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Shaw goes undefeated to claim International Open 9-Ball Title

Jayson Shaw

Junior International Championship series crowns two new 18 & Under champions

It was a primal roar.

Shocking in its volume, its intensity, its contagious enthusiasm for the moment. He stood there, back arched, gripping his cue, his off-hand tightened to a fist, roaring to the rooftops. He put his cue down, pivoted in a single spot, his fierce glare and ongoing roar inviting the 200 or so people surrounding him in the Iwan Simonis Arena at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside in Virginia to join him in his triumph. They did.

Scotland’s Jayson Shaw had just won the 9-Ball tournament at the 2022 International Open and he wanted everybody to know, including, it would seem, the folks working at the General Dynamics shipyard across the bay from the hotel. Though somewhat familiar to any and all who’d watched him win tournaments before, it had reached a level that according to close friend and teammate on the 2016 Mosconi Cup team, Darren Appleton, was new and unique to the moment.

“I’d never seen that before,” said Appleton afterwards. “I’d seen him do it in team play, like the Mosconi Cup, but never like that before.”

Speaking to the crowds immediately following his 13-10 victory over Poland’s Wiktor Zielinski, Shaw tried to explain. He’d been asked what elevated this win above others. He didn’t reference the roar directly, but as he spoke, it added meaning and context to it. He shared the moment and everyone in the arena, who hadn’t needed or expected the explanation, understood it.

“I’ve struggled the last 12 months,” he said. “Just wasn’t feeling it.”

This might have come as a bit of a surprise to the listeners who knew something about his last 12 months; the back-to-back wins at Turning Stone, his victories at the 12th New England Pool & Billiards Hall of Fame 9-Ball Open and the Pro Players Championship at the Super Billiards Expo. But the acknowledged champion was thinking about the other 14 events at which he’d not done so well, during which time the pressure within him to ‘get back’ to where he wanted to be was strong, bottled up in a human vessel that burst like a huge champagne cork when the final 9-ball dropped.

He was definitely feeling it now, as six years, to the day, after he’d defeated Jung Lin-Chang at the Kuwait Open, he laid claim to the 2022 International Open 9-Ball title.

But so was Poland’s Wiktor Zielinski when he stepped to the table at the start of the match, with his own set of demons to exorcise, including, exactly one week ago, his runner-up finish to Dimitri Jungo at the American 14.1 Straight Pool Championships. He more than made up for that disappointment, eliminating Joshua Filler and Fedor Gorst in the single elimination stage.  Shaw had eliminated Kuwait’s Abdullah Alyousef 10-4, Spain’s Jonas Souto 10-3 and in the semifinals, Ko Pin Yi 10-3 to join him in the finals.

For those who’d been following the two finalists’ trips through the bracket, it was setting up to be a tight match between Zielinski’s resilience and Shaw’s raw and visible determination. Determination won.

The crowd had to wait a while for the two to settle in. Zielinski opened the proceedings with a dry break, which Shaw was unable to take advantage of. Zielinski then missed the 2-ball completely, giving Shaw ball-in-hand. Shaw ran the table to draw first blood. Shaw broke the second rack and scratched, giving Zielinski the opportunity to run the table and tie things up, which he did.

Things got better quickly, although when Zielinski broke and ran the third rack, it’d prove to be the last time that he would lead in the match. Shaw broke and ran rack four, running to the 3-ball and using it to drop the 9-ball and tie things. Though Zielinski would get within one, twice, at 7-6 and 8-7, the proverbial writing was on the wall. 

Zielenski got the crowd stirring right after Shaw had reached the hill, ahead by four. Shaw scratched in the next rack and Zeilinski dropped a 2-9 combination to finish rack #17, quickly, and then, after Shaw smacked three balls home on the break, Zielinski used a long bank shot on the 1-ball to start a run that brought him to within two at 12-10. 

Zielinski broke dry on the next rack and Shaw used a 2-9 combination to finish.

And then, there was the roar.

Tate and Hollingsworth meet for 2nd time in JIC final, Mast and Noelle Tate meet in girls’ final

It is indicative of the entire JIC program that the two girls who squared off in the finals of the Junior International Championships’ (JIC) 18 & Under Girls final were 14 and 12 years of age. The program made the distinction between 13 & Under and 18 & Under to keep burgeoning skills at the table in separate divisions, but the younger competitors weren’t interested. Sofia Mast (14) and Noelle Tate (12) advanced through the short field of eight entrants at the 2022 JIC’s 18 & Under Championships and though, there was a possibility that this year’s final would feature Tate sisters Bethany (16) who finished at the top of the 18 & Under Girls rankings, and Noelle, who finished 6th, that didn’t happen.. 

Mast had defeated Bethany, double hill, to claim the hot seat, but much to Noelle and Bethany’s surprise, the younger sibling defeated the older 7-5 in the semifinals. Noelle, who hadn’t given being in the finals a single thought on her way, fell 9-2 in the finals, and ‘besties’ that they tend to be, they hugged warmly when it was all over.

Noelle’s older brother, Joey and Landon Hollingsworth in the 18 & Under Boys final, not so much.

They’d met in the 18 & Under Boys finals last year, when Hollingsworth came out of a 5-5 tie and won the last five racks in a row to claim the 2021 title. This year, the two battled back and forth through five ties, the last of which set the stage for a double hill last game. Tate took his first lead since being ahead 2-1 when he won the 15th rack that made it 8-7. A tension-filled 16th rack saw them both miss shots that elicited gasps from the assembled spectators. Tate’s miss of the 6-ball gave Landon the chance to run the rest of the balls and he did for the 8-8 tie.

They ran through the final rack pretty quickly and it was Tate who got the first look at the 9-ball, but it was like a galaxy, far, far away. The audience seemed to be literally holding its breath and before he moved into his pre-shot routine, Tate was, too. But he settled into a stance, stroked and banked the 9-ball into a corner pocket to claim the JIC’s 18 & Under Boys title.

(Editor’s note: We’ll be working on expanded coverage of both the International Open and the JIC’s two Championship events, soon. Stay tuned. 

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International Open Advances 16 to Single Elimination Phase

JIC series begins its 18 & Under Boys and Girls Championships 

The winners’ side final 8 has been set for the beginning of the single elimination phase of the International Open’s 9-Ball tournament tomorrow (Fri., Nov. 4). As this report is being compiled (10 p.m., Thursday night), the eight competitors who will advance to the final 16 from the loss side are still competing. If Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz emerges victorious from his match against Bader Alawahdi, the final 16 in the event will contain seven of the top eight finishers (half the field) from the recently-concluded Big Foot 10-Ball Challenge, including Fedor Gorst, who won it and runner-up Joshua Filler.

Also advancing from the winners’ side into the final 16 will be Albin Ouschan, Wictor Zielinski, Jayson Shaw, Konrad Juszczyszyn, Roberto Gomez, and Alex Kazakis.

