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Liz Cole Snaps Molina Ortiz’s NWPA Winning Streak

Maryann McConnell, Molina Ortiz and Liz Cole

Northwest Women’s Pool Association traveled to it’s fourth stop at Phil’s Bar & Grill in Salem, OR this weekend. Stop #4 was sponsored by Phil’s, Savage Billiards Apparel & ICA Training System.

Formerly Jake’s, a frequent post-tourney hangout for past NWPA stops, the venue has seen a significant remodel geared towards pool players.

28 NWPA players competed at 10 ball on ten 7 ft diamond tables all with Littman Lights.

Day 1 saw plenty of battles and upsets. The players going into finals day on the A side were:
Nicole Donisi, Maryann McConnell, Kathie MacDonald and the undefeated Molina Ortíz. Battling through the B side were: Liz Cole, Robin Adams, Donna Kingsbury and Kiana Early.

On the B side finals day Liz Cole defeated up-and-comer Kiana Early 6-2 and Robin Adams ended Donna Kingsburys great showing with a 6-3 win.

Over on the A side, Maryanne McConnell sent Nicole Donisi to the Bside with a 6-3 win and Molina Ortíz defeated Kathie MacDonald with the same score of 6-3.

Liz Cole was victorious over Kathie MacDonald with a 6-3 win while Nicole Donisi scrapped a win out over Robin Adams 6-4.

Meanwhile Molina Ortìz earned the point with a 6-4 win over Maryann McConnell on the A side.

On a roll, Liz Cole had a decisive win over Nicole Donisi 6-1 to face Maryann.

After a good battle, Liz proved she was ready for a rematch with Molina with a 6-4 win.

Reigning tour stop finalist Molina Ortíz met many time NWPA champ Liz Cole in the finals for a single race to 9.

Liz played steady all match with an ebb and flow of safeties and run-out pplay including great jump shots. She took the lead early with 5-3 and pulled away to 7-3 in the 11th rack.

Molina mounted a comeback, bringing the score back to 8-6 but in the end Liz prevailed with an early 10 for the 9-6 win.

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Ortiz wins her third straight stop on the 2022 Northwest Women’s Pool Association Tour

Chris Rogers, Molina Ortíz, Liz Cole, Mike Deitchman (commentator) and Mike Littman

Through her three straight wins on the Northwest Women’s Pool Association tour since July, her first-ever recorded series of events with us here at AZBilliards, Molina Ortiz has steadily improved her game-winning percentage. She won 62% of the games she played at Stop #1, 72% of them at Stop #2 and 74% this past weekend, Sept, 17-18. She has won 17 straight matches, went undefeated at all three events and downed Liz Cole in the finals of the last two. Only two players forced her into a double hill showdown; Cole in the finals of Stop #2 and Kathie MacDonald in the second round of this past weekend’s stop. The $1,500-added event drew 26 entrants to Sam’s Hollywood Billiards in Portland, OR.

At Stop #2, she and Cole went head-to-head in both the hot seat and finals. At this latest stop, they emerged from the lower part of the bracket and faced off against each other in a winners’ side semifinal, immediately after Ortiz had been challenged, double hill, by Kathie MacDonald. Mary McConnell, in the meantime, squared off against Suzanne Smith in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Ortiz sent Cole to the loss side 7-1 and was joined in the hot seat match by McConnell, who’d sent Smith over 7-3. Ortiz claimed her third hot seat with a 7-1 victory over McConnell. 

On the loss side of the bracket, Cole picked up Cristy Barsky, who was working on a five-match, loss-side streak that was about to end and had recently eliminated Susan Andree 6-2 and Melissa Rushton 6-4. Smith drew Katherine Robertson, who’d been defeated by Cole in a winners’ side quarterfinal and gone on to defeat current NWPA President Stephanie Drakulic 6-2 and Kathie MacDonald 6-4.

Cole downed Barsky 6-1, as Smith was eliminating Robertson 6-3. Cole followed with two straight double-hill wins, over Smith in the quarterfinals and McConnell in the semifinals.

When the finals got underway, Ortiz and Cole had met three times before; twice at Stop #2 and once, at this event. Ortiz came into the match with a 22-12 game record over Cole. She turned that into a 31-15 match record with a 9-3 win to claim her third straight NWPA title.

Tournament director Chris Rogers thanked the ownership and staff at Sam’s Hollywood Billiards, as well as sponsors Mike Littman (Littman Lights) and The Trough Bar & Billiards of Portland, OR, each of whom added $500 to the event’s prize fund. The next stop on the NWPA, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29, will be hosted by Phil’s Bar & Grill in Salem, OR.

