Final Four Return for WPBA Championship
WPBA Tour Championship / Hollywood, FL
by Anne Craig
As the dust settled from Friday’s battles at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 24 players were left standing to face Saturday’s match-ups at the WPBA Tour Championship. The day began with the first four matches starting at noon, with the web match featuring Jeanette Lee and My-Hanh Lac. The other three matches saw Melissa Little battle it out with Gerda Hofstatter, Liz Ford matched up against number-one ranked Ga Young Kim, and defending champion Monica Webb faced off against Florida player Michell Monk, who has earned an exemption with her solid play this season including reaching the top 24 at this event.
Early on, all four matches stayed close. Kim felt the pressure from Ford as she matched her game for game through the first 10; Kim turned on the afterburners, though, and took command, defeating Ford 9-6. Lac took an early 3-1 lead over Lee, but Lee fought back and ultimately won 9-5. Little got out of the gate strong against Hofstatter and reached the hill 8-4, finishing the match 9-4.
The big story came with Monk, who took an early lead over Webb, playing focused to reach the hill, up 8-6. She ran to an awkward 8 ball and made the shot, but the 9 in the side was tricky, and she missed. The crowd gasped as Webb also missed, hanging the 9 in the corner pocket. Monk stepped up to sink the ball and knock the defending champion out of the event and advances into the final 16.
The 2:00 p.m. round featured many of the newer generation of players and a few veterans, too. The web match-up for the round was between Norway’s Line Kjorsvik and WPBA board secretary Melissa Herndon, who often steps up to the mic to offer commentary on other matches. Kjorsvik played well, and Herndon appeared to have some issues with her eye (something scratching her cornea). The combination of the two allowed Kjorsvik to advance into the final 16 by the score of 9-4.
Meanwhile, Billiard Education Foundation executive chairperson Laura Smith has had a great season and this tournament added to it. She faced off against the always-tough Kim Shaw, winning 9-7 in a hard-fought match.
Holland’s Tamara Rademakers, who has earned her exemption for 2010, played Southern California’s Melissa Morris, whose father is Ned Morris of Morris Custom Cues. Morris has also earned her exemption for next year but ran out of steam in her match, and Rademakers won 9-4. Finally, New Yorker Jennifer Barretta, who has played well this season after taking a year off to raise her son, Max, matched up against Angelina Paglia, also returning to the tour. Paglia had defeated Helena Thornfeldt earlier in the tournament and gave Allison Fisher a run for her money in the third-round winners’ bracket match. She continued that strong play against Barretta and won 9-6.
The redraw resulted in some interesting match-ups: Lee versus Sone; Ouschan versus Kjorsvik; Allison Fisher versus Monk; Corr versus Kim; Vivian Villarreal versus Little; Xiaoting Pan versus Smith; Rademakers versus Kelly Fisher; and Tracie Hines versus Paglia. Ouschan has been so intensely focused that most of her matches have been won by larger margins, including 9-0 and 9-1 wins. Her match against Kjorsvik was no exception, as she jumped out to a 7-2 lead. Corr was quietly making her way through the tournament as she usually does, and she took a 6-3 lead over Kim. Kim fought back, and the two ground their way to a hill-hill score, but Corr gained the advantage and won the match 9-8.
Smith showed no nerves as she gained a 3-1 advantage over Pan, but Pan came back to take a 5-4 lead. From there it was all Pan, and she advanced after defeating Smith 9-4. Kelly Fisher made quick work of Rademakers and was the first to finish the final 16 round, winning 9-3. Lee jumped to a 6-3 lead versus Kyoko Sone, who had defeated Kim earlier in the tournament. Sone couldn’t seem to get anything going, and soon Lee closed out the match to advance, winning 9-3. Villarreal and Little’s match was hotly contested from the start as they each took several leads for 14 games. Villareal stepped up her game and won 9-7.
Monk took a 3-1 lead over Fisher, but just as she got a rhythm going in their match, a spectator took a photo that flashed right in her eyes, and from that point, Monk just couldn’t refocus, and Fisher closed out their match 9-4. Hines started off her match well against Paglia, although it was close early on. Hines pulled away and won 9-5.
In the final eight, Corr faced off against Kelly Fisher on the web streaming table; Villarreal and Lee, who always seem to play each other in the later rounds of tournaments, matched up; Ouschan collided with Allison Fisher; and Hines matched up against Pan.