Already advancing from the loss side are Aloysius Yapp, who (very) recently defeated Jesus Atencio 10-8 and Mario He, who downed Sky Woodward 10-4. Still to be decided were matches between Robbie Capito/Ko Pin Yi, Jonas Souto/Noayuki Oi, Jani Uski/Moritz Neuhausen, Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz/Bader Alawahdi, Ping Chung Ko/Mieszko Fortunski and David Alcaide/Abdullah Alyousef

JIC underway; Boys will play winners’ side final four and 7/8 matches, Girls to play hot seat and quarterfinals

A total of 16 boys (18 & Under) and 8 girls (18 & Under) came to Norfolk to compete in the final events of the 2022 Junior International Championship series. In the course of the eight-event season, which began in January, the competitors amassed points which, at the end of the eighth stop on the series, yielded a ‘top players’ list, which led to invitations to the Championship events for the 18 & Under Boys and Girls. 

Both of those events got underway today, Thursday, Nov. 3. At the end of the day, there were six boys and four girls left. The top two girls in the year-long rankings – Bethany Tate #1 and Sofia Mast #2 – will square off tomorrow afternoon (Friday, Nov. 4; 2 p.m.) in the 18 & Under Girls hot seat match. At noon, Precilia Kinsley and Noelle Tate will square off in the quarterfinals, to be followed by the semifinals at 7 p.m., pitting whoever did not claim the hot seat and the winner of the quarterfinals. The finals are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 5 at noon.

At 10 a.m., tomorrow morning (Friday), the #2 and #3-ranked competitors from the 18 & Under Boys division – Landon Hollingsworth and Payne McBride will meet in one of the winners’ side semifinals. In the other one, #13 Garrett Vaughan and #15 Justin Maywin will meet. On the loss side, also at 10 a.m., playing in the two 7/8 matches, the #1-ranked Joey Tate will meet the #14-ranked Logan Whitaker.

Of the remaining six, three of them (Worth, McBride & Tate) competed in the International Open’s 9-Ball Tournament, with Brent Worth drawing what was arguably the toughest draw. He faced Hall of Fame German Ralf Souquet in the opening round and then, on the loss side, faced and lost to former junior competitor Chris Reinhold. McBride lost a winners’ side match to one of the semifinalists in last week’s American 14.1 Straight Pool Championship, Mieszko Fortunski and fell to Alecsa Pecelj on the loss side. Tate lost to Abdullah Alyousef on the winners’ side and Sullivan Clark on the loss side.

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Hollingsworth and Mast win respective 18U boys and girls division at JIC regular season finale

Landon Hollingsworth

Hollingsworth adds ProAm title, Mast adds 13U final event and 13U Championship

It was quite a weekend for two of the top names in the pool world of junior competition. There were seven total events at the last regular season stop (#8) on the Junior International Championship (JIC) series, held last weekend (Sept. 23-25) at Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA. Between them, Landon Hollingsworth and Sofia Mast won five of them; Hollingsworth, chalking up the win in the 18U Boys and ProAm divisions, as Mast (just a little busier) won both the 18U & 13U Girls titles and then went on to win the 13U Championship event, which was run concurrently with that division’s final regular season competition. Mast did not compete in the other division (ProAm) for which she was eligible, but given the strength of her performance in the three for which she was eligible, there was idle speculation that she might have taken that title as well.

Along the way, in the finals of her three events, Mast faced and defeated two members of the Tate family (Bethany in the 18U Girls division and her sister, Noelle in the 13U Girls division) and her perennial rival in both female divisions, Skylar Hess, in the 13U Girls championship. Bethany Tate (17th) and Hess (13th) were among the seven young women who competed in the ProAm event, along with Savanna Wolford, Courtney Hairfield (13th), Kennedy Meyman (17th), Skylynn Elliot (17th) and Precilia Kinsley (17th).

The ProAm event, the last of the 2022 JIC season, drew the weekend’s largest field (27) and seemed destined to feature a battle or two between the top two competitors in the division’s standings; Joey Tate and Landon Hollingsworth, who, between them, had won six of the division’s eight events, including the last one, won by Hollingsworth. But a funny thing happened on the way to the event finals. Tate was sent to the loss side in a winners’ side quarterfinal battle versus Brent Worth (7-5) and lost his first match on that side of the bracket to Grayson Vaughan 7-5.

Hollingsworth’s undefeated path to the hot seat and finals was not an easy one. It started out well, with 7-1 victories over two of the seven females in the field, Bethany Tate and Skylynn Elliott. It moved on from there to successive double-hill battles versus Jayce Little in a winners’ side quarterfinal and Nathan Childress in a winners’ side semifinal, which put Hollingsworth into the hot seat match. Jas Makhani in the meantime, who’d sent Brent Worth to the loss side immediately after Worth had sent Joey Tate over, joined Hollingsworth in the hot seat match. Hollingsworth, apparently tired of having to play two successive double hill matches, gave up only a single rack to Makhani and claimed the hot seat.

On the loss side, Logan Whitaker, who’d lost his opening round match to Payne McBride, embarked on an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that would take him to the finals against Hollingsworth. He’d recently defeated Cameron Hollingsworth (Landon’s brother), double hill and Grayson Vaughan 7-3 to draw Nathan Childress. Worth drew Hayden Ernst (eventual winner of the 13U Boys division tournament), who’d defeated McBride, double hill, and Cole Lewis 7-5 to reach him.

Worth and Whitaker advanced to the quarterfinals, won by Whitaker 7-1, who advanced to down Makhani in the semifinals 7-5.  

Whitaker, appearing in only his third ProAm event of the JIC series (previously 5th and 7th) gave Hollingsworth a run for his money in the finals. He came within a game of forcing a deciding 17th game. Hollingsworth claimed the ProAm’s last 2022 JIC title 9-7. He and Joey Tate, who finished 2nd and 1st, respectively, in the final ProAm standings were awarded entry fees to a Pro event of their choice. Tate will attend next month’s International Open in Norfolk, VA, while Hollingsworth opted to attend the Puerto Rico Open 10-Ball event in mid-November.

The expected matchup of the two top competitors in the 18U Boys division – Hollingsworth and Tate – happened in that division’s 23-entrant regular season finale, twice. Hollingsworth’s path to the finals took an unexpected turn when he lost his opening match in a double hill fight against Niko Konkel, who’d entered the tournament outside of the division’s top ten in the standings and finished in 5th place. It took Tate five matches to get into the hot seat. It took Hollingsworth eight loss-side matches to reach him in the finals.

Joey Tate got by Cole Lewis, Jas Makhani and Payne McBride to get into the hot seat match against Logan Whitaker. Runner-up in the ProAm event, which finished some three hours after the 18U tournament, Whitaker would figure prominently in this event, as well. Right after Konkel had sent Hollingsworth to the loss side, Whitaker sent him over and advanced through D’Angelo Spain and Brent Worth to reach the hot seat match against Tate. Tate claimed the hot seat 7-2, sending Whitaker to a semifinal matchup against Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth’s loss-side run faced its most serious challenge when Payne McBride, in his first loss-side match, forced a double-hill deciding match. Hollingsworth advanced to successfully navigate his rematch against Konkel in the quarterfinals 7-2 and then dropped Whitaker into third place 7-3 in the semifinals.

Anticipation of the final was probably stronger than the match itself. Hollingsworth downed Tate 9-4 to claim the last regular season event for the 18U Boys division. They’ll both be moving onto the 18U Boys Championship in Norfolk, VA at the end of the month.