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Molina Ortiz Over Cole for NWPA Win

TD Chris Rogers, Maryann McConnell, Liz Cole, Molina Ortíz, room manager Tammy Culbertson and room owner Vic Albertson.

The 2022 Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) tour headed to Kennewick, Washington for Stop #2 at Player’s Sports Bar & Grill.

35 players traveled to eastern Washington to compete in this venue’s first Tour Stop. The game was alternate break 10-ball on 7 footers with a race of 6/6. Player turnout ranged from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and even drew British Columbians despite the distance. The tour continues to grow as we counted a few more new players at this stop.

Player’s Sports Bar & Grill proved to be an excellent venue. Room owner Vic Albertson graciously added $1,000 to the tour pot while manager Tammy and staff were very accommodating with setup and service. The players competed on 10 beautiful 7 ft diamonds with freshly cleaned Predator Arcos ballsets. John Scudder Diamond Table Sales was the tour’s livestream equipment sponsor.

Molina Ortíz picked up her second NWPA win in a thrilling final against fellow Portlander and multi-time tour champion Liz Cole. Ortíz came out strong on Day One. She went through the A side undefeated with a 6-1 win over Jeanne Christiansen, 6-0 against tour veteran Suzanne Smith and 6-1 over Andy Camping.

Liz Cole also made it through the first day unscathed. She started by winning 6-1 against Tammy Woollet, secured a tight 6-5 match against Regene Lane and ended with a strong 6-0 win over Celia Curry.

Vancouver WA’s Nicole Donisi stayed on the A side with 6-2 wins over both Joyce Robinson and Julie Fraser. Wapato’s Selena Polk proved stiffer competition with some impressive shotmaking, but Donisi moved on with a 6-5 win.

No stranger to tour stop wins, Tacoma’s Cindy Sliva made it to finals day with decisive 6-2 wins over both Elaine Eberly and Sheila Clark. Jessie Blayden of Puyallup, WA put up some resistance but Sliva prevailed 6-5 to join the others for Day 2.

Over on the B Side, Maryann McConnell of B.C. lost her first match to Idaho’s Sheila Clark. She was not deterred though, as she defeated Elaine Eberly 6-1, Donna Totten 6-1, Julie Fraser 6-1 and Celia Curry 6-3 to secure her Day 2 slot. Her fellow Canadian Kathie MacDonald had a similar path, losing 6-3 to Andy Camping in the first round but grinding out wins to make it through. She defeated Melinda Hoffman 6-3, Tammy Culberston 6-4, Regene Lane 6-5 and Selena Polk 6-1.

Andy Camping was knocked to the B side with a 6-1 loss to Ortíz but was able to defeat Sheila Clark 6-5 and move on. Jessie Blayden was downed 6-4 earlier by Cindy Sliva, but ground out a 6-4 win over Suzanne Smith to stay afloat into finals day.

Spectators at Players’ filtered in on Day 2 as the opening matches got started with Ortíz vs Donisi, Cole vs Sliva, Camping vs MacDonald and McConnell vs Blayden.

On the A side, Donisi and Ortíz started by exchanging racks. Ortíz attempted to gain the upper hand with safety play but Donisi hung on, kicking her way out and providing opportunities to secure herself another rack. However, Donisi wasn’t able to capitalize on further opportunities, giving away a few key racks. Ortíz’s composure and experience provided her a strong 6-2 win. Cole and Sliva met on the winners side as well and battled out a close match. Both players uncharacteristically hung a few game balls but it was Cole who prevailed with a 6-2 win.

Blayden had a gritty showing but was not able to stop seasoned player McConnell from a 6-2 win. Camping had beaten strong players the whole event but was eliminated by Kathie MacDonald, who worked her way to a 6-2 win, playing steady the whole way. Camping and Blayden finished 7-8th in the money.

Ortíz met Liz Cole next and was well warmed up on the stream table. Cole was not able to match Ortíz’s racks though she played well, and fell 6-3 to give Ortíz the hot seat. On the B side, Sliva lost to MacDonald in an excellent match with few mistakes. Playing strong the whole time, only one misstep by Sliva cost her two racks that made the difference. Donisi and McConnell matched up next and fought through several messy racks. However, McConnell had been picking up steam the whole tournament and found her groove. Donisi was eliminated in a 6-2 loss and finished 5/6th along with Sliva.

McConnell and MacDonald faced off next, but a few early 10s gave McConnell the advantage she needed to win 6-2 and leave MacDonald with 4th.

McConnell finally found resistance as Cole played an excellent match, leaving her few opportunities. Though she had won at their last WPBA meeting, this time it was Cole who handed her a 6-2 loss. McConnell finished 3rd and Cole moved on for a rematch with Ortíz.

