Annie Roberts wins Junior National racquetball crown
PORTLAND — Barlow High's Annie Roberts was the two-time defending Junior National age group champion, but her path to a third consecutive title was littered with tough matches. Regardless, Roberts came through with a back-to-back comeback wins to claim the 16U singles title Saturday at Multnomah Athletic Club.
Roberts hit her first tough battle in the quarterfinals taking on Estefania Perez out of Manteca, Calif., — a player who drew a low seed largely because she doesn't play a bunch of ranking matches.
Perez jumped to a 6-2 lead in the first set only to see Roberts answer with a nine-point spurt — her longest of the match — pulling ahead with a backhand shot that hugged the side wall.
"Her serves were really good and there's not a lot you can do about that," Roberts said. "I just took a timeout and hoped that would stop her momentum. You don't want to the score to get to a point where you can't catch up."
Roberts closed in on set point when she put her arm on Perez's hip to slide past her opponent and swing through for a forehand winner.
Perez fought of three set points and knotted the score 14-14, bringing up a winner-take-all point. Roberts finished it off with an ace, then high-fived her opponent for a set well played on her way out the door for the intermission between sets.
"Neither of us was giving the other one much chance to win points," Roberts said. "Racquetball isn't like other sports where you have to win by two, so there was a lot more pressure — the stakes are high in this tournament."
The players traded the lead three times in the second set before Roberts gained the lead for the final time at 7-6 with a backhand shot that forced Perez to move the width of the back wall for an errant return.
A Perez lob shot allowed Roberts to move into the front court for an easy forehand put away, followed by a service ace that put her in charge 10-6 heading into the late stages of the match.
A forehand blast into the corner, followed by a winner that clung to the wall brought Roberts to match point.
She kept a long final rally going after putting her hand on the sidewall to stabilize herself. A couple swings later she came up with the winner to take the hard-fought match 15-14, 15-8.
"The last point is always the hardest one to get. I just had to calm down and execute," Roberts said. "You want to have three good shots to end the point. Hit a good serve, then look to put it away the first chance you get."
The pressure intensified when she returned to the MAC the next day for a semifinal match against No. 4 seed Shane Diaz out of San Antonio. The winner would secure a spot on Team USA for the World Championships in November.
Roberts dropped the first set before turning the tide in the second and claiming a 9-15, 15-2, 11-9 victory. She finished her tournament with another comeback win 8-15, 15-11, 11-9 over No. 3 seed Heather Mahoney out of Penngrove, Calif.
She paired with Alondra Canchola out of Stockton, Calif., to win the doubles title. The duo went 5-0 with a plus-96 point differential. The tandem's closest match was a 15-13, 15-8 decision over runners-up Julia Stein and Heather Mahoney.
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This story is slated for our Tuesday, June 25, print edition.
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