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Jasmin Ouschan Ends Fisher’s Run, Wins WPBA Soaring Eagle Masters

Kelly Fisher and Jasmin Ouschan

When Jasmin Ouschan returned to compete in events on the Women’s Professional Billiard Association (WPBA), no fan of the game expected that it would take long for her to reach her stride and return to the top of the results. They would have been right.

Ouschan’s return to the WPBA was in mid March where she turned in an uncharacteristic 17th place finish at the WPBA Northern Lights Classic, Ouschan then travelled to Las Vegas in late March where she finished third in the WPBA Predator event, losing in the semi-finals to Kelly Fisher. The Predator Germany Women’s Open last month was Ouschan’s next major event, and she again lost to Fisher, finishing in 5th place. 

That brings us to the WPBA Soaring Eagle Masters that took place July 22nd – 24th at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Ouschan kicked things off with comfortable wins over Susan Williams and June Maiers before drawing Fisher in the winners side final eight. To say that Fisher had been a nemesis to Ouschan this year would be a huge understatement. Fisher has been a nemesis to every player on the tour, as she has won five straight women’s events and not only dominates the Women’s Money List, but is also in the top 10 on the overall Money List for 2022. 

None of those accolades helped her on the table though, as Ouschan toughed out a close 8-6 win to send Fisher to the one loss side. Next up for Ouschan was Florida’s Kaylee McIntosh. Ouschan had eliminated McIntosh from the Vegas event with a lopsided 4-0/4-1 scoreline, but McIntosh’s game has been rising by leaps and bounds all year. “Playing her (Jasmin) in Vegas was my first match against a very well known top rank player and I let the nerves get to me and didn’t play my best game.” said McIntosh. Although McIntosh dropped their rematch 8-4, she says she will learn from it. “This past weekend I again, didn’t play my best against her and it showed. I had many opportunities where I should have gotten out but didn’t. I’m taking my matches against Jasmin as learning experiences. I’m just trying to get over whatever mental hurdle I have when playing her because I have yet to bring my best game against her. I respect her game a lot and look forward to playing her again in the future.”

The hot-seat came down to Ouschan vs WPBA newcomer Margareta Fefilova. Fefilova has recently relocated from Belarus to America and had been patiently waiting for the WPBA to allow her to play on tour. With the recent World Confederation of Billiards Sports decision to lift the ban on Russian and Belarusian players, Fefilova was able to play. While American fans are quickly learning about Fefilova, she is no stranger to the winners circle as she has many top finishes over in Europe. Ouschan took that match 8-5 to sit in the hot-seat and await an opponent. 

On the one loss side, Fisher was on a tear. In back to back matches, she eliminated Caroline Pao, Angeline Ticoalu, Jennifer Barretta, McIntosh and Fefilova to earn her place in the finals against Ouschan. “It was a grueling schedule, playing five matches back to back on the one loss side” said Fisher. The match against McIntosh stuck out for Fisher. “We’ve never played before and she impressed me. She really has got a great game and etiquette! One to watch for the future.” said Fisher. For McIntosh, it was yet another learning experience. “After losing my match to Jasmin I really went into a mindset of ‘I have nothing to lose’. I was getting the opportunity to play the #1 ranked player in the world and not many get to experience that. I played with confidence and I felt as though I could win. Even though I lost, I was extremely happy with my play during the match.” said McIntosh after the match. 

The finals was a repeat of the first clash between Ouschan and Fisher, as the match was decided by small mistakes. “When Jasmin beat me on the winners side, we both played very well. She was playing great and I couldn’t shake her off. That’s pretty much the exact same thing that happened in the final match. There were just a couple little kisses that didn’t work out for me. We both played great and I thought I was playing well enough to win. She was just more consistent and won. It was a well deserved win for her and I guess I will just try to start a new roll in the next one” said Fisher. 

