Monday, September 6, 2010

2010 World Championships

Well Worlds is now over for me, it's Sunday night (well Monday morning), and overall i've had a really good tournament, here's a quick recap of the weekends events:

I arrived Thursday, and arranged for a car to take me to the Dallas Cowboys game - it was much farther from the hotel than i expected and was going to cost $65, but i ran into Greg Elliot - senior sales exec guy for Valley that is also going to the game, and he lets me catch a ride to the game with him. I go to the bank machine in the hotel, and run into Shelly Langely, and we hook up for mixed. Which is awesome, she's like one of the best female goalies in the world, so couldn't of wished for a better partner. my luck continues as the Cowboys game is absolutely amazing, and i have a great time.

Friday, my first event is the pro/pro-master sprint (race to 7 single elim) - which i play in but lose my first match - anything can happen in a race to 7 and it did. I played with Bruce Nardoci in that - i think the guy is a rocket scientist or something in real life - i don't think i like playing with people that are smarter than me.. B-)

Friday night, mixed starts, and Shelly and me start off great. We win our first two matches, in 2 games strait, then run into Joe and Natasha Hamilton - where it goes to a 3rd game, and they win 5-4 - they played great and deserved the win - and eventually finished 3rd which is awesome for them. Shelley and I win another one, but then lose to Robert Mares again in the 3rd game 5-4. I'm playing pretty much better than ever. I seem to have this new ability to sit on the ball longer on the 5 and 3 - and it's paying off dividends. We finished 9th in mixed.

Saturday, i get to sleep in - as i don't have to qualify for Open Doubles - one of the benefits of being a pro-master (and paying monstrous entry fees - $500 - AHEM!!) then at 2 pm doubles starts. I'm playing with Joe Hamilton (yes the same dude that beat me in mixed), so that's good that his game is on. We win our first match - i'm playing fronts - it goes 5 games but we pull it out. I think i was having some trouble scoring - can't really remember. Then we play Billy Pappas and Trevor Park - monster pro-master team - We get on this weird table where the one side the ball would not behave on the 5 bar, and it effects my game the first game, and we lose, so we switch sides, and then win something like 5-2. switch back, lose 5-3, switch again - win 5-1. then final game. we're back on the bad side, and i find a way to pass so it doesn't effect me as much, but we end up losing 7-5. We had to do some switching to block Billy's shot, which was good, but then i really couldn't do anything with the ball from the back, getting stuffed twice, and 5 bar stuffed another time - so there's one case where the lack of practice showed - my forward game was awesome, but not shooting from the back. Mostly due to a very sore wrist, and also not having confidence to shoot the shots that i was being given.
Joe and I won another match i think, and ended up taking 13th - which was in the money. We eventually lost to David Vick and Mario Iannuzi - where my game pretty much disappeared in the 3rd game - i think i got too quick on my 5 allowing Vick to steal some of my passes, and pass through me, and then rag something in on Joe - Joe was racing his pull pretty well, but Vick got some lucky rags that tipped to balance on their side to take it.

Thinking back on our matches, i think i should of used Joe up front more - but going into it i was expecting him to pass and block more - which there was some indication of, but his forward game was coming along very nicely - and i was sticking myself upfront trying to figure out what was going on, and not utilizing his skills upfront more. It also could of been me protecting myself from what i new was a poor ability to shoot from back, I could block good, but was not shooting well from back at all. Before i go to bed, i look at the Singles seeds, and i figure i'm going to have to play John Smith (old time Texas Pro-Master), Fredrico Collignon, and Billy Pappas.

Saturday: again got to sleep in B-). it's Open Singles day. I win my first match - playing my controlled style of game - working my 2-5, passing well, and shooting very well. and sure enough next, i have to play John Smith.. It goes 5 games, and i take it - I was able to pass almost at will, and got on his 5 and shot enough to make a difference. Then i play rico. If you know me, you'll likely know that the last time i played Rico (the best player in the world), i beat him in 4 games at the 2004 World Championships in the 2nd round. where he came back to win the entire thing from the losers bracket. anyways.. This time, he wins the first game, and then some funny things start to happen, i start to play the same was i played him back in 2004 - doing some of the same shots from back (double pump pull kick) that i remember worked 6 years ago. And i change my 3 bar shot to shoot the same way as well (from a stand still). I block him really well as i normally do - just a match up thing - and i won't post for the world how i do it, but if you ever see me, i'll tell you. My shots from back ran out, but then i started to be able to work my 2-5 series really well.
I win the 2nd and 3rd games. he wins the 4th - where now he's turned to shooting 5 bar shots - cause he can't score from his 3. and in the 5th i take it 5-3 i think.
So that was totally cool that i was able to beat him again, and kinda prove that the first time i did it - 6 years ago - was not a fluke.
Next i end up playing Robert Atha (from England), and he absolutely destroys me. It was almost funny, everything he attempted to do worked, and everything i attempted to do he blocked. not a good mixture for me. I blocked one shot of his the entire match, and I scored one goal the entire match. yes. 5-0 5-1 5-0 - Funny game this is, as it often just comes down to match ups - me against Rico - i beat him, Atha against me, he destroys me, Atha plays Billy next, and billy destroys him. I then have quite a long break waiting for my next match, which turns out to be Todd Leffredo - which he ends up winning in 3 games, 8-6. I shot pretty well on him, and passed pretty good, but somehow he was able to pull it out. I ended up taking 9th in the world - yea me! B-)

Over all i'm very impressed with how well i played. without any practice. Partially i think i played so well, because of 2 reasons.
1. I stuck with what i knew i could do naturally - no new passes - no new shots - stuff i've been doing for a very long time - so i was working with a subset of what i normally try to bring to these tournaments, and all that stuff was working great - my 5 has probably never been better.

2. I added a stick wall pass that is the exact same speed as my toss on my 5 bar, and in order for this to be effective i had to do lots of repetitions with my toss so they could not tell when i was going to do that show stick wall pass - this allowed me to see the defense more, so i was able to make better decisions - and pass at a much higher rate than i have in the past. The same also applied on my 3 row - where i was able to mix a full rock with a studder rock - and at times do a full rock for a very long time until i saw the defense i wanted then i shot.

The times i did lose matches i do remember passing quicker than i should of, doing a quick read on the down brush - and often it looked like it was there, but when i went to pass, they bailed to the wall stealing my pass - this happened in mixed against the Hamiltons (natasha actually got on this pretty good), vs. Vick in the last game, and against Todd in the last game.

so mental note to myself - Don't do that Eric!! Especially late in games is the time to take extra time - the defense will likely fall apart faster - just give it a chance!!! Todd even said after the match, he thought i liked to take the down earlier - where if i held onto it more, i went up. This of course is not a conscious thing on my part, just something that he thought he saw - but i remember doing lots of quick ups, and late downs - but maybe not so many as the others - especially the ones he stole.

So overall a really good tournament. Ironically i was expecting this to be one of my worst tournaments, and i could use it as a indicator that i should retire - well - not expecting - but i wasn't going to be surprised by a disappointing finish. But then the opposite happened. So now what? I dunno. we'll have to see. At least i won enough cash to pay for my entry fees.