A good crowd had gathered by now and the finalists provided an intense hill-hill battle for the audience. Both players exchanged racks early and were playing excellently. After a close match the whole way, one of Cole’s safeties went awry and Ortíz was able to gain a rack to make it 7-5. Cole was not done however and when Ortíz challenged her with the leave of a difficult cut shot table length down the rail, she nailed it. They exchanged a few more racks, bringing it to 8-8. The finals match was just one race to 9 and Ortíz broke the last rack well, running out the table for the win in an exciting match.

Robin Adams won the 2nd chance tournament, which had $200 additional added by the venue.
A big thank you to Player’s Sports Bar & Grill.

The next stop will be at Sam’s Billiards in Portland, OR on September 17th-18th. Watch a replay of the final on our youtube channel: “Northwest Women’s Pool Association.” Bracket & tour schedule can be found on our website at playnwpa.com.

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Ortiz goes undefeated to claim first 2022 title on Northwest Women’s Pool Association Tour

Chris Rogers (TD), Molina Ortiz and Stephanie Drakulic (Photo courtesy Sandro Menzel)

Youngest player to ever compete on NWPA Tour, 13-year-old Marissa Du, wins Second Chance 

Before this past weekend, the last time the women of the Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) gathered was this past December when they met for a tournament in Everett, WA to celebrate the tour’s 20th anniversary. It was the one and only stop of what could, only by default, be called a season; in effect, a combination season opener and finale. Prior to that event, they’d held their last stop, at the same location, in February, 2020, in what was the only stop of that season, thanks to the pandemic.

Though plans were afoot last December to get back into stroke for a 2022 season, those plans didn’t reach fruition until this past weekend, July 9-10, when they gathered once again, this time at Legends Billiards in Beaverton, OR, for the first of five events scheduled through December. Attended by competitors from four states (OR, WA, CA and ID) and one Canadian Province (BC), a show of hands yielded information that just a little under one-third of the entrants (15) were brand new players on the tour, including the winner, Molina Ortiz, who moved to Portland, OR two years ago from New York. Her FargoRate of 626 made her the highest-rated competitor in the third season-opening tournament in a row. In the finals, Ortiz downed the NWPA’s current President, Stephanie Drakulic, who was the tour’s runner-up to Liz Cole in standings for the two years prior to the unexpected hiatus. This past weekend’s $1,000-added event drew 47 entrants to Legends Billiards.

Ortiz and Drakulic met twice in this one; hot seat and finals. Though the tour’s two champions over the last five years were on hand – Liz Cole; ’20, ’19, ’18 and ’16 and Suzanne Smith; ’17 – Ortiz didn’t get the opportunity to compete against either of them. Smith was defeated in the opening round of play by Marian Poole, who advanced to meet Ortiz in the third round. Cole was sent to the loss side in the second round by Jeanne Christiansen, who was defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal by Melissa Rushton, who advanced to meet Ortiz in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Drakulic experienced a kind of roller-coaster trip to the other winners’ side semifinal, winning her opener against Stephanie Lyon by shutout, her second-round match versus Andi Beebe, double hill and a 6-1 victory over Angele Silveira, to draw Kathie MacDonald in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Ortiz and Rushton battled to double hill before Ortiz advanced to the hot seat match. Drakulic downed MacDonald 6-4 to join her. Ortiz claimed the hot seat 6-3 and waited on Drakulic’s return from the semifinals.

On the loss side, Smith was working on a seven-match, loss-side winning streak that would end in the quarterfinals. She chalked up loss-side wins #5 and #6 against Donna Kingsbury 6-4 and Kat Guest 6-1 to draw Rushton. Cindy Sliva was working on a four-match, loss-side streak that had begun with the elimination of Liz Cole 6-4 in the third loss-side round and had recently eliminated Regene Lane and Jeanne Christiansen, both 6-1, to pick up MacDonald.

MacDonald stopped Sliva’s loss-side run 6-1 and, in the quarterfinals, faced Smith, who’d given up only a single rack to Rushton. Smith and MacDonald locked up in a double hill battle in those quarterfinals, eventually won by MacDonald, who advanced to her re-match against Drakunic in the semifinals.

Drakulic defeated MacDonald a second time, 6-3, to advance to her rematch against Ortiz in the finals. The final match came within a game of going double hill, but Ortiz edged out in front of Drakulic near the end to claim the NWPA’s first 2022 title.

As noted, 13-year-old Marissa Du from Seattle, won the event’s 12-entrant Second Chance tournament. Du is one of 16 girls competing in the 13 & Under Girls Division of the Junior International Championships’ second season. She traveled to Aiken, SC in March to compete in the third stop of that season, finishing in the tie for 5th/6th.

