus far, dropping no lines and just two sets in their first three matches. Freeman's 3.5 team didn't do any tanking, so I imagine his 4.0 team will put out some effort in their final match, though I'm sure they'll rest some key players. It looks like they will be facing Austin in the semi-finals, but there's little doubt that they're the team to beat.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Kingwood Lookin' Good

Kingwood faced its sternest test against Dallas Wild and came up big. This time, however, they got an unexpected contribution to propel them to their 3-2 win. Former Mob Squadders Hai Vu and Phi Huynh dominated at 3 doubles to give Kingwood its margin of victory.

Odion Dibua dropped a third set tiebreaker at one singles to Donnie Pollard, but the other two "solid" lines, Omon and Hurlbert/Armstrong were again "money", though Hurlbert/Armstrong went to a third set breaker at line 2.

Kingwood now looks to be almost certain to make it to the semi-finals, where they will probably be joined by Austin and San Antonio.

The Hangovers pulled off a shocker, beating San Antonio 3-2. David B. and Grant Murphy both took their singles lines, and Whitsett and Bobo again dominated at line 2. Benzon/Green and Deluca/Teague both lost. San Antonio used Reader and Regmund in doubles and Hilderbrand again lost for them in singles.

Corpus beat Dallas 3-2 and can clinch with a victory over San Antonio tomorrow. Hangovers are still alive though, as San Antonio has a good chance to win tomorrow and who knows what kind of lineup Dallas will put out there tomorrow.

Rice's 4.0 team stayed alive mathematically, pulling out their second match against Lubbock by a 3-2 score. Quack Bui again dominated at one singles and Matt Evelt picked up a much needed win at line 2. Truc Tran redeemed himself by teaming with Ron Rexilius to clinch the match in a third set tie breaker.

As expected, both Houston 5.0 teams are having a tough time so far. Both teams lost their first matches. Dustin Phillips did dominate an overmatched opponent, and Arun Nanjappa but up a valiant effort against Rafael Omana. The Houston teams had to use players like Miguel Morales, Alain Tran, David Yang and Hernan Guevara, which just isn't good enough at the 5.0 Sectional level.


Some more results have come through. The Houston 4.0 team again waltzed to victory, this time over their NOHO brethren. Chris Towle and Eric Urban took a set for NOHO. Sarosh Ahmed trounced Greg Leiker at one singles and should still have some legs tomorrow. Jason Kern made an appearance at 2 singles and took out Dan Zebrowski.

SE Tex lost their first matchup against Fort Worth. Jason Cooney won at 1 singles against veteran Jerry Pham, but Pat Abshire could not win over Bobby Cocanougher at 2 singles. Chris Hunckler and Khang Quach won the other line for Beaumont.

My old doubles partner used to tell me: "Four solid guys, that's all you need." Kingwood is riding their four horsemen: the Dibuas, Hurlbert and Armstrong. They've been virtually unbeatable all year and again carried Kingwood to a hard-fought victory over Abilene this morning. Houston's Craig Smyser won at 2 doubles for Abilene over Hamilton and Wright. Adam Paschal continued his slump at line 3 doubles.

The Hangovers lack of singles strength cost them against a Corpus team that is not exactly known for its singles strength. Jody Deluca and David Guy both lost close two setters. "Ringer" David B. and Red Benzon couldn't pull out the third set breaker at one doubles, and the Hangovers suffered a surprising upset at the hands of Corpus. Whitsett/Bobo won easily at line 2, and Huffman/Ballesteros squeaked one out at line 3. The Hangovers have a huge mountain to climb in that rugged division if they're gonna' claw their way back into things.


For the first time in almost a decade I'm not in Dallas this year for Sectionals, so my knowledge is definitely second hand.

It's always been my experience that Friday is the day when teams can often be shorthanded, missing a key player or two that can't get off work. Sometimes these players will show up if the team is still in contention, and sometimes they don't.

Only a few early results are in but it's already interesting to see some of the names that are not in the lineups. I have no way of knowing if they are being held out for strategic reasons or are unable to attend.

The Rice 4.0 team lost its first match against Dallas 3-2. Wade Karel did not play, and Coach Hunt was forced to use Truc Tran at number two singles. Neither Strasser nor Swartley was in the lineup, and I doubt that those players would be held out against a champion from a major city. It's disappointing to see the Rice team go down without its best lineup.

Others that have been missing in action in the early results: SE Tex 4.0 Jason Reid, Austin 4.5 Bo Bowman.

Incidentally, the Austin 4.5 rolled to a ridiculously easy win over the Waco 4.5 team. Stuart Holland and Chad Case should have plenty of gas left in the legs for their afternoon matchup with SE Tex (Ssshhhwing-lite).

4.0 Update

The Hurricanes won their first match, which figured to be one of their toughest hurdles, 5-0 this morning. San Antonio provided little resistance as only Knutson/Wood at line 1 doubles lost a set. Coach Freeman used Janek at #1 singles and Ahmed at line 2. Both Knutson and Kern were in the doubles lineup, leaving Goldberg completely fresh for the 11 AM matchup against NOHO.

