USA Billiard Team Leads Europe 4-1
On the morning of December 16, Mosconi Cup XIV kicked off to resounding applause and riotous cheers from the audience, which was made up of a good mix of both Americans and Europeans. However, at the end of the first day’s session, the Americans had a lot more to cheer about.
There are some rule changes this year that should be marked. One is the trimming of the team size from six players to five. Another is the 9 ball is now racked on the spot. The breaking player must break from the break box, and three balls must go past the headstring or else it is a foul. All matches are a race to 6, alternating break.
In the first match of five total, Team USA went up against Team Europe. USA drew first blood and ran to a 3-1 lead and then a 4-2 lead, slowing down occasionally for dramatic safety battles. Europe grabbed the next rack, but after four consecutive misses on the 3 ball in the following game, “Rocket” Rodney Morris pocketed it and exclaimed, “Yay!” USA reached the hill on that rack, but a scratch on the break by rookie player Shane Van Boening, recent Reno Open champion, set up Europe for another game, making it 5-4 US. A controversial call by head referee Micaela Tabb didn’t affect the US in the last rack, and Team USA notched the first match 6-4.
Mosconi veterans Johnny “The Scorpion” Archer and Morris matched up against Ralf Souquet and Niels Feijen in the first doubles match of the day. Again the US took an early 3-1 but relinquished it, allowing Europe to tie at 4 apiece. A Morris foul gave Europe the hill, and then in the final rack, Souquet missed the 2 ball but got safe, prompting a “Good shot, Ralf!” from a European fan. Morris rattled the 3 ball, and Europe claimed the second match.
Reigning world 9-ball champion Daryl “The Dazzler” Peach found himself in a singles bout with Van Boening, who has won three major tournaments this year and came in runner-up at another. Peach looked ill at ease throughout, while Van Boening stayed true to form and glided around the table handily. Van Boening came up empty on his break, allowing Peach to bring the score to 3-2 in Van Boening’s favor. But two dry breaks by Peach and a break and run by Van Boening quickly awarded another match to Team USA, now leading 2-1.
Another doubles match came up next, this time between Corey “The Prince of Pool” Deuel and Earl Strickland for Team USA versus the two rookies on Team Europe—Tony Drago and Konstantin Stepanov. Again the Europeans looked as though they were having a difficult time gelling. Neck and neck at 4-3 US, Drago missed a key 7 ball off the 8, handing the US the hill. Europe rallied and put together two more wins to make it a double-hill match, Deuel scratched on his break. Drago, however, looked displeased with the leave from Stepanov on the 8 ball and hit it too hard, rattling it in the pocket. With only two balls left, Team USA easily cleared for the win.
In the final match, Morris represented Team USA, while Niels Feijen was his opponent. Unfortunately for Europe, however, it almost seemed as though Morris was barely aware Feijen was around, for he raced to a 5-0 lead, capitalizing on several crucial errors by the Dutchman. A foul by Morris in the next rack gave Feijen a bit of hope, and he cleared to put a game under his belt, but it was too little, too late, as Morris broke and ran the final rack.
Mosconi Cup XIV continues Friday with another round of five matches. The team who reaches 11 matches first will be the new champions and gain possession of the Mosconi Cup.
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