NWPA President Stephanie Drakulic and Tour director, Chris Rogers thanked Legends Billiards owner, Michelle Bean and its GM, Dave McDowell for their hospitality, as well as John Scudder, Diamond Pool Tables’ Northwest representative, for payment of the live-streaming equipment, instrumental in NWPA’s live-streaming of events on YouTube. Live stream information can be found at playnwpa.com/livestream. Sandro Menzel is the NWPA’s official photographer.

The next stop on the NWPA Tour, scheduled for the weekend of August 27-28, will be hosted by Players Pub & Grill in Kennewick, WA.

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“Kwikfire” goes undefeated to win second straight WPBA title

Kelly Fisher

Fresh off her undefeated win two weeks ago at the WPBA’s Northern Lights Classic in Minnesota, where she faced Allison Fisher for the first time in a final match since 2016, Kelly Fisher came to the CSI/Predator US Pro Billiard Series’ Alfa Women’s Las Vegas Open, held this past weekend (March 31-April 3) and went undefeated a second time to capture her second straight WPBA title. Though Allison Fisher was, once again, ‘in the house,’ the two did not meet up at this latest event. Allison was eliminated in the opening round of the single-elimination final phase to which they’d both advanced. The event drew 64 entrants to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The event was divided into two phases; an opening, 64-entrant, double-elimination Phase 1, followed by a 16-entrant, single-elimination Phase 2 that eventually crowned Kelly as the champion. The format was best-two-out-of-three races to 4. If the competitors were tied after two matches, a “spot shootout’ followed to determine the winner.

Kelly, who was in a 16-player, Phase 1 bracket that included eventual runner-up, Brittany Bryant, advanced to be among the eight winners’ side entrants in Phase 2 without having to play a third match. She played a total of 27 games against three opponents in Phase 1 and gave up only three of them, downing Sarah Kapeller (4-0, 4-1), Ashley Burrows (4-0, 4-0) and Cathy Metzinger (4-1, 4-1). To join Kelly in advancement to Phase 2, Bryant, in the meantime, had to play 44 games and lost 18 of them. She got by Anna Riegler and junior competitor Savannah Easton, both 4-2, 4-2, before facing Jennifer Baretta, who won the opening set 2-4. Bryant came back to win the second set and the “spot shootout,” both double hill.

Angela Ticoalu got by Jeannie Seaver, Nicole Keeney and Woojin Lee with an aggregate score of 24-15 to qualify for Phase 2, as did Susan Williams from the same 16-entrant section of the opening bracket. Williams sent June Maiers, Vang Bui Xuan and Joanne Ashton to the loss side to join Ticoalu in the winners’ side advancement to Phase 2.

Allison Fisher chalked up an even more impressive Phase 1 than Kelly had. She, too, advanced to Phase 2 without having to play a third match against any of her three opponents, downing Susan Wilbur, Veronique Menard and Naomi Williams and giving up only two racks (to Menard, in their second race-to-4). Kyoko Sone joined Allison in advancement to Phase 2 from the same 16-entrant section of the opening bracket, downing Sandy Badger, 13-year-old junior competitor Sofia Mast and Amalia Matas Heredia.

Rounding out the field of eight winners’ side competitors to advance to Phase 2 were Jasmin Ouschan and Line Kjorsvik. Ouschan got by two of her opponents without having to play a “spot shootout” third match, downing Tamami Okuda 4-2, 4-1 and Beth Fondell 4-1, 4-2, before splitting her first two against Mary Tam 1-4, 4-3. Ouschan won the shootout 3-2 to advance. Kjorsvik did not play a third, tie-breaking “spot shootout” against any of her first three opponents either, joining Ouschan in advancement after defeating Gigi Callejas (4-1, 4-2), Camille Campbell (4-2, 4-0) and Melissa Helland (4-0, 4-1).

After five losers’ side rounds, Kaylee McIntosh, Woojin Lee, Angela Janic, Heather Cortez, Melissa Helland, Mary Tam, Amalia Matas Heredia and Ashley Burrows joined the eight winners’ side competitors in advancement to Phase 2, which in some ways, was notable for those left behind as much as for those who advanced. Among those who failed to make the cut were long-time WPBA veterans (in no particular order) Stephanie Mitchell, Teruko Cucculelli, Monica Webb, Jeannie Seaver, Liz Cole, Kim Newsome, Emily Duddy, Dawn Hopkins, Loree Jon Brown, Janet Atwell and Caroline Pao. It should also be noted that while both 13-year-old junior competitors, Sofia Mast and Skylar Hess, failed to advance, one (Mast) fell to an opponent (Angela Janic) who was among the final 16 and the other (Hess) was eliminated by someone (Cucculelli) who arguably should have been. It was the first appearance for these two extraordinarily talented and professionally-composed young women and WPBA competitors should be on notice that these two will be back and barring any unforeseen life changes, for many years to come.