Next up for the ladies on the WPBA, is the CSI / Predator US Pro Billiard Series event on August 17th – 21st and the Cambridge Red Deer Hotel in Alberta Canada. 

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Heather Cortez Goes Undefeated for AWBT Win

Justine Bishop and Heather Cortez

A broken hand might have sidelined Heather Cortez’s pool playing career, but it was only a temporary setback as she went undefeated to win stop four on the Arizona Women’s Billiard Tour at Pockets Billiards in Tucson, Arizona on July 10th – 11th.

Cortez had wins over Morgan Serventi, Audrey Chua, Stephanie Parker, and tournament director Priscilla Hernandez to get to the hot-seat match, where she faced stop three winner Rebecca Wagner. Cortez commented on the pressures of those last couple matches, “I was fighting nerves all day and did not play my best my first match (on Sunday) against Priscilla and almost lost. Then I found out I was playing Rebecca and it lit a fire in me. I wanted that match. I thought it would be her and I in the finals. I honestly don’t remember much of the match. That’s how I know I was focused”. That focus was rewarded in the form of a 7-2 win over Wagner.

The finals were not a rematch with Wagner, as tour director Justine Bishop came into the semi-finals on a seven-match winning streak and then sent Wagner home in third place. Bishop dropped her first match of the weekend to tour veteran Anne Gray, but bounced back to run through a who’s who of top AWBT players on the one-loss side. Bishop had notable wins over multiple event winner Rae Evan, multiple event winner Amanda Pulley, multiple multiple event winner Susan Williams and then a 5-3 win over Wagner to get to the finals. Bishop commented on that run of left-side matches, “honestly I kept imagining I was in a video game where you gotta beat the level bosses all the way to the end to meet the final boss”.

The final match was an extended 9-8 race and Bishop took control early. “I thought Justine had me beat. I started out down 3-0 and spotting her a game to 9. I told myself to just relax and enjoy it.” said Cortez. Cortez fought back to tie the match at 4-4, but Bishop reached the hill first at 7-7. Bishop hung what would have been the case 9-ball, leaving the two players one rack to determine the event winner. “The last rack I told myself to just be smart. I made a ball, got an open shot, and took it one ball at a time from there.” said Cortez. That strategy paid off as she ran that last rack for the tournament win.

In addition to the broken hand, and Covid, Cortez had to deal with her Mom passing away recently. Just before her Mom’s passing, Cortez received the invite to play in the WPBA event in Las Vegas back in March. She cashed in that event and took that as a sign that she needed to get back to her pool game. “I’m a big believer in the universe and karma and everything happens for a reason and I felt like the universe knew I needed something good and that was it”. With her 9th place finish in Vegas, Cortez was ready to get serious about her game again. “It’s been a few months now and I decided I wanted to really give this a shot and see what could come of it. So now I practice almost everyday and am trying to make it to as many events as possible.” Cortez’s next event will be the WPBA Masters in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan next week. Her next AWBT event will be stop five at Metro Sportz Bar in Phoenix on September 10th – 11th.

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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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Evans Stays Perfect on AWBT

Susan Williams and Rae Evans

The Arizona Women’s Billiards Tour made their way up to Griff’s in Las Vegas, Nevada for their second stop of the year on March 5th and 6th, but even the change in scenery didn’t change anything at the top of the tour, as Rae Evans extended her undefeated streak and won her second (third, going back before Covid) straight tour stop. 

The field of thirty seven players held most of the usual Arizona suspects, along with some of the top female talent in Sin City. Two notable additions to the field this time were junior players Savannah Easton and Asia Gillespie. Easton caught a first round bye, while Gillespie won her first match against Ma Deterala 4-0. The second round saw both junior competitors drop their matches (Easton to eventual winner Evans) and then end up paired against each other on the one loss side. Easton got the best of her fellow junior warrior and stayed alive on the left side of the board all day on Saturday, finally succumbing to local champion Rebecca Wagner on Sunday. In her first AWBT tour stop, Easton made quite an impression. Evans commented on both young player, “Savannah does so much stuff better than me. She breaks better than most players and has better fundamentals. I could go on and on. The other junior in the tournament (Gillespie) played amazing too. They both are fierce”.