Sofia Mast

Mast played in all three of the events she won, simultaneously

The “Pink Dagger,” Sofia Mast, struck three times on the weekend, winning the 13U Girls Championship at 8 p.m. on Saturday night, the 13U Girls regular season finale at 1 p.m. on Sunday and the 18U Girls title at 4 p.m. on Sunday. She went undefeated in all three, downing Skylar Hess in the finals of the first, Noelle Tate in the finals of the second and Noelle’s sister Bethany in the finals of the third.

In what proved to be her final title-claiming event, Mast faced and successfully navigated two double hill challenges, from Precilia Kinsley in the second round and Bethany Tate in the battle for the hot seat. Until she reached the hot seat match, Tate hadn’t faced an opponent who’d chalked up more than two racks against her, including her sister, Noelle, who chalked up that many in their winners’ side semifinal matchup.

Mast’s victory in the hot seat match sent Tate to the semifinals, where she ran into Courtney Hairfield, who chalked up two against her, as well. In the finals, when Mast chalked up her second rack, on her way to a title-claiming 9-5 victory, she had already won more games against Tate than all of Tate’s opponents combined.

As it happened, while Mast drew a lot of the weekend’s spotlight, it was Bethany Tate who ended up at the top of the 18U Girls division standings, significantly ahead of Mast in 2nd place. Tate won four of the division’s eight events, to Mast’s three; all in a row, including one in which she defeated Mast in the finals and two in which Mast finished in the tie for 5th place. Precilia Kinsley, Skylar Hess and Kennedy Meyman rounded out the division’s top five. Meyman won the only event that Tate and Mast, both of them competing, did not; the first, in January. They’ll all move on to Norfolk, where they’ll compete in the 18U Girls Championship, in the latter days of Pat Fleming’s 9-day International Open between October 28- November 5.

(Editor’s Note: Details on the two (each) 13U Girls and 13U Boys events, can be found elsewhere in our News section.) 

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Hollingsworth, Mast win five of seven at final 2022 JIC regular season and championship events

Sofia Mast

Ernst and Vondereau complete winners list on final regular season weekend

It was, for all five divisions of the Junior International Championships (JIC), sponsored by Viking Cues, the last stop of the 2022 regular season, which had begun in January and will conclude in early November for two of the five divisions. The 18U girls and boys divisions will compete in respective championship events as part of Pat Fleming’s International Open, the two tournaments scheduled towards the end (Nov. 3-5) of the week-long Open in Norfolk, VA.

This past weekend (Sept. 23-25), the ProAm division played its final event. The 13U boys and girls division did as well, but as had been done in the inaugural season, this entailed two separate events during the single weekend; the final event of the season and the division championships.

Competitors in the ProAm division were competing for the top two spots in the division standings at the end of the season, occupied at the end of the weekend by Joey Tate and Landon Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth won the final ProAm event of the season and Tate finished in the tie for 9th place. Tate, though, had won three of the division’s eight stops and been runner-up three times to finish at the top of the standings. Hollingsworth had won three, as well, but had only two runner-up finishes and three events at which he’d finished third or lower. The prize for the top two spots in the standings was an entry fee to a Pro event of the players’ choice. Tate will compete in the International Open at the end of the month and Hollingsworth opted for entry into the Puerto Rico 10-Ball Open in mid-November.   

We’ll be reporting separately on the JIC’s last regular season events in the two 18U divisions and the final event of the ProAm division (look for that report elsewhere in our News section). For now, though, we will focus our attention on the four events that comprised the official end of the 13U girls and boys divisions. The two events in each division ran concurrently and in fact, the championship was over before the regular season came to an official end on Sunday afternoon. 

The two younger divisions may be comprised of small human beings, but they sport some of the biggest hearts and are among the JIC’s most fierce competitors. Many of them compete in JIC (and regional) events outside of their age range and compete against the opposite sex in the JIC’s ProAm division. 

Three of the younger division’s fiercest female competitors – Sofia Mast, Skylar Hess and Noelle Tate – would bring the last event of the 13U girls division to a three-way, three-match conclusion that would see them finish 1, 2 & 3 in both the final event and the standings. Though Mast won five of the eight regular events, including the final one this past weekend, she had not competed in one of them. Hess won three, including the one in which Mast did not compete, chalked up four runner-up finishes to Mast’s one and just did stay atop of the division standings with a third-place finish ahead of Mast and Noelle Tate in the last regular season event.

That last event, which drew 10 entrants got underway just after noon on Friday, Sept. 23 and by 5:30, the hot seat opponents had been determined. Mast had met and defeated Hess in a winners’ side semifinal, while Noelle Tate had sent Franki Spain to the loss side to join Mast in the hot seat match, scheduled for Saturday morning. Hess moved to the loss side and moving from Friday night to Saturday morning, shut out both Gia Fiore and in the quarterfinals, Franki Spain. On Saturday morning, as Hess was shutting out Franki Spain, Mast was battling and eventually defeating Tate to claim the hot seat. Hess and Tate each wanted a shot at Mast in the hot seat and a predictable double-hill, semifinal fight got underway to see which of them it would be. Tate prevailed. Mast claimed the event title with a second victory over Tate, 9-5.

The 13U Girls Championship, with its eight entrants, got underway on Saturday morning, while the division’s top three were still battling in the season’s last stop. Mast and Hess, from opposite ends of the bracket, came together in the only two places possible, hot seat and finals. Noelle Tate had the misfortune of drawing Mast in the opening round of play and was sent to the loss side immediately 7-3. Mast and Hess advanced, sending Taylor Perkins and Arianna Houston to the loss side, respectively, by the same 7-2 score and squared off for their first meeting, battling for the hot seat. Mast gave up a single rack to claim it.

On the loss side, Tate had survived a double hill match versus Houston, only to be stopped by Perkins in the quarterfinals 7-4. Perkins battled Hess in the semifinals to a game away from double hill before Hess edged ahead to earn yet another shot at Mast. Mast claimed the division’s championship with a 9-6 victory over Hess in the finals.

Ernst wins second 13U title, as Vonderau, thanks to Makhani, loses his first

Like the girls event, the 13U Boys division’s final regular season event and the division Championships happened more or less simultaneously. Entering the regular season final with its 13 entrants, Eddie Vondereau had yet to lose any of the four events in which he had competed. Jas Makhani had not won any of the events in which he had competed, but having competed in all but two of the eight, and emerging as the runner-up in this latest one, he amassed enough standings points to finish second in the standings. It was Hayden Ernst, however, who’d won the event once before, in March, who emerged from the field to send Vondereau to the loss side in a winners’ side semifinal and then down Makhani in the finals to claim his second title. Ernst finished fourth in the division standings.

Vondereau and Makhani met first in the opening round, with Vondereau sending Makhani to the loss side 7-3. Vondereau advanced to the winners’ side semifinal, where Ernst, in a double hill fight, sent him to the loss side for a rematch against Makhani. Ernst won a second double hill battle, against Jayce Little, to claim the hot seat.

