Club Sport of the Week: Racquetball rallies into upcoming season after Nationals scoring correction

A recalculation after the National tournament made the women’s team to back-to-back national titles.
Courtesy of USA Racquetball

Shock and disbelief hit the Mizzou Club Racquetball program during last year’s USA Racquetball Nationals, where the women’s team was initially informed it had lost grip of its first-place lead on the tournament’s final day.

“Earlier that morning, we were at least 100 points ahead of Oregon State,” said Madeline Gauch, the team’s top-seeded player. “We were pretty disappointed when were told we lost by 15 points, and being beat out by [Oregon State’s] four players to our six was kind of disheartening.”

The USA Racquetball Nationals committee announced Oregon State as the 2016 women’s champion at the banquet, releasing the tournament’s official point spreads online the following night. Mizzou used the offseason to recalculate scoring from each nationals match and realized the round-robin contests, involving the women’s fifth- and sixth-seeded singles players, were miscalculated in the process.

Shortly after, the team notified USA Racquetball of the scoring error, which the league officially corrected last week. Nearly six months after Nationals, Mizzou learned that the women’s team indeed defended its 2015 national title with help from the scoring correction.

“We didn’t know how [USA Racquetball] would calculate the round-robin points until the very end, and the scoring ended up working in our favor,” said Christina Hughes, the team’s second-seeded player. “It was surprising, but really awesome to win [women’s nationals] two years in a row.”

Without an official head coach, the men’s and women’s teams have combined for three consecutive top-three Nationals finishes