After the win over Easton, Evans had wins over Billie Jo Smith, the aforementioned Wagner, Mandy Beck and finally AWBT veteran Susan Williams for the hot-seat. Williams earned a hard fought victory over Pearl Ortiz in the semi-final match, to earn another shot at Evans in the finals. Evans had beaten Williams fairly handily for the hot-seat 7-1, but she had a fight on her hands in the extended final match. Both players were tied at 1-1 and 2-2 before Williams took the first two rack lead of the match at 4-2. That might have woke Evans up as she proceeded to win six straight racks to take the hill at 8-4. Williams dug back and won three in a row to get within one rack at 8-7, but a missed 8-ball by Williams in the sixteenth rack was her last trip to the table and Evans won the match 9-7. 

For Evans, it was her second straight undefeated win on the tour, but she still felt she got fortunate to get the win, commenting after the match about how everyone on the tour is playing so much better after the long Covid break. “I didn’t have an easy match all weekend. All of the ladies are putting in so much time practicing and getting better. I’ve seen tremendous leaps in some of their games”, she said. 

Tour director Tim Daniel thanked everyone for coming out to compete in the event, as well as Mark Griffin and his great staff at Griff’s. He also sent out thanks to all of tour’s sponsors, Constantin Alexander with Papa C Productions for their streaming coverage of the event all weekend and finally his partner on the tour, Justine Bishop for her continued support in making the AWBT a success.

The Arizona Women’s Billiard Tour will be back in action on June 4th-5th at Main Street Billiards, in Mesa, Arizona for 8-ball on the 7 foot Diamonds. 

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Gigi Callejas Wins AWBT Season Opener

Heather Cortez and Gigi Callejas

Thanks to all the ladies that showed up march 14th – 15th for our 1st stop of the season. Thank you Bull Shooters Michael & Jamie Bates for hosting the 1st stop adding money and excellent service!

45 Ladies showed up for the main event and 24 Guys for the ‘Balls Only’

Big Congratulations to all the ladies that cashed in the Main Event. After day one it was all Heather winning her 1st four matches 7-0 (28-0 total). Day 2 was 8 Ladies that came back. The hot seat match was between Heather vs Leandrea with Heather winning Hill-Hill (7-5). On the B Side after Gigi lost to Leandrea, Gigi won her next 3 matches to make it to the finals. The extended race to 9 Final was all Gigi, winning it with a 9-4 score.

24 Ladies showed up for the 2nd chance with $300 in the pot. Congrats Susan Smith Williams for her 1st place finish.

Thank you to all the sponsors for the support and Edward LaRue for adding money to both the Main Event and 2nd Chance Event! Much appreciated.

Stephanie Hefner Wins NAPT Division II Championship

Stephanie Hefner

A field of forty six of the top ladies in the country, representing seven different regional tours, made their way to Bullshooters in Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the North American Pool Tour’s Division II Championship on February 13th – 16th.
 
The event kicked off on Thursday with six round robin groups competing in seven rack matches. With the top four players from each group advancing based on total games won, players could not take any opponent lightly at any point in the match. 
 
After two days of play, the field was narrowed to just twenty four players. The top player from each group, as well as the top two runner-up finishers from round robin play, all earned first round byes, with the remaining sixteen “top four” finishers being forced to play first round matches. 
 
Home field advantage proved to be valuable coming out of the groups, with four of the eight byes earned by Arizona Woman’s Billiard Tour (AWBT) players. The pool gods proved fickle though, as three of those four players (Leandrea Gaff, Susan Williams and Jaye Succo) were all knocked to the one loss side after their first matches. Bernie Store was the only local player to win her first double elimination stage match. Store then went on to defeat the Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) tour’s Michelle Hughes to remain unbeaten going into Sunday. She was joined by the NWPA Tour’s Stephanie Hefner, Gigi Callejas (West Coast Women’s Tour) and Suzanne Smith (NWPA). 
 