Rice's 4.0 team is on the court as we speak, playing against the Dallas city champs. A win may propel them into the favorites role in their flight. A loss would cripple their chances. Houston's 4.5 teams are heading to the courts now. More news later.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sectionals 5.0 Preview

With Austin's 5.0 team dropping out, Houston now has two representatives in the 5.0 division in Dallas: Lost Forest and Rice.

The Rice team has surprised me all year long, but they are very thin heading into Sectionals and it's hard to imagine that they will make much noise up there. They have ridden their horse (Arun Nanjappa) all year long, but the singles competition in Dallas will be much stiffer and I don't see him going unscathed in the Dallas heat, especially with his lack of weaponry. Soft-serving, consistent baseliners (David Pierson) have carried Houston teams to 5.0 Nationals in the past but I don't think Nanjappa is in Pierson's league and I don't think his supporting cast is as strong.

With Jorge Cuesta ineligible to play, Rice will have to rely on David Yang, Amit Garg, Ryan Kudva and Atsushi Fukunaga (if they're all available). Alain Tran and possibly Ira Jamshidi (I've not heard about his availability) could pitch in. But there's just not enough 5.0+ talent there to make any noise.

Though they were a second place team, the Lost Forest bunch may have more of a chance to do well. Hernan's teams have never really been good enough to excel at Sectionals in the past, and there's little reason to believe that this is the year they go all the way. Frederic Saint-Louis played only one match on the year...(UNCONFIRMED!) rumor has it he was a top 600 player in the world under a different name, but he will be unavailable in Dallas. Dustin Phillips will be a capable singles player for Hernan, and Bryan Taylor and Daniel Bello can certainly hold their own in doubles. If Robert Bickmore and Brian Montez make the trip, the team will be pretty solid on paper.

However, San Antonio has Max Dunaev as its singles player and no Houston player can touch him. Their team dropped just one line the entire season, and it's hard to see either Houston team taking two lines in one match from them. Admittedly, the entire San Antonio 5.0 league was filled with 4.5 players and 5.0's who were obviously tanking, so it's hard to put much stock in the near-spotless resumé.

Rafael Omana anchors the Fort Worth 5.0 team, and again he's going to be too much for Houstonians to handle. Oscar Gonzalez is a tough singles player for the Dallas wild card entry, and the Dallas City champs appear to be very strong in doubles, so 5.0 should be very interesting this year, but probably unsuccessful for our Houston teams.

Sectionals 4.5 Preview

Houston is sending two teams to Sectionals in 4.5, where they will be joined by a "Southeast Texas" team that is comprised of mostly Houstonians. There are only 3 flights in Dallas in the 4.5 division this season, so I am assuming that Sunday will include the three flight winners as well as the top second place team. Sets and games will be extremely important to earn that fourth spot on Sunday, so we will see teams playing their top lineups even after losing their first match.

Houston's champ, Kingwood, was placed in Flight II, where they will be joined by Wild Dallas, Abilene and the Valley. Abilene's team, which includes Houston resident Craig Smyser, does not appear to have the strength to win the division despite their success at the qualifying tournament. The Valley team is a fixture at Sectionals and has advanced to Nationals twice in the past decade. Both of those teams featured Ramiro Cuevas, however, who is not on this team. Jacob Casas, David Ceron and Ivan Leal are all competent singles players, but none packs the punch of Cuevas or Edward Couoh who anchored the 2004 team that made it to Nationals.

Kevin Conway's Dallas squad will be the big hurdle for Kingwood. Moonballer Wade Zimmerman, who completely frustrated Jody Deluca at Sectionals last year, did not play in the Dallas City playoffs, but will be a handful at Sectionals. It will be interesting to see how he fares against the serve and volleying style of the Dibuas if they match up. Conway has several other singles options: Clint Cash, Donnie Pollard and Todd Feldman have all had previous success at Sectionals. Andre Champagne has seen better days and will not play against Kingwood. Kole Frink is new to the team this year and has played singles in big matches. The Conway doubles players haven't changed much, though they've added superstar Kevin Durten. Feisty Brad Sweeney and Jon Stein will be factors, as will cap'n Conway.

I'd have to install Conway's bunch as the favorites in Division II, but Kingwood will be in the hunt and will also have a chance at that wild card slot.

The Hangover team was placed in a super-heavyweight flight, which doesn't bode well for the wild card slot as blowouts and easy matches will be extremely hard to come by. Rusty Branch's Dallas team, a great San Antonio squad and a decent Corpus team join the Hangovers in Flight III.

Corpus has had a lot of success with pretty much this same cast of characters throughout the years, but truth be told they're overmatched this time around. I'm not sure who they can throw out there in singles that can match up with the talent in this flight. Robert Whitehurst has played singles in the past, and Glenn Shandy has had his moments (beating Phi Huynh one year) but Corpus will be a nonfactor unless they are underestimated.