Villareal won the first two games in her match versus Lee. They played safety on the 3 ball until Villareal scratched off a kick shot, and after Lee played a 3-9 combo, she faced only a one-game deficit. Villareal scratched after making the 1 ball, giving Lee ball in hand. She ran to the 7 ball and missed in the corner pocket, allowing Villareal to run out and go up 3-1. Villareal maintained a two-game lead, going up 4-2. She would have extended her lead to 5-2 but missed the 7 ball; she was still up a game, 4-3, after Lee sank the 9. Villareal gave Lee another opportunity in the eighth rack after playing a poor safety, and Lee ran out to tie the match at 4-all. After trading the next two games, Lee ran out in game 11 to take her first lead of the match 6-5. She extended that lead to 7-5 with the break going into game 13. After some tricky position play Lee reached the hill, although Villareal did have the break in game 14. Lee shut the door on Villareal’s bid for the semifinals, as Villareal finished tied for fifth place. The final score was 9-5 Lee. Lee will face Ouschan in semifinal number one at 1:00 p.m. Sunday.
Ouschan and Fisher traded the first two games, tied 1-all. After a safety battle in game 3, Ouschan made a 2-9 combination to take a one-game lead, up 2-1. Ouschan played safe in game 3, earning ball in hand to run out and go up 3-1. She extended that lead to 5-1 as nothing seemed to go right for Fisher until she was finally able to post another game, down 2-5. Fisher closed the gap further after making a 2-9 combination, now down 3-5. Each competitor posted a game and Ouschan maintained a 6-4 lead with the break going into game 10 and wowed the crowd by snapping in the 9 ball. Fisher couldn’t catch a break at all as she was unable to earn any momentum and Ouschan reached the hill, up 8-4. She wouldn’t give up that easily, though, and with ball in hand in game 13, played a great safety by locking the cue ball up on the 6 and sending the 1 ball uptable. Ouschan couldn’t hit the 1, and Fisher capitalized by winning the game, down 8-5. Ouschan broke and ran the next game and moved into the semifinals of this event, leaving Fisher to finish tied for fifth.
Hines found herself down 2-0 in her match up against Pan, and after missing the 8 ball, she thought she’d be down 3, but Pan scratched off the 8 ball and the score was 2-1. Hines’ jump shot on the 6 ball in game 4 was unsuccessful, and Pan extended her lead 3-1. Hines fought back and tied the match at 3-all. After taking advantage of opportunities, she took her first lead of the match, 5-4. With her confidence growing, she extended her lead, up 6-4 after Pan’s error on the 6 ball, although Pan went into game 11 with the break. She ran out to the 7 ball and missed it, leaving an open shot for Hines, but the crowd gasped as she missed the 9 ball. That was a huge two-game swing, and instead of it being 7-4, it was now 6-5. Pan attempted a touchy safety on the 5 ball in game 12 and scratched, allowing Hines to earn back that missed 9 ball to regain a two-game lead, up 7-5. The two players fought on as Hines reached the hill first as Pan climbed her way to within one game, down 7-8. The two became embroiled in a safety battle, but Hines blinked first as she scratched off of the 4 ball. With ball in hand, Pan ran out to the 7; after making the ball, she brought her cue ball down to the opposite end of the table but overshot her shape to the 8, leaving an awkwardly thin cut shot. Instead of the cut she chose an extremely difficult cross-bank that missed the mark by a wide margin. Hines missed the resulting leave and Pan ran out to make it hill-hill. Pan had the break going into this final game and after pocketing the one ball, she was left with a long tough cut on the 2. She couldn’t decide what to do and got up several times to survey the shot. She made the cut beautifully with position on the 4 to continue through the rack. With deliberate care, Pan pocketed each ball, gaining perfect position each time, and ran out to reach the second semifinal versus Kelly Fisher. Hines finishes tied for fifth place.
Kelly Fisher took a quick 2-0 lead over Corr. Fisher just wouldn’t give Corr any open shots to work with and earned ball in hand after a great safety in game 3 on the 5 ball. Fisher kept rolling, and before long she had a 6-0 lead. Anytime Corr came to the table she seemed to face a shot that forced her to play a safe or she faced a kick shot. Corr had an opportunity in the seventh game with ball in hand on the 2 ball and ran out to finally post a game on the board. She took another game off of Fisher as the crowd encouraged Corr to stay in the match. It wasn’t enough to keep Fisher from posting two more games to reach the hill, 8-2, and the break in game 11. She failed to pocket a ball and Corr knew she needed to make this rack count. She ran out and was still hanging on for dear life, down 8-3. Corr posted yet another game and kept the fight going as she ran out in game 13 and reached her fifth game of the match. It proved not to be enough as Fisher finished off the match 9-5 and advanced into the second semifinal match.
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