On the one loss side, Hughes earned her place in Sunday play with a hill-hill win over Succo, and was joined by Williams, Marian Poole and a player who had clawed her way through the entire event, Bonnie Ogg from the West Coast Women’s Tour. 
 
Ogg’s play all weekend was noteworthy in that she escaped her group as the 4th player, and then lost her first match on Saturday to Suzanne Smith. Ogg then came within a rack of a “two and out” elimination, beating Khahn Ngo hill-hill on the one loss side Ogg’s last match on Saturday saw her trailing Ricki Casper 6-3, but she dug down and won four straight racks to earn her spot in Sunday play. 
 
Sunday play saw Hefner face off with Store. Store was the top ranked player in the event and Hefner knew she was going to be an obstacle that she had to overcome. She rose to the occasion and beat Store 7-5 to advance to the hot-seat match. “Going into this tournament, I really had ambition. I wanted to do well, and I knew she was going to be the toughest opponent. Not just because of her Fargo, but she’s the hometown girl. I’d never played her, so I didn’t know how we’d match up. It felt like an accomplishment getting through her, but I knew I couldn’t relax. “
 
Hefner then went on to hand Callejas a 7-3 loss to take the hot-seat, but she knew her job still wasn’t done as she headed to a practice table to stay sharp while waiting for an opponent. “I knew they would be fresh and I wanted to make sure that if I missed any balls, it wasn’t because I wasn’t in stroke.” she said. 
 
On the one loss side, Ogg continued her improbable run. A 7-3 win over group 4 winner Marian Poole was followed up by a 7-5 win over Store. Ogg’s next match was a true example of how brutal the pool gods can be. Ogg led Suzanne Smith 6-5, but left herself a tough 9-ball in the twelfth, that required the mechanical bridge. She missed that shot, allowing Smith to tie things at 6-6. Smith quickly took control of the final rack and ran to the 9 with textbook pattern play. She took her timeout and gathered herself to make the final 9-ball. That might have taken her out of her rhythm though, as she missed the 9-ball and left the match for Ogg to cleanup. Ogg had a much easier time with Callejas in the semi-final match, breaking a 3-3 tie to win 7-3.
 
The final match looked to be “advantage Hefner” on paper, as she eclipsed Ogg’s 508 Fargo rating by nearly 50 points, and Ogg would have to beat Hefner twice. Ogg had momentum though, and obviously wasn’t going to just give up. The turning point of the match appeared to happen with Hefner leading 4-2. Both players were caught up in a safety battle on the 8-ball, when Hefner took on a bank shot that would have made a one pocket player proud. She banked in the 8 and then banked the 9-ball into the same hole … left handed. “I almost played the same safe back, but I thought it was two way. Even if I rattled the eight, she might not get back for the nine so I just decided ‘screw it’ and went for it. I was a little less confident taking the shot left handed, but sometimes when I’m in it, the banks just happen and I don’t think about it.“ Ogg would fight back to get within one at 5-4, but it was Hefner who then won the last two racks for the 7-4 win. 
 
Hefner took the trophy, and $1400 in prize money, back to Oregon. Ogg settled for $1000 in prize money and the knowledge that her Fargo ratings is due for a major increase. 

Sykes from the JPNEWT wins first major at NAPT Division II Championships in Phoenix

Bethany Sykes (photo courtesy of NAPT – Playnapt.com)

Prior to her start and victory at the $5,000-added North American Pool Tour’s 3rd Annual Division II Championships, held from February 21-24 at Bullshooters in Phoenix, AZ, Bethany Sykes had only one major victory on her brief, two-year, four-event, cash payout resume; two of those payouts were earned on the J. Pechauer Northeast Womens’ Tour (JPNEWT) and two, including the only victory, came on the Action Pool Tour (APT), where, this past November, she won the Virginia State Ladies 8-Ball Championships. It should be noted that the Ladies’ VA State 8-Ball event featured a field of only five entrants, although as they say, a win is a win is a win. For Sykes, though, the NAPT Div. II Championships were her “first big tournament” and the win was like gravy on a main meal of just being thrilled to be there and the four-day joy of participation.
 