The Final Four in this event competed in plenty of time for those so inclined to turn their attention to the NCAA Final Four, which got started well after the four ladies in Vegas got underway at about 2 p.m. on Saturday. It was an International Final Four, which was absent representation from the United States.  Kelly Fisher, representing the UK was matched up against Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan. Spain’s Amalia Matas Heredia, who, in February, chalked up her first win on the European Ladies’ Tour, faced Canada’s Brittany Bryant.

Kelly Fisher had kept her no-third-match streak going through the opening round against Heather Cortez, whom she defeated 4-1, 4-0 before drawing Angeline Ticoalu, who took the opening set against Fisher 4-2. Fisher came back to win the second set 4-1 and then, in something of a nail-biter, the “spot shootout” 6-5. Ouschan, who got by Kaylee McIntosh 4-0, 4-1 in the opening round of Phase 2 had her own nail-biter in the second round, where she won two straight double hill fights against Kyoko Sone to draw Kelly.

Advancing to the other semifinal, Bryant had played 24 games against two opponents, eliminating Woojin Lee 4-2, 4-1 and then Ashley Burrows 4-2, 4-3 to advance. Heredia proved to be Allison Fisher’s downfall in the opening round of Phase 2. Fisher took the opening set, double hill, but Heredia came back to win the second set and the “shootout,” double hill. Heredia went on to down Mary Tam 4-1, 4-3 to pick up Bryant.

Kelly Fisher downed Ouschan 4-2, 4-1 in their semifinal matchup. She was joined in the finals by Bryant, who’d defeated Heredia 4-2, 2-4 and 4-2 in the “shootout.” 

It’s not hard to imagine Fisher’s “I’ve got this,” and Bryant’s “Uh, oh, trouble right here in Sin City” when Fisher shut Bryant out in the opening set of the final. It’s also not hard to imagine the spectator’s rooting for Bryant in the second set when she and Kelly finished the 6th game, tied at 3 apiece. Fisher, though, completed her undefeated run by winning the second set to claim the event title.

Tour representatives thanked the ownership and staff at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, as well as sponsors and partners the WPBA, Alfa Coin, CueSports International, Predator Group, Kamui, Seybert’s, Medalla Light, Rums of Puerto Rico, BCA Pool League and the USA Pool League.

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Cole goes undefeated to win Northwest Women’s Pool Association’s season opener

(l to r): Chris Rogers (TD), Liz Cole, Cindy Sliva & Mike Bean (Legends owner)

Under the leadership of a new President, Stephanie Hefner, the Northwest Womens’s Pool Association (NWPA) opened its 2020 season with a $1,000-added, 10-ball stop at Legends Billiards Room in Beaverton, OR last weekend (Feb. 22-23). Hefner, who won the NAPT Division II Championships the previous weekend (Feb.16-17) in Phoenix, AZ, won this most recent event’s Second Chance tournament while finishing in the tie for 17th in the main event. Liz Cole, a long-time competitor on the tour went undefeated through the field of 56 entrants. Cole faced different opponents in the hot seat and finals, but battled another veteran tour competitor, Cindy Sliva, twice to claim the title.
 
Cole opened up with victories over Claire Lewis 6-1, Stacie Larson 6-2 and shut out Cindy Doty before running into Sliva for the first time in the winners’ side quarterfinal. Cole sent Sliva to the loss side 6-3 and drew Melissa Rushton in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Kira North, in the meantime, squared off against Donna Kingsbury in the other one.
 
North and Cole advanced to the hot seat match; North, 6-2 over Kingsbury and Cole, 6-3 over Rushton. Cole downed North 6-3 to claim the hot seat.
 
Cindy Sliva had opened her loss-side campaign with two 6-3 victories over MaryBeth Johnson and Deby Welfringer to pick up Kingsbury. Rushton drew Robin Adams, who’d been defeated by Sliva in the event’s third round and was in the midst of a four-match, loss-side winning streak that had entailed three double hill wins for her. With two of those double hill wins behind her, Adams downed Joyce Robinson 6-3 and then, chalked up her third double hill win, against Shirley Morgan to reach Rushton.
 
Rushton spoiled Adams’ bid for a rematch against Sliva and ended her streak 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Sliva, who’d defeated Kingsbury 6-1. Rushton put up a fight in those quarterfinals, falling just a game short of double hill, but Sliva prevailed 6-4 and then, gave up just a single rack to North in the semifinals.
 