San Antonio's team is just stacked. James Regmund, Mark Hilderbrand and Thomas Reader are extremely strong in singles. I have a feeling Tejinder Somal is a total stud too. Mike Miller, Vince Giordanelli, Patrick Johnson and Nathan Lenss are very capable in doubles. Despite all of the talk about the Austin team, I think this San Antonio team is the team to beat.

The Hangovers definitely have a chance to beat the Dallas team. Wesley James is a tough singles player, but they seem to lack a strong second singles player. Their doubles is tough,
but I give the Hangovers a slight edge in that department if they come with a strong team.

I've been a bit out of the loop since City playoffs and don't really know anything about the health and availability of the Hangovers. If Grant Murphy's shoulder has healed, and if David B. is making the trip, they could be very dangerous. They don't have any superstar singles players, though, which could be their downfall. Still, they are very dangerous and could give any team, including San Antonio, a lot of trouble if things are clicking.

The Beaumont team, which includes Peter Rothe, Augusto Rodriguez, Chris Hunckler, Jason Cooney and David Hall, is in Division I with Austin, Fort Worth and Waco. Waco should be a non-factor.

Fort Worth has a decent team, with Rob Hurley, Bobby Cocanougher and Jerry Pham manning the singles slots. Hurley is their top player and has lost only to Justin Huffman this season. He will be tough to beat, but I don't see Fort Worth posing much of a challenge to the Austin team. They should battle with Southeast Texas for the second spot in the division.

The Austin team seems to be the consensus pick to make it to Nationals. They are loaded. Stuart Holland has barely broken a sweat this season, surrenduring just 12 games in 5 matches and yet avoiding 3 strikes disqualification despite having a high DNTRP coming into the season. Sometimes the rating system defies explanation. Chad Case has been almost untouchable this year as well, and has yet to lose a set in his nine matches while playing (in my opinion) in the toughest 4.5 league in the state. Fred Schlotterback, Torch Acosta and Sal Martinez are all perfectly capable of pitching in in singles if necessary. Bo Bowman and Eric Strawbridge are VERY tough in doubles. Can I revise my pick to make it to Nationals????

Sectionals 4.0 Preview

Houston will be well represented up in Dallas this season, particularly in the 4.0 division.

The Hurricanes have been placed in Flight I, as have some of their buddies on the NOHO squad. With the temperatures well into the triple figures on the hard courts, singles depth will be paramount, particularly in 4.0 where the flights are larger and more matches are played. The Hurricanes have an abundance of options: Ahmed, Janek, Kern, Goldberg and Knutson are all among the top 4.0 singles players around. Ahmend and Janek will probably not play doubles, but the other three and De Los Santos, Veilleux, Patton, Tran-Park and Wood will see considerable action.

Noho will not pose much of a threat to the Hurricanes. Leiker has a win over Janek but was humbled in their last matchup. Ken Weber may be the other singles option for NOHO, who have been weakened by some of their strongest players playing for Houston.

San Antonio will be the first matchup for the Hurricanes. They finished their regular season 16-0 and despite an absence of "big names" they should not be taken lightly. They may be the second strongest team in the flight. The Hurricanes can afford to use their strongest singles players and still not be too weakened for their second match on Friday.

The Hurricanes are a strong favorite to win their division. Corpus Christi and Southeast Texas (despite the presence of Jason Reid, who has won matches at Sectionals in 4.5 in previous years, and strong doubles player and Hurricane Kelly Shanks) should provide little resistance. A key for the Hurricanes will be keeping Sarosh fresh so that he will be able to play two tough matches on Sunday if necessary.

Rice also has a chance to make it to Sunday. Could we see yet another Rice/Hurricanes battle up in Dallas? If so, Rice will have to get through a division that includes the Dallas city champ. Luckily, it doesn't appear that this Dallas team is a juggernaut. Big city teams are always dangerous, but this appears to be a year where the talent was well-dispersed in the Metroplex, so this Dallas team is definitely not unbeatable. Team captain Bob Somabut often plays himself in singles, and I think he would be an underdog against the two Rice singles guys.

The big question with the Rice team is its singles depth. Quack Bui and Wade Karel have been stalwarts in singles this year...and though they're both in good shape it will be tough to play them in two tough singles matches on Friday and Saturday (and Sunday if necessary). Harold Graham is no spring chicken, but may be capable of stepping into the singles lineup for a match. John Swartley has not been used in singles in the USTA season, but I think that he MUST contribute in singles in Dallas if Rice is to advance to Sunday.

Bill Sanders, who captained Waco to a National championship last year, is back with an undefeated Waco team and is in Flight IV. On paper his team appears to be a notch or two below last year's team (no John Arvesen this time around), but keep an eye out for them anyway.

Sectionals Update

Hernan's Lost Forest 5.0 team has gotten a slot at Sectionals, taking the place of the Austin team which has pulled out.

I'll be back with a Sectionals preview a little later today.