“It was an incredible feeling,” she said of her first impressions, “just to be there with that many women in the room (64 entrants).”
 
“It was an awesome experience,” she went on to say, noting that it was her first time playing in a round robin event, and the first time she’d ever had to deal with a shot clock. “I found that the 30 seconds gave me no time for indecision about what could go wrong. There was no thinking about anything but the shot.”
 
As her resume indicates, she’s only been playing the sport competitively for the past couple of years, although she says she’s been in love with the game since she was about nine years old. She got her first cue when she was 16 and now, at 31, she’s crossed a big threshold and won her first major tournament. Her appearances on the JPNEWT and APT over the last year or two helped her to identify and improve some of the basics to which she had not been exposed previously.
 
“I never knew where to put my feet,” she said of her early attempts to develop a stance. “I got a lesson from Karen Corr about five months ago, and she told me where to put my feet.”
 
With her feet sorted out, Sykes joined 63 other women from seven regional ladies pool tours at these Division II Championships; six from the United States and four women from a ladies tour out of Quebec. The most heavily represented tour among the seven was the Texas-based Jerry Olivier Pool Tour (JO), with 14 entrants, about 22% of the field. The Northwest Women’s Pool Association (NWPA) was next with 12, followed by the ‘hometown’ Arizona Women’s Billiards Tour (AWBT), which had 11. The West Coast Women’s Tour (WCWT) sent 9. The JPNEWT contributed 8 (including Sykes), the North Central Pool Tour (NCPT) checked in with 6, while  four women represented the ‘Circuit de Billard Feminine du Quebec.’
 
They broke up into eight round robin flights of eight players each, beginning on Thursday, February 21. Sykes, in Group Two, representing the JPNEWT, was paired with a primarily West Coast field; Cassie Francois and Elaine Eberly from the NWPA, Ginger Bowen from the WCWT, Jaye Succo and Leandra Gaff from the AWBT, Tam Trinh from the JO and Marilou Therrien from the Canadian league.
 
Sykes opened her campaign at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday morning with a 5-2 win over Francois. In round two, she got by Eberly 4-2 and then, in the final match of the opening day, she survived a double hill fight (4-3) against Trinh, which would prove to be highly significant later. As measured by total games won, she was the ‘flight’ leader at the end of that first day, with 13 games won. Gaff, Trinh and Therrien were second with 12 each.
 
Day two didn’t start out as well. Succo defeated her 5-2. Though Gaff and Therrien had been defeated, as well in the fourth round, Trinh downed Bowen 5-2, putting her out in front (by game points) 17-15.
 
“In that morning match (on the second day),” said Sykes, “(Succo) came out on fire. And from being ahead by one, I was all of a sudden behind by two games.”
 
Sykes survived a double hill (4-3) battle against Therrien in round 5, as Trinh lengthened her game lead by one more, with a 5-2 defeat of Eberly. With the game score between them now at 22-19, in favor of Trinh, they both chalked up 5-2 wins; Sykes over Bowen and Trinh over Succo. The game score between Sykes and Trinh was now at 27-24, with a single match to play.
 
Since the top four in each flight would advance to a 32-player, double elimination bracket, Sykes’ advancement at that point, short of being shut out or winning only a single game in the final match, was pretty much assured. Sykes sealed the deal with a 6-1 victory over Gaff that left her with 30 total wins. When Trinh fell to Francois 5-2 in that final round, she ended up with 29 total wins, allowing Sykes, by a single win (reflected in their earlier match), to enter the double elimination phase as the winner of her individual flight.
 