Cole completed her undefeated run with a strong victory in the finals. She gave up only two racks and claimed the title 9-2 over Sliva.
 
Tour director Chris Rogers thanked the ownership and staff at Legends Billiards for their hospitality. The next stop on the NWPA Tour will be the Martha Harstell Memorial Tournament, a 9-ball event, scheduled for the weekend of March 28-29, to be hosted by The Cue Ball in Salem, OR.

NAPT Desert Challenge Underway

The North American Pool Tour (NAPT) Desert Challenge is underway at Griff's Bar and Billiards in Las Vegas, Nevada with a field of 34 ladies competing for $5000 in added prize money. 

 

Notable players in the field include Brittany Bryant, Jia Li, Melissa Little, Caroline Pao, Tina Malm, Eleanor Collado, Liz Cole, Mary Coffman and Arizona's Bernie Store

 

Fans can follow all of the action with the NAPT's online brackets, as well as free streaming coverage all weekend long. 

The Texas Tornado goes undefeated to win the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic

With its two previous winners ‘in the house’ – Brittany Bryant and April Larson – the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic got underway on June 14, at 6 p.m. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Though Bryant would get two chances, hot seat and finals, to win her second Ashton Twins Classic, the attempts were disrupted by a Texas Tornado known as Vivian Villareal, who went undefeated to claim the event title. Defending champion, April Larson, was sent to the loss side in the third round by Line Kjorsvik in a live-streamed match on Saturday and was eliminated in a double hill, loss-side match by Liz Cole to finish in the tie for 9th place. Emily Duddy, who was third in the inaugural event and battled Larson in the finals for the title last year, defeated one of the Ashton twins (Beverly) in a second-round match, and then, after being sent to the loss side by Cathy Metzinger, was defeated in her second loss-side match by the second Ashton twin, Joanne. The $8,000-added event drew 46 entrants to The Hidden Spot in Calgary.
 
After being awarded an opening round bye, Villareal got by her first three opponents by an aggregate score of 27-4, giving up two racks to Leandrea Gaff, and one each to Claire Pipestem and Valerie Franiel, which set her (Villareal) up to face Monica Webb in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Bryant, in the meantime, who was not awarded an opening round bye, worked her way to the other winners’ side semifinal with an aggregate score of 36-17, sending Elizabeth Jensen (1), Aryana Lynch (5), Sandy Badger (4) and Line Kjorsvik (7) to the loss side and turning to face Cathy Metzinger in the other winners’ side semifinal.
 
Monica Webb put up a fight against the Tornado, chalking up more racks against her in the winners’ side semifinal than all of Villareal’s previous opponents combined. Villareal, though, advanced to the hot seat match 9-5, and faced Bryant, who’d sent Metzinger west 9-1. Bryant proved to be Villareal’s second strong challenge in a row. She chalked up seven against her, but once again, Villareal advanced, sitting in the hot seat, waiting for what turned out to be Bryant’s return.
 
On the loss side, Webb picked up Teruko Cucculelli, who, after a defeat by Metzinger in a winners’ side quarterfinal, had downed Bonnie Plowman 9-3 and eliminated Kjorsvik 9-6. Metzinger drew Joanne Ashton, who, after eliminating Emily Duddy 9-6, had also eliminated Franiel 9-5 and Liz Cole 9-7 (Cole had just eliminated Larson).
 
Webb ended Cucculelli’s loss-side run 9-3, and in the quarterfinals, faced Metzinger, who’d eliminated the last-standing Ashton twin 9-2. Metzinger and Webb locked up in a double hill, quarterfinal battle that eventually advanced Metzinger to the semifinals against Bryant.
 
Bryant, apparently very determined to get a second shot at Villareal, allowed Metzinger only two racks in those semifinals. In what proved to be a nail-biting, extended-race-to-13 final, Bryant got out in front early, staking herself to a 5-1 lead, which by rack #13 had been extended to a 9-4 lead and then, quickly, an 11-6 lead.
 
Over the next 40 minutes of the match, Villareal had cut that lead down to a single game. She capped the four-game run by attempting an 8-9 combination which initially failed, only to have the 8-ball continue to travel and drop into a side pocket, leaving Villareal with a straight-on shot at the 9-ball in the opposite side pocket. It was 11-10, with Villareal breaking.
 
Bryant stopped the bleeding to reach the hill first at 12-10, but the Texas Tornado, which had been lurking on the horizon through much of the match, started to pick up some speed. She won game #23 and when Bryant missed a tough shot on the 7-ball in rack #24, Villareal jumped on it and won the rack to force a single deciding game.
 