On the loss side, Makhani was working on a six-match, loss-side streak that would take him all the way to the finals. Along the way, he was offered a chance at redemption when he became the first competitor Vonderau faced on the loss side. He earned that redemption with a 7-4 rematch win, downed D’Angelo Spain 7-4 in the quarterfinals and survived a double hill match against Little in the semifinals. His quest for a first 13U Boys title was derailed by Ernst 9-3 in the finals.

In the 10-entrant division Championship, Vondereau went undefeated. He downed Makhani 7-3 in a winners’ side semifinal and claimed the hot seat over Timmy Cossey, appearing in his 6th event, 7-3.

On the loss side, Makhani lost his first match 7-5 to Landen Dunlap, as Grayson Vaughan was busy downing D’Angelo “Jawz” Spain by the same score. Vaughan shut Dunlap out in the quarterfinals and Cossey in the semifinals. He came within a game of forcing a 17th deciding match in the finals against Vondereau, who edged out in front to win 9-7 and claim the 13U Boys Championship title. 

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Kleinfelter, Mast win Stop #7 18U JIC divisions, Tate wins third ProAm division

Joey Tate

Vonderau & Mast claim 13U titles

Back in February, we began our report on Stop #2 of the 2022 Junior International Championships sponsored by Viking Cues (JIC) by comparing the series to the start of a horse race, basically noting that at that juncture, the track announcer had just gotten “And they’re off!” out of his mouth. Stop #7 on the JIC was held in Des Moines, IA this past weekend (Aug. 19-21) and the same voice is telling us that the “horses are coming around the far turn and headed for home.” Bear in mind, we’re talking five races going on simultaneously, further complicated by the fact that some of the horses are running in more than one of the races. Not to mention that while the ‘fillies’ and ‘colts’ of the JIC race separately, according to their age (18U & 13U Boys and Girls), they all race together in one of the JIC divisions (ProAm) and some of them compete in both of their gender appropriate races.

‘Home’ in this case will be the final stop of the JIC, scheduled for Sept. 23-25 at Wolf’s Den in Roanoke, VA, after which some of the divisions will move on in October to compete in divisional championships, coinciding in time and place with the annual International Open in Norfolk, VA. This past weekend’s five divisional tournaments drew 95 entrants (with aforementioned crossovers) to Big Dog Billiards in Des Moines, IA.

Out in front by about ‘half-a-length’ in the ProAm division is North Carolina’s Joey Tate, who went undefeated among 37 entrants in Iowa to claim his third JIC stop of the series’ seven (runner-up three times, third once). Chase Stumfoil, appearing in his first ProAm event of the series, was the event’s runner-up, downed by Tate twice, in the hot seat 7-2 and finals 9-4. Ben Kleinfelter, who won the 18U Boys division at this stop, finished third. The victory for Tate kept him atop the ProAm division going into the final stop next month. Second in the division, Landon Hollingsworth, who finished 5th, was able to maintain his position and heads into the final stop behind Tate by only 250 points. In the absence of the division’s third-ranked player, Lazaro Martinez, Riley Adkins, who finished 5th at Stop #7, moved up into third, dropping Martinez into 4th place in the division. Payne McBride, who finished in the tie for 9th/12th, edged up behind him in the rankings to 5th place.   

Ben Kleinfelter

In the 18U Boys ‘race,’ Tate and Hollingsworth remained atop those division standings, as well (same order), although they finished 3rd and 4th, respectively, at this most recent stop. Kleinfelter went undefeated through the field of 32, defeating Payne McBride twice, hot seat 7-4 and in a nail-biting final 9-8. Tate and Hollingsworth squared off in the quarterfinals of this divisional event; Tate, having defeated Adkins 7-3 in one of the 5/6 matches, Hollingsworth having eliminated Chase Stumfoil, double hill, in the other one. Tate then downed Hollingsworth 7-3 in those quarterfinals, only to be stopped in his bid for a second event title by McBride in the semifinals 7-5. Kleinfelter survived the double hill final against McBride to claim his first JIC title. Kleinfelter’s win moved him up to the #5 slot in the 18U standings, just behind McBride. Though not in attendance at this event, Lazaro Martinez maintained his hold on third place in the 18U Boys division, as the JIC’s top ‘colts’ bunched up, headed for home.

The top four 18U ‘fillies’ of the JIC came around this final bend already bunched up, with Bethany Tate leading the way, ahead of Sofia Mast, Precilia Kinsley and Skylar Hess, in that order. Tate, who’s won four of the seven stops so far, maintained her position at the top of the pack, while finishing third among the 11 entrants who competed in the division at this stop. Precilia Kinsley, who came in to the event third in the standings, finished 4th, but edged ahead of Sofia Mast in the standings to grab second place. Mast, who went undefeated to claim the official event title, her second of the season, dropped to third. Skylar Hess, who was runner-up to Mast for the second time this season, maintained her 4th place position in the standings. 

Sofia Mast

Mast and Hess met twice in this event; in a thriller hot seat match, won by Mast and the finals, also won by Mast 9-5. Tate, who’d lost her second round match, won four on the loss side and then, defeated Kinsley in the quarterfinals, before being defeated by Hess in another double hill battle in the semifinals. Tate and Hess would square off again, and again in the hot seat and finals, of the 13U Girls division.

Vonderau and Mast claim 13U titles

Eddie Vonderau has the distinction of having won all four of the JIC’s 13U Boys events in which he has competed, including this most recent 10-entrant event, in which he went undefeated to claim the fourth title. He’s been out in front of the 13U Boys pack of ‘colts’ from the beginning, although Deke Squier, having competed in all seven of the events has stayed close. Squier finished in 5th place this time out.

Hayden Ernst, who won the third stop in this division, was runner-up this time out and moved up to 7th place in the 13U Boys standings. Seven of this event’s 10 entrants were competing in the JIC series for the first time, and in the absence of the four competitors who, coming into the event, were ranked #3 through #6 (D’Angelo Spain, Jas Makhani, Grayson Vaughan and Jayce Little), it was also an opportunity. First-timer Noel Montano finished in third place when Ernst defeated him in the semifinals. Jax Seaboy lost the quarterfinals to Montano.

Eddie Vonderau

First-timer Braylon Jensen finished in the tie for 5th (with Squier). Also first-timers Dawson Aksamit and Garrett Lawson finished in the tie for 7th place, while Wyatt Andrist and Evan Lawson finished 9th.

The 13U Girls Division was a ‘five-horse’ race, which, with Mast, Hess and Noelle Tate (Bethany’s younger sister) in the running, did not bode well for the other two competitors, Jordan Helfrey and Skylynn Elliott. They opted for a round robin format, which eventually put Mast and Hess against each other in a final match. Noelle Tate had worked her way through the field, eventually downing Helfrey 7-4, before herself being defeated by Hess 7-3, which set up the final match. Mast stayed undefeated and defeated Hess 9-4 in those finals.

At this point, an announcer at a race track is getting really excited, transmitting that excitement with a pitch in his voice, letting everyone know. . “and here they come to the finish line!!” That finish line is in Roanoke, VA next month. Like horses, the young competitors who’ve been at work on this JIC series since January are as excited about the finish line that they can now ‘see’ as the likely group of a lot of spectators who’ll join then in Roanoke, and later, Norfolk to watch.