Heather Cortez, from the AWBT, with 37 total wins in her round robin flight was the top winner in her flight as well as the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event. Other top winners from the individual round robin flights were Michelle Cortez, from the Jerry Olivier Tour, in second place overall with 36 total wins. Susan Williams, with 35, from the AWBT was third. Suzanne Smith, from the NWPA, was fourth with 34, Natalie Chabot (from Canada) and Sykes’ eventual opponent in the hot seat and finals, Kim Pierce from the JO, were tied for fifth with 33 wins each. Yang Liu from the West Coast Women’s Tour was sixth with 31 total wins. Though she’d enter the double elimination phase of the event as the winner of her flight, Sykes was last among the individual flight winners advancing to the final two days of the event. Advancement to the double elimination rounds guaranteed all 32 participants at least of the share of the total $11,400 prize package.
 
“The Round Robin was so scary,” she said. “Every single game mattered. I grew from the experience, though. That Round Robin hardened me.”
 
Seven down, seven to go.
 
Over the next two days, Sykes played seven more matches; four on the winners’ side, one on the loss side, and two in the double elimination final. None were against the opponents she’d faced in her own round robin flight, one was against the overall winner of the round robin phase of the event (Heather Cortez) and three were against Pierce.
 
To get into their first match together, Sykes and Pierce would eventually, in the two winners’ side semifinals, have to get by two AWBT opponents. Sykes opened her winners’ side campaign on Saturday morning, February 23, against Gigi Callejas from the West Coast Women’s Tour, downing her 7-3. She followed that with victories over Jennifer Kraber (JO) 7-3 and then, defeated the overall round robin winner, AWBT’s Heather Cortez 7-4, to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal match against a formidably more experienced opponent, another AWBT entrant, Bernie Store. Pierce, in the meantime, had defeated Nicole Donisi from the NWPA 7-3, both Janna Nelson (7-5) and Khanh Ngo (7-3) from the West Coast Women’s Tour and arrived at her winners’ side semifinal match against yet another AWBT entrant, Susan Williams.
 
Sykes and Pierce got into the hot seat match with identical 7-5 wins over Store and Williams. In their first of three, Pierce claimed the hot seat in a double hill match.
 
“I got on the hill and things just fell apart,” said Sykes of that hot seat match, “and I couldn’t get it back together.”
 
On the loss side, Store picked up Ngo, who, following her defeat at the hands of Pierce, had defeated Stephanie Hefner 7-2, and survived a double hill match against Michelle Cortez. Williams drew Heather Cortez, who, following her defeat at the hands of Sykes, had shut out Kelly Jones and eliminated Tam Trinh 7-5.
 
Heather Cortez and Williams locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Cortez to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Ngo, who’d defeated Store 7-4. Cortez and Ngo had faced each other on the opening day of the round robin matches, with Cortez winning that battle 5-2. This time, in the quarterfinals, it was Ngo who came out on top, winning it 7-5.
 
Sykes, though, having so unexpectedly, but joyfully arrived at this spot in her “first big tournament” was in no mood to let it go. She downed Ngo 7-2 in those semifinals and turned for a second and, necessary in a double elimination format, third shot at Pierce in the hot seat. They locked up in their second straight double hill battle in the opening set, but this time, it was Sykes coming out of it with the win. She completed her 12-2 run with a decisive 7-2 win over Pierce in the second set.
 
“People tell me I have no sense of tension,” said Sykes. “I always feel as though I’m in the right place at the right time. That was what made the whole thing exciting.”
 
“I went out there to get into the top four,” she added. “That was my goal as soon as I read about the tour. This was my first opportunity to get to that level and I spent the week before, imagining what it would be like; thinking of how I’d be telling my Dad about it afterwards.”
 