Bryant broke the last rack, sunk a ball and had a clean, albeit bridge-necessary shot at the 1-ball. She dropped the 1-ball in a lower corner pocket, but as she drew back from the shot, her right wrist nudged the 9-ball forward, out of its original position by about an inch. Tournament officials took a minute or two to sort that out to Villareal’s satisfaction, as Bryant contemplated the difficult shot she’d left herself on the 2-ball. She made the 2-ball, but on a much easier shot, rattled the 3-ball in a corner pocket.
 
Villareal pocketed the 3-ball and played safe, leaving Bryant with a potential jump shot to make the 4-ball. She opted for a kick off the long rail, putting the 4-ball back up-table on a short rail with the cue at the opposite end of the table, leaving Villareal a long, sharp cut shot. A subsequent missed bank shot by Bryant left Villareal with a long-rail cut shot at the 4-ball, which she made, and proceeded to drop the next four balls, including the 9-ball to claim the 3rd Ashton Twins Classic title. 
 

Larson goes undefeated to capture 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic title

April Larson

In discussing the young April Larson, in an interview about her which appeared in Billiards Digest magazine last July, Mark Wilson, captain of the US Mosconi Cup team for three years, made mention of her skills and the likelihood of their development over time.
 
"She's got the tools," he said. "It's just a matter, now, of sharpening them."
 
Since that interview, Larson, a five-time Junior Nationals Champion in two separate divisions (under 13 & 13-17), has gone on to compete at the professional level, chalking up a victory at the North American Pool Tour's (NAPT) Summer 10-Ball Classic last August, and finishing among the top 10 in four other events last year; a stop on the North Central Pool Tour (runner up), the Super Billiards Expo's Women's Championship (5th), the NAPT's Inaugural 10-Ball Invitational (7th) and The Tornado Open (9th).
 
On the weekend of June 10-11, she traveled with her sharpened tools to Calgary, Alberta and went undefeated at the $5,000-added, 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic to chalk up her first (recorded) win of 2017. This, in spite of a strong nine-match, loss-side winning streak by her eventual opponent in the finals, Emily Duddy, who'd finished third in the 1st Ashton Twins Classic last year.
 
In races to 9, Larson's seven opponents in this most recent event, which drew 46 entrants to the Hidden Spot in Calgary, were chalking up an average of just under five racks per match against her (4.71, to be exact), but her undefeated run through the field was surgical, none the less. What had to be frightening to her opponents was the casual ease with which she approached every shot, stroke and eventual game victory; no signs of body language hinting at nervousness, silent aggression, or frustration when an unlucky roll or unforced error led to one of those 4.71 racks against her. Just a friendly, business-like attitude that served her well through the 100 games that she played, and the 67 of them that she won to secure the title.  
 
And the recently-turned-17-year-old has yet to graduate from high school.
 
"I have one more year left," she said, "and I can't wait to be out."
 
With plans to join Mark Wilson's program at Lindenwood University, where she will presumably further sharpen her already considerable skills, her future in the sport is bright. And being noted by those who've opposed her, like veteran pro LoreeJon Hasson, who defeated her in a one-on-one Challenge Match at The Break Room's 2nd Annual 8-Ball Classic last weekend. The match went double hill before Hasson won the challenge and then warned potential opponents in Larson's future.
 
"WPBA ladies," said Hasson, after the match, "Watch out! April is the real deal."
 
Following victories over Maria DeWolff, Shaundra Norquay, Kathie MacDonald and Denise Belanger, Larson moved into a winners' side semifinal against the opponent who would end up keeping Larson's racks-against average below 5, Rashiela Dela Cruz. In the meantime, one of the event-namesake Ashton twins (Joanne) advanced to the other winners' side semifinal versus Liz Cole.
 
Dela Cruz chalked up her event-leading seven racks against Larson, but the youngster put up her nine and advanced to the hot seat match. She was joined by Ashton, who'd defeated Cole 9-5.
Larson grabbed the hot seat 9-3 over Ashton and waited for Duddy to complete her loss-side run.
 
On the loss side, it was Dela Cruz who ran into Duddy, six matches into the streak that would put her into the finals against Larson. Duddy had most recently eliminated Theresa Lien 9-2 and Veronique Menard 9-7. Cole drew Cathy Metzinger, who'd defeated Robyn Petrosino 9-1 (Petrosino had sent Duddy to the loss side in the event's second round) and last year's Ashton Classic winner, Brittany Bryant 9-6 to reach her.
 
Duddy advanced to the quarterfinals 9-6 over Dela Cruz, where she was met by Metzinger, who'd eliminated Cole 9-7. Duddy defeated Metzinger 9-3 and then spoiled Joanne Ashton's bid for a second shot at Larson with a 9-7 win in the semifinals.
 