 

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34th Annual BEF Junior National Pool Championships Crowns 2022 National Champions

The Billiard Education Foundation recently held its 34th annual Junior National Pool Championships, Tuesday, June 21 to Saturday, June 25. The event attracted more than 130 of the top junior pool players across the country.

During the event, the Billiard Education Foundation recognized more than 90 players as Academic All Americans, as they all had a great point average of 3.0 GPA or better. Of those players, 39 players had a 4.0 GPA or higher. Along with the Academic All Americans, the BEF also recognized Hayleigh Marion and Kaden Hillman as the recipients of this year’s Brenden Crocket Sportsman Award for exemplifying the ideals of sportsmanship while at the pool table with ethical behavior, fair play, and integrity throughout the event.

During the week-long tournament BCA Hall of Famer Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman also held his 28th consecutive annual artistic pool competition. Dr. Cue presented the 2022 Artistic Pool awards to this year’s champions: Brody Hillman (U18 boys division), Kaden Hillman (U16 and U14 boys divisions), Sofia Mast (U18 girls division), Hayleigh Marion (U16 girls division), and Skylar Hess (U14 girls division).

On Saturday, June 25th the Junior National Pool Championships concluded with the final matches in each category. In an effort to align with the WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championship, the BEF awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three finishers of each division.

The finalist of this year’s BEF Junior National 9-Ball Championships presented by Iwan Simonis are:

Gold Medalists:
18UB Landon Hollingsworth (Greenville, SC)
18UG Skylar Hess (Queenstown, MD)
16UB Adrian Prasad (Sacramento, CA)
16UG Precilia Kinsley (Roanoke, VA)
14UB Eddie Vonderau (Rapid City, SD)
14UG Savannah Easton (Las Vegas, NV)

Silver Medalists:
18UB Joey Tate (Elm City, NC)
18UG Kennedy Meyman (White Bear Lake, MN)
16UB Harry Leinen (Waconia, MN)
16UG Bethany Tate (Elm City, NC)
14UB Jayce Little (High Point, NC)
14UG Sofia Mast (Land O’ Lakes, FL)

Bronze Medalists:
18UB Niko Konkel (Winston-Salem, NC)
18UG Courtney Hairfield (Chester, VA)
16UB Niko Konkel (Winston-Salem, NC)
16UG Hayleigh Marion (Bristol, VA)
14UB Jordan Witkin (Algonquin, IL)
14UG Noelle Tate (Elm City, NC)

The finalist of this year’s BEF U18 8-Ball National Championship presented by Lucasi Cues are:

8-Ball Girls Division:
Gold Medalist: Savannah Easton (Las Vegas, NV)
Silver Medalist: Sofia Mast (Land O’ Lakes, FL)
Bronze Medalist: Jordan Helfrey (St. Joseph, MO)

8-Ball Boys Division:
Gold Medalist: Trent White (Plant City, FL)
Silver Medalist: Jacob Kohl (Stevens, PA)
Bronze Medalist: Brent Worth (Hampton, VA)

The finalist of this year’s BEF U22 10-Ball National Championship presented by Diamond Billiard Products are:

Gold Medalist: Landon Hollingsworth (Greenville, SC)
Silver Medalist: Nathan Nunes (Fremont, CA)
Bronze Medalist: Adrian Prasad (Sacramento, CA)

Introduced at this year’s BEF Junior National Pool Championships was the Michael J. Repici Girls in Billiards Scholarship. The new scholarship fund provided $1,000 to the three girls 9-Ball division champions. In its inaugural year, the recipients of the Michael J Repici include: U18 9-Ball Champion Skylar Hess; U16 9-Ball Champion Precilia Kinsley; and U14 9-Ball Champion Savannah Easton.

Sponsors for this year’s event included:

About Billiard Education Foundation
The Billiard Education Foundation (BEF) was formed in 1993 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity committed to promoting a love of pool and building the next generation of players through youth programs and academic scholarships. The BEF is managed by the Billiard Congress of America. For more information about the BEF or to learn how you can support the foundation please visit BilliardEducation.org.

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Hollingsworth takes two titles for the second time at BEF Junior Nationals in Vegas

2022 Winners (Courtesy Roy Pastor – BEF)

Nine events, drawn from 22 national qualifiers across 17 states, yields 110 unique competitors

For the second year in a row, since the Billiards Education Foundation initiated a new rule allowing players to compete in more than one division of their Junior National Championships, Greenville, SC’s Landon Hollingworth has taken advantage of an opportunity to claim two separate titles at the annual event. He claimed two 2021 Junior National titles in both the 18 & Under and 16 & Under divisions and last week, though he’d aged out of eligibility for the 16 & Under division of the 2022 Junior Nationals, he won his second 18 & Under division title and added a win in the event’s 10-Ball Championships. Nine divisions drew 110 unique entrants to the 2022 Junior National Championships, which were hosted by the South Point Hotel & Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV from June 21-25.

Three of the nine events were designated as qualifiers for the World Junior 9-Ball Championships, scheduled for the week of November 14-20 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In addition to the 18U Boys division event, won by Hollingsworth, the 18U Girls division, won by Skylar Hess and the 16U Boys division, won by Adrian Prasad will yield eligible entrants to the World Juniors event. The BEF will make an announcement sometime in the future regarding which players among those who participated will be eligible, taking into account finish positions in each of the qualifying events and the ability of individual players to attend.

The influence of the ongoing Junior International Championship (JIC) series of tournaments, now midway through its second year, was very evident in the results of this year’s Junior Nationals. Of the 27 medals awarded to competitors (gold, silver, bronze; three in each division), 25 of them went to active competitors in the JIC series. 

“Proud is an understatement,” wrote On the Wire Creative Media’s Ra Hanna, who organized and runs the series, in the JIC Facebook page. “We’re a family; that’s it, pure and simple. We work hard and we play hard.” 

Hollingsworth’s two Gold medals at the BEF Junior Nationals were not without their challenges. Though he’d go undefeated in the second-largest event in terms of entrants, the 18U Boys 9-Ball World Qualifier, which drew 35 entrants, he had to play one loss-side match in his 10-Ball Championship run, which drew 32.

Niko Konkel, Landon Hollingsworth and Joey Tate

None of his five opponents in his 9-Ball event run chalked up less than four racks against him and one of them, Garrett Vaughan, forced him to win the final game of a double hill struggle. He downed Niko Konkel 9-6 to claim the hot seat, before he had to face one of his regular opponents on the JIC circuit, Joey Tate, in the finals. Tate had been sent to the loss side, where he defeated Nicholas Fiore, Trent White in the quarterfinals and Konkel, who picked up the event’s Bronze medal, in the semifinals. Hollingsworth grabbed the Gold medal with a 10-7 final victory over Tate, who went home with the Silver medal. 