Exactly one week later, on the first weekend in March, Sykes rejoined her JPNEWT comrades, competing on the tour’s season opener at Triple Nines in Elkridge, MD. In a field of 22, Sykes had the misfortune of running into tour director Linda Shea, who defeated her in the opening round. She’d win two on the loss side before finishing in the tie for 9th place when she was defeated by Sharon O’Hanlon.
 
And so it goes, in the world of the emerging amateur into the world of the best in pool. Up one day, down the next. She remains somewhat in awe of her “first big tournament” win and is looking ahead at better things to come. She expects, looking ahead to competing at the Super Billiards Expo’s Women’s Pro 9-Ball event, her first shot at the Pro level, to continue improving. She is also keenly aware that pool careers, like the tournaments along the way, can be a relentless series of hills and valleys.
 
“My goal,” she said, “is to make the gaps between them smaller and smaller.”
 
“I expect to be playing with the best of them,” she said of her hopes for the next five years. “I have no aspirations of anything in particular, just to be playing at that level.”

Flores Wins First AWBT Tour Stop

Final eight players (minus one)

With tour points leader Amanda Pulley (as well as Leandrea Gaff and Sara Miller) in Illinois for the NAPT’s Summer 10-Ball Classic, the AWBT’s stop at Pockets on August 18th and 19th was a prime opportunity for one of the other top points list players to make a move on first place.

 

Those players would find out quickly that even without Pulley, Gaff and Miller, the field of 38 players was still going to be a tough one. “A” players started dropping to the one loss side in the first round with Claudia Morado’s 5-4 win over Justine Bishop. Bishop would be joined by a handful of top players in the second round with Tammy Holben, Pearl Ortiz, Tracie Hamman, Rae Evans and Michelle Trevino all suffering early losses.
 
As the winner’s side narrowed, the final four players only contained one “A” player in the person of Susan Williams. Williams was joined by Pati Martinez, Diana Leon and Mary Helen Mondragon.
 
The one loss side was no more kind to top players as Bishop finished tied for 25th place with such notables as Hamman and Jordyn Flores. The top players would keep falling as Saturday play went on and the day ended with Sonia Flores, Stephanie Benavidez and Carmen Osenton joining Rae Evans for Sunday play.
 
Winner’s side action on Sunday saw Martinez score a 5-4 win over Williams and Mondragon with a lopsided 4-1 win over Leon. Mondragon then went on to capture her first ever AWBT hot-seat with a 4-2 win over Martinez.
Sonia Flores had lost a late Saturday match to Martinez on the winner’s side and she wasn’t going to go away without a fight in this one. A 5-1 win over Terri Johnson-McCauley on Saturday night was followed up by a 5-3 win over Benavidez early Sunday morning and then back to back 5-1 wins over Leon and Evans. Flores would then get her revenge against Martinez with a 5-2 win in the semi-final match.
 
The final match between Mondragon and Flores was an extended match with players adding another two games to their individual races. That left Flores going to seven and Mondragon going to six. Mondragon came out early with a 2-0 lead, but Flores then took control and won four straight racks. Mondragon fought back to 4-4, but Flores then regained control and won three straight for the 7-4 win and first place.
 
In addition to the main event, a second chance tournament was played on Sunday with Sara Sorg going through the field undefeated for first place. A “Balls Only” event was also held on Saturday with 29 guys competing. That event saw AJ Jones and Chris Paradowski split first and second place.
 
The AWBT will take September off, but will be back in Phoenix on October 13th – 14th for 9-ball on the 7’ tables at Bullshooters.

Pulley Tops AWBT Stop 4 And Points List

Susan Williams and Amanda Pulley

Amanda Pulley bounced back from a late Saturday loss to win her second AWBT tour stop of the season and jump to the top of the tour’s point list. Pulley was just one of the early favorites in the field of 53 players at Main Street Billiards in Mesa on July 7th – 8th. 

 

Pulley was joined in the field by such notables as Susan Williams, Sara Miller, Pearl Ortiz and Justine Bishop.
 