By virtue of her resume, her gutsy loss-side streak and natural inclinations toward self-confidence, Duddy entered the race-to-13 finals prepared to win. She maintained that air of confidence through about 14 of the eventual 18 games, in spite of chalking up only one of the first seven. At 6-1, she chalked up two in a row to cut Larson's lead in half. They traded racks to 7-4, before Larson chalked up three for a 10-4 lead. In the 15th rack, Larson took aim at an easy 9-ball shot and rattled it in the hole. Thanking goodness for small favors, Duddy dropped it to win what would prove to be her last rack.
 
In typical style, Larson shrugged off that single one of her very few unforced errors, and returned to the table for racks 16, 17 and 18. She won them all to complete her undefeated run, and claim the event title.
 
On her way back home, Larson said that underneath her apparent calm exterior throughout the tournament ("Everybody says that," she noted), was a nervous wreck. Friends who gathered around the pool table when the last match was over were surprised that she was shaking, a remnant of nerves, hidden below the surface of her calm exterior.
 
"Oh, for sure," she said. "I was glad it was over."
 
Though she'd faced and defeated Duddy before at her first SBE appearance two years ago, she was under no illusions that a win this time would be guaranteed.
 
"I told some friends of mine before the event started that if I got into a final against either Emily or Joanne (Ashton), it was going to be tough," she said. "I wanted this real bad, and I knew I had to forget who I was playing, and just play the table."
 
And she did, of course. She joined Emily and a few gathered well-wishers in a ceremonial 'shot' just after the match ended; a 'shot,' which given Canada's age restrictions on the consumption of alcohol, and her own preferences, consisted of milk. She tries not to drink anything during a match – no water, or soft drinks – to avoid any need for a bathroom break, but she reportedly welcomed the milk.
 
She'll rest up for a week, and then travel to Des Moines, Iowa to participate in Big Dog Billiards and Diveny Custom Cues' 2017 Midwest Billiards and Cue Expo, scheduled for June 21-25. Though she won't be a part of that event's Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge, One Pocket Championship or Banks Ring Game, she will sign on to that event's $2,000-added 9-Ball Open, where she'll mix it up with the boys.
           
"I've been able to experience the best of the best women," she said, "so it's all the same to me."
 
Note to Mosconi Cup organizers: It might be time to rethink the male restriction on members of the US team.
 
" I certainly hope so," she said, "because that's what I'd like to do."
 

Cole returns NWPA Stop #1 favor, defeating Jones to claim Stop #2

Liz Cole (Courtesy of Sandro Menzel)

It was the same finalists, with a reverse result. For the second time on the 2017 Northwest Women's Pool Association (NWPA) Tour, Liz Cole and Kim Jones battled it out for a title. On Stop #1 in February, Jones downed Cole in the finals. On the weekend of April 29-30, at Stop #2, the $750-added Martha Hartsell Memorial Tournament, that drew 36 entrants to The Cue Ball in Salem, OR, Cole bested Jones in the final to complete an undefeated run. Selected matches were streamed live throughout the weekend by Rail2Rail Productions. 
 
In addition to the repeat performance in the finals, the event featured the return of Canadian Jana Montour, a former regular on the tour, who took about three years off from competitive pool to pursue further education. A mother of five, ranging in age from nine to 26, Montour decided that she needed time away from being a housewife, and traveled down from Canada to sign on to the NWPA's second tour stop in Salem, OR. In spite of the years off, she took fourth in the event, and said she was looking forward to getting back into the sport on a more regular basis.
 
Following victories over Alicia Kvaanika, Patricia Tipton, and Marian Poole (with an aggregate score of 21-9), Montour squared off against Jones (28-13 at that point) in a winners' side semifinal. In the meantime, Cole (21-8), squared off against Stephanie Hefner (21-10). Those four would finish first through fourth at the end. Cole and Hefner locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Cole to the hot seat match. She was joined by Jones, who'd defeated Montour 7-4. Cole took the first of her two against Jones 7-4.
 
On the loss side, Montour picked up Cindy Doty, who'd downed Rebecca Sivter and Natasha Hook 6-4 to reach her. Hefner drew Suzanne Smith, who'd defeated Fran Johnson 6-2, and Valerie Franiel 6-4. Hefner got by Smith 6-2, and, in the quarterfinals, faced Montour, who'd eliminated Doty 6-2.
 
Hefner ended Montour's return to the tables 6-4 in those quarterfinals, before being herself eliminated by Jones, double hill in the semifinals. Though Jones would come within a single shot at the 9-ball from forcing a deciding game, Cole completed her undefeated run with a 9-7 victory over Jones in the final.