In the 10-Ball Championships, Hollingsworth began his run to the hot seat match by defeating his younger brother Cameron and then defeated three more opponents to reach and challenge Nathan Nunes for the hot seat. Nunes handed him his first, and as it turned out, only loss of the week 7-3 and claimed the hot seat. Hollingsworth was challenged to his second double hill match by Adrian Prasad in the semifinals and prevailed for a second chance against Nunes. In the very early morning hour or so of Saturday, June 25, he collected his second Gold medal with a 7-5 victory over Nunes in the finals of the 10-Ball event.

In the 18U Girls world qualifier, which drew 17 entrants, Skylar Hess won three on the loss side to down Kennedy Meyman in the finals. Hess had been sent to the loss side by Meyman, who’d advanced to claim the hot seat in a double hill win over Courtney Hairfield. On the loss side, Hess defeated Bethany Tate in the quarterfinals and Hairfield in the semifinals, both 7-5. She won her rematch versus Meyman 10-3 to claim the event’s Gold medal. The top four finishers in this event were among the JIC’s top-ranked competitors in its 18UG division, midway through the JIC season. The winner of the BEF 18UG event, Hess, is 4th on the JIC list, while the runner-up, Meyman, is 2nd. Precilia Kinsley, who finished in the tie for 5th/6th at this event is 3rd on the JIC list, while the 4th place finisher is currently the JIC’s top-ranked young female competitor, Bethany Tate.  

In the remaining world-qualifying event, the 16U Boys 9-Ball, which drew one entrant less than the 18U Boys event (34), the 10-Ball Championship’s Bronze medalist, Adrian Prasad came from the loss side to down Harrison Leinen in the finals. Prasad had been defeated by Leinen 9-7 in the battle for the hot seat, and then eliminated the 9-Ball event’s Bronze medalist Niko Konkel in the semifinals 7-2. Prasad completed his run with a 10-8 victory over Leinen in the finals.

The 16U Girls had, by far, the shortest field in the Junior Nationals with only 7 entrants and the above-noted Precilia Kinsley and Bethany Tate finished as winner and runner-up. Those two battled first in a winners’ side semifinal that went double hill before Tate advanced to the hot seat match against Hayleigh Marion. In her second straight double hill match, Tate defeated Marion to claim the hot seat. On the loss side, Kinsley won two matches, including a double hill win over Marion in the semifinals, before coming back to down Tate in the finals 7-2.

8-Ball Championships draw larger field (44), than 14U Girls and Boys combined (40)

Trenton White and Brent Worth

The popularity of 8-Ball was as evident at the BEF Junior Nationals as it is in the general amateur fields of competition, like various leagues and independent-venue, weekend  tournaments from coast to coast. The 44-entrant size of the field featured a lot of competitors not included in the JIC rosters of regular competitors. The JIC series, in general, features 9-ball competition, though later this year, there are plans to include a 14:1 tournament. Though they don’t play 8-ball, all three of the event’s medals went to regular JIC competitors. 

Trent White, who competes in the JIC 18U Boys division, went undefeated through the field to claim the BEF’s 18U 8-Ball Championships. White faced separate opponents in the hot seat match and finals, downing Brent Worth, double hill, in the former and Jacob Kohl 5-2 in the latter. 

Eddie Vonderau, who sits atop the current JIC ranking roster in the 13UB division, went undefeated through the BEF’s 14U Boys event, which drew 28 entrants. Like White in the 8-Ball event, Vonderau faced different opponents in the hot seat and finals. He gave up only a single rack to Jordan Witkin in the hot seat match and faced Jayce Little in the finals. Little won three on the loss side, including two double hill matches, against Grayson Vaughan and in the semifinals, Witkin, for a shot against Vonderau. Witkin chalked up four racks in the finals, but Vonderau got his 8 to claim the Gold medal.

Sofia Mast, Savannah Easton and Noelle Tate

The 12-entrant 14U Girls event was won by Savannah Easton, who went undefeated through the field, downing Sofia Mast twice; hot seat and finals. Easton had defeated the youngest of the three-member Tate clan, Noelle, in a winners’ side semifinal and in the hot seat match, drew Mast, who’d defeated her ‘storied’ arch-rival in the JIC series, Skylar Hess (winner of the 18UG world qualifier), in a winners’ side quarterfinal before defeating Jordan Helfery in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Easton grabbed the hot seat 7-5 over Mast. When Mast returned after defeating Noelle Tate a second time, 5-1, Easton defeated her a second time, 7-3 in the finals to grab the 14U Girls Gold medal. 

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Joey Tate wins 18U Boys and ProAm divisions of JIC’s Stop #4 in Arizona

Bethany and Joey Tate (Corby Dayhoff)

Sister, Bethany Tate claims 18U girls title

All in all, it was a good weekend for the Tate family on the Junior International Championships, which held its fourth 2022 stop in the series at Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ this past weekend (May 6-8). The family’s oldest son that plays on the JIC (among 12 in the family), Joey Tate, went undefeated in the 18U Boys division and came back from a winners’ side semifinal loss to arch-rival Landon Hollingsworth in the ProAm division to down him in the finals. Sister Bethany lost the hot seat match in the 18U Girls Division, but came back from the semifinals to down Savanna Wolford in the finals. Bethany ended up meeting and being defeated by brother Joey in a winners’ side semifinal in the ProAm division, while younger sister, Noelle, finished in the tie for 7th in the 18U Girls and 4th in the 13U Girls Division.

It was also a good day for the JIC’s most well-known rivalries with Tate and Hollingsworth squaring off in both the 18U Boys division and in the ProAm division, while Sofia Mast and Skylar Hess battled in the finals of the 13U Girls division; both won by Mast. They competed, but not against each other, in the 18U Girls division.

The event drew a total of 53 entrants (with some crossovers) to Bullshooter’s. The younger divisions drew very low numbers (three for the 13U Boys and four for the 13U Girls).

Tate’s undefeated win in the 17-entrant, 18U Boys division opened with a 7-4 victory over Landon Hollingsworth and then sent Ivo Lemon to the loss side 7-3, which set Tate up for a winners’ side semifinal against Rylan Yoder. Eddie Vonderau, in the meantime, defeated Deke Squier 7-3 and Payne McBride 7-5 to arrive at his winners’ side semifinal against Nathan Nunes. Two double hill matches ensued for advancement to the hot seat match, won by Tate and Vonderau. Tate claimed the hot seat 7-4.

On the loss side, Yoder picked up Payne McBride, who’d followed his loss to Vondereau by eliminating Hollingsworth 7-4 and Ben Kleinfelter 7-5. Nunes picked up Brent Worth, who’d defeated (among others) Jamison Gall 7-3 and Justin Maywin 7-5 to reach him.

McBride and Nunes advanced to the quarterfinals, where McBride won a double hill match versus Nunes, only to be downed himself in a double hill match by Vondereau in the semifinals. Tate completed his undefeated run with a second win over Vondereau in the finals 9-5.

The multi-gender, 20-entrant ProAm field (largest at this event) featured two matches between Joey Tate and Hollingsworth; hot seat and finals. Tate had sent Ben Kleinfelter and Jahnythan Craig to the loss side to meet up with his sister, Bethany. Hollingsworth, in the meantime, got by Rylan Yoder and Nathan Nunes to face Payne McBride in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Hollingsworth defeated McBride 7-4, as Joey was working at sending his own sister to the loss side 7-2. Hollingsworth claimed the hot seat over Tate 7-2. 