Things were going well for Pulley early Saturday with wins over Tonya Kurtz and Ilyana Flores but her path took a detour late Saturday after a 7-5 loss to Pearl Ortiz. A 7-2 win over Kristi St Ange was enough to earn Pulley her place in Sunday’s matches.
 
Ortiz came back on Sunday morning for a lopsided 7-0 win on the winner’s side over Sara Sorg, who had a great weekend of matches. The other half of the bracket saw AWBT veteran Susan Williams scoring a 7-1 win over Pati Martinez, who also turned in an outstanding performance all weekend long. The hot-seat match saw Williams with a convincing 7-3 win over Ortiz.
 
On the one loss side, Pulley had wins over Tommy Holben, Martinez and Dawn Polotto before a rematch with Ortiz in the semi-finals. “I wasn’t thinking revenge,” said Pulley, “but I felt strong during the match and this (plus an energy drink) empowered me”. Pulley was definitely empowered as she eliminated Ortiz 7-3 to earn her spot in the finals against Williams.
 
The final race to 9 was a true back and forth battle. Williams took an early 2-0 lead, but Pulley quickly knotted things at 2-2. The players stayed close until Williams was able to pull ahead for a 7-4 lead and she got to the hill at 8-6 but wasn’t able to put Pulley away. Pulley clawed back to 8-8, leaving the ladies playing one game for the title. The pressure of the final game appeared to get to both players as they both had problems pocketing the final 9-ball. After a missed bank by Williams though, Pulley cut the final ball into the heart of the pocket for the win. “I just told myself that I know how to make this shot, and I wasn’t going to give Susan another chance at the table,” Pulley said.
 
Sunday saw 29 players come back for the second chance tournament where Gigi Callejas took first place and Heather Cortez finished in second. Ed Scott and Evans Bishop split the men’s event that was ran alongside the main event. The AWBT will take it’s annual trip to Tucson on August 18th – 19th for an event at Pockets Pool & Pub.

Tagley Returns To AWBT Winner’s Circle

Nina Tagley and Heather Cortez

She had knocked on the door all season, but Nina Tagley finally broke through into the winner’s circle at the AWBT’s 3rd stop of the season at Kolby’s on June 2nd – 3rd.

 

The field of thirty-two players held it’s usual assortment of monsters, but an unusually large number of those monsters found themselves on the one loss side early as four former tour stop winners (Susan Williams, Jaye Succo, Amanda Pulley and Bernie Store) dropped their first-round matches. Of those monsters, Succo was out in two rounds while Store would only make it one more round as she lost in three rounds.
 
Back on the winner’s side, Tagley had her work cut out for her as she scored wins over April runner-up Justine Bishop, Windy “Five Rounds Deep” Breck, Pearl Ortiz and Rae Evans. As if that wasn’t a tough enough draw, Tagley then had to face “The Torpedo” Heather Cortez. Tagley would drop the match to Cortez 7-3.
 
The left side of the board came down to Evans and Ortiz, who were both looking to avenge their early losses to Tagley and then take on Cortez. Evans got past Ortiz 6-5, but Tagley then made quick work of Rae Evans, beating her by the same 7-2 score that she beat her on the right side of the board.
 
The extended final set between Cortez and Tagley saw Tagley score a hard-fought 9-6 win for her first tour stop win in well over 10 years.
 
Tagley credited home field advantage with helping her get back to the winner’s circle in this one. “I’ve played at Kolbys for nearly 30 years, and last year it was Heather and I 1st and 2nd at this event at Kolbys” Tagley remembered. She also pointed out how close she has been in recent stops. “If you look at the last six events, I’ve scored 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes. I think my focus level has changed a bit recently, I’m a bit more disciplined now than I used to be.” she said.
 
Eleven players came back on Sunday to compete in the second chance tournament, with Mary Walczak defeating Justine Bishop for the hot-seat, and then Sandi Wilson in the finals, for first place.