On the loss side, Bethany Tate picked up Brent Worth, who’d followed his winners’ side loss to Hollingsworth with a double hill win Justin Maywin and a 7-2 win over Nunes. McBride drew Jahnythan Craig, who’d recently eliminated Yoder and Gall, both 7-2.

McBride and Worth advanced to the quarterfinals, where McBride prevailed 7-3 and was then downed 7-4 by Tate in the semifinals. The tables were turned on Hollingsworth in the finals, who chalked up only two racks in the 9-2 win that gave Tate his second title of the event.

Bethany Tate wins 18U Girls, Mast wins 13U Girls as Vondereau takes 13U Boys

Bethany Tate’s path to the winners’ circle in the 18U Girls division went through her sister, Noelle, whom she defeated in the opening round in a somewhat predictable double hill fight. Tate then faced two ‘Savanna’s’ in a row; one with and one without an ‘h.’ She downed Savannah Easton 7-5 in a winners’ side semifinal to advance to the hot seat against Savanna Wolford, who’d defeated Sofia Mast 7-4 in their winners’ side semifinal. 

It was Wolford who grabbed the hot seat 7-3 over Tate. On the loss side, Precilia Kinsley backed up her winners’ side, first-round defeat of Skylar Hess with a 7-4 victory over Mast in her (Mast’s) first loss-side match. In the quarterfinals, Kinsley faced Kennedy Meyman, who’d survived a double hill match against Easton.

Kinsley advanced one more step, downing Meyman 7-2 in those quarterfinals, before she and Bethany Tate locked up in a double-hill semifinal that eventually sent Tate to a second shot against Wolford. Tate and Wolford battled to double hill, before Tate dropped the last ball to claim the 18U Girls title.

The two 13U-division events, with a combined eight entrants, were combined into a single event, which played out, in the beginning, as a round robin event, with each competitor playing seven matches. The top contenders were arranged into a male/female pair of single elimination matches that determined the winner in each division. 

Eddie Vondereau’s record in the round robin games earned him a bye in the single elimination phase of the 13U Boys division, as Deke Squier downed Brennan Fee 7-2. Vondereau downed Squier in the finals 9-2, with Fee finishing third. In the opening round of the single elimination phase of the 13U Girls division, Sofia Mast defeated Noelle Tate 7-2, as Skylar Hess downed Savannah Easton 7-4. In the event’s modified single-elimination format, Easton defeated Tate to finish third, with Tate, fourth. In the finals, Mast claimed the 13U Girls title with 9-5 win over Hess. 

Stop #4 of the Junior International Championships, sponsored by Viking Cues, signaled the end of the series’ first half of competition. With four events left, Joey Tate and Landon Hollingsworth are in possession of the top two spots in both the 18U Boys division and ProAm division. Tate, with this past weekend’s win and three previous runner-up finishes, is atop the ProAm division, with Hollingsworth in 2nd place, Brent Worth in 3rd and Lazaro Martinez, 4th. In the 18U division, the order is Tate, Hollingsworth, Ivo Lemon and Lazaro Martinez.

Bethany Tate, who’s won three of the first four events, is atop the 18U Girls division, with Kennedy Meyman in 2nd place. Noelle Tate sits in 3rd place and Skylar Hess is 4th. In the 13U Boys division, it’s D’Angelo Spain atop the standings. He’s been runner-up twice and 3rd twice, though he has yet to win a stop. Deke Squier is 2nd, with Eddie Vondereau, who’s won the two events in which he has competed, in 3rd place.

In an effort to assist in travel arrangements associated with the Junior International Championships and the BEF Junior Nationals, the next stop on the former has been scheduled in close time-and-location proximity to the latter. The JIC’s fifth stop, scheduled for the weekend of June 18-20, will be hosted by Griff’s in Las Vegas, while the BEF Junior Nationals will be held the following week (June 21-25) at the South Point Hotel & Convention Center in the same city.

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Newcomer to Tour Director role, Casey Cork, organizes BEF qualifier in Winston-Salem

Casey Cork (File photo)

Tate siblings win 18U Boys and Girls events, Jas Makhani wins Coed 14 & Under

One day, 20-year-old Casey Cork, a veteran of the Junior International Championship series of events, who finished 9th in the overall standings of the 18U girls division in the JIC’s first year and has aged out of competition in all but the ProAm division this year, decided that she wanted to organize a pool tournament for juniors. Not content with the availability of junior tournaments in her Greensboro, NC area, she reached out to Sandeep (Sonny) Makhani, owner of Breaktime Billiards in Winston-Salem and got him to split the cost of such a tournament and then, reached out to the Billiards Education Foundation and got them to agree to its designation as a qualifier for the annual Junior Nationals.

Easy-peasy, right? Well, probably not.

“I had no clue what I was in for,” she said.

But she got it done and this past weekend, Saturday, April 30, Breaktime hosted a BEF qualifier in three divisions: 18 & Under Boys and Girls and a 14 & Under Coed division. It was arguably for the best that it didn’t draw as many entrants as she’d hoped for (35-40), as she discovered what it was actually all about. The 18U Boys drew 13 entrants, the 14U Coed event drew 11 (and was won by the room owner’s son, Jas Makhani) and there were only six 18U girls. Among this short field were a number of JIC veterans, like the Tate siblings, Joey and Bethany, who both went undefeated to claim the 18U Boys and the 18U Girls titles. Noelle Tate competed, as well, along with Skylar Hess, the Vaughan brothers, and Niko Konkel, to name just a few. 

Joey Tate got by Garrett Vaughn twice in the 18U Boys event; hot seat and finals. Tate gave up more than a single rack only once through the five matches that it took him to claim the title. The one who chalked up five against him was Garrett Vaughn’s brother, Grayson. Niko Konkel, who finished third played both brothers; Grayson in the quarterfinals (shutting him out) and Garrett in the semifinals, who defeated him in a double hill match. Tate downed Garrett Vaughn by the same 7-1 score in both the hot seat match and finals.

Grayson Vaughan also competed in the 14U Coed tourney, and was proceeding along nicely until he ran into the eventual winner, Jas Makhani, in a winners’ side semifinal. Makhani advanced to the hot seat match 7-5 over Vaughan and met up with Skylar Hess, who’d sent Max Moore to the loss side by the same 7-5 score. Makhani claimed the hot seat 7-1, sending Hess to the semifinals and a 5-2 win over Jayce Little, who’d previously defeated Vaughan in the quarterfinals. Hess managed one more rack against Makhani in the finals than she’d chalked up against him in their hot seat match, but Makhani claimed the title 7-2.

 Hess showed up in the finals of the 10-match 18U Girls event, too. Downed by Bethany Tate 7-3 in the opening round, Hess came back through half the field (three opponents) to challenge her in the finals. Bethany Tate (15) had downed her younger sister, Noelle (12) in a winners’ side semifinal 7-3, advancing to the hot seat against Alana Sanchez, who’d sent Taylor Perkins to the loss side 7-1. Bethany claimed the hot seat 7-4. Hess, after downing Perkins 7-4, Noelle Tate 5-3 in the quarterfinals and Sanchez, double hill, in the semifinals got a second shot against Bethany Tate. Tate won their title-claiming rematch 7-4.

“There were some bumps in the road, some conflicts,” said Cork of her first tournament-direction experience, as, she noted by example, the fact that the venue had to move some of the bar box tables toward the end of the evening to accommodate the arrival of a band, “but otherwise, it went well.”

Well enough, she went on to say, that she’s already setting her sights toward future junior tournaments and the possibility of launching a series of women’s tournaments, as well. Not everyone walks away from their first tournament-directing experience with as much enthusiasm and immediate plans for the next one. We suspect we’ll be hearing more from this young woman and her pool-tournament aspirations in the months and hopefully, years ahead. 

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Bethany Tate and Skylar Hess win second straight 18U/13U Girls titles on JIC Stop #3

Arianna Houston, Skyler Hess and Noelle Tate

Logan Whitaker, Hayden Ernst win 18U/13U Boys titles, Lazaro Martinez takes ProAm event

As of this past weekend (March 26-27), three of the five divisions of the Junior International Championships have had different winners through the series’ first three stops. Bethany Tate has won the last two 18 & Under Girls division titles, while Skylar Hess has captured the last two 13 & Under Girls titles. Kennedy Meyman won the first 18 & Under Girls title back in January, while Sofia Mast took the season-opening 13 & Under Girls’ title.

The continuing JIC series has sparked a number of notable rivalries in each of its five divisions, reflected in the ongoing battle for supremacy in the 13U Girls division, where, dating back to last  year’s series, Sylar Hess and Sofia Mast do regular battle. When Mast won the division’s 2022 season opener, Hess was runner-up. When Hess grabbed the title at Stop #2, Mast was runner-up. 

This past weekend, however, Mast was in Las Vegas for the BCA Pool League’s World Championships, where she lost a battle for the hot seat and was defeated in the semifinals of the Ladies’ 8-Ball Singles event. The absence of Mast did not grant Hess any automatic ticket to the 10-entrant, JIC 13 & Under winners’ circle, though. In fact, after downing Aubrey Whited 7-3 in her opening round, Hess was sent to the loss side by Arianna Houston 7-3 in a winners’ side semifinal. Joining Houston in the hot seat match was Noelle Tate, a regular threat in the division, who’d defeated Kayden Willis 7-2 in their winners’ side semifinal.

Tate grabbed the hot seat 7-2 over Houston, guaranteeing her (Tate) third place, minimum. She’d finished 4th in the opener and 7th in the second event. Noelle had finished 3rd in the opener of the 18 and Under Girls division and 5th, twice, in the next two).

On the loss side, Hess picked up Skylnn Elliott, while Willis drew Gianna “Mini Banks” Fiore. Hess and Fiore advanced to the quarterfinals; Hess over Elliott and Fiore over Willis, both 7-1. Hess then eliminated Fiore 7-4 and downed Houston in the semifinals 7-3. Hess and Tate battled to double hill in the finals, before Hess claimed her second 13 & Under title.

Kennedy Meyman, Bethany Tate and Skyler Hess

Noelle’s older sister, Bethany, grabbed her second straight title in the 14-entrant, 18 & Under Girls division, having defeated both Sofia Mast in the finals of the 2nd event in Florida and Hess in this most recent event, also in the finals. Bethany went undefeated in this one, while Hess, who’d been defeated by Bethany in the opening round of play, won six on the loss side to meet her in the finals. Both Bethany and Hess had to get by Noelle Tate to earn their spot in the finals; Bethany had downed her sister in a winners’ side semifinal, while Hess was Noelle’s first, loss-side opponent. 

It was Bethany and Kennedy Meyman (winner of the 18 & Under Girls’ division in the season opener) who squared off in the hot seat match, won by Bethany 7-4. On the loss side, Hess eliminated Noelle 7-4, advancing to the quarterfinals against Taylor Perkins, who’d defeated Courtney Hairfield, double hill. Hess defeated Perkins 7-1 and then, downed Meyman 7-4 for a second shot at Bethany, waiting for her in the hot seat. Bethany completed her undefeated run 9-2 in the finals to chalk up her second straight 18 & Under Girls’ title.

Boys’ events and Pro Am crown their third season champions

In the ProAm division, while there have been three different winners (in order, Landon Hollingsworth, Trenton White, and this past weekend, Lazaro Martinez), Joey Tate has been runner-up in all three. There are a lot of crossover competitors in the age-and-gender-separated divisions, as well as, in particular, the ProAm and 18 & Under Boys divisions. Lazaro Martinez, as a random example, almost won two divisions on the same weekend, and did win the 36-entrant Pro Am, although not before Joey Tate defeated him in the hot seat match 7-5 and he had to eliminate Landon Hollingsworth 7-1 in the semifinals for a second shot at Tate. It was a successful second shot, as it turned out, with Martinez downing Tate in the finals 9-4. 

Lazaro Martinez, Logan Whitaker and Ivo Lemon

The winner of the 33-entrant, 18 & Under Boys division, Logan Whitaker, it should be noted, was sent to the loss side by Joey Tate in the ProAm and eliminated in his first, loss-side match by another regular threat in the boys’ and ProAm divisions, Nathan Childress.  He had to come from the loss side to capture the 18 & Under Boys title, as well.

After downing Hollingsworth in a winners’ side quarterfinal 7-4, Whitaker was sent to the loss side by Ivo Lemon in a winners’ side semifinal. In the hot seat match, Lemon faced Lazaro Martinez, who’d just defeated Tate, double hill in their winners’ side semifinal. Martinez claimed the hot seat 7-1 over Lemon and was a single step away from securing a second title on the weekend. 

Whitaker opened his loss-side campaign against RJ Mills, as Hollingsworth and Joey Tate were squaring off in a double hill fight that eventually sent Hollingsworth to the quarterfinals. Whitaker joined him after downing Mills 7-5. In their second match, Whitaker downed Hollingsworth a second time, 7-3 and eliminated Lemon 7-3 in the semifinals.

With one competitor looking for his first win on the JIC and the other looking to chalk up his second at just this one stop on the series, a double hill fight was not a surprise. Whitaker prevailed to claim his first JIC title.

Hayden Ernst

Hayden Ernst, appearing in his first JIC event, finished in the tie for 7th place in the ProAm division, but went undefeated to claim the 13-entrant, 13 & Under Boys division. He faced Jayce Little in the hot seat match, downing him 7-4 to claim his first JIC hot seat. 

D’Angelo “Jaws” Spain, in the meantime, who’d been sent to the loss side in a double hill battle versus Jas Makhani, worked his way through five, loss-side opponents (including a successful rematch against Makhani; 7-5 in the quarterfinals). “Jaws” dropped Jayce Little 7-5 in the semifinals and got a shot at Ernst, waiting for him in the hot seat.

Ernst claimed his first title, to go along with his 7th place finish in the ProAm. He defeated “Jaws” in the 13 & Under Boys finals 9-2.

The JIC series heads for the desert in a little over a month. Stop #4 on the Junior International Championships, scheduled for the weekend of May 6-8, will be hosted by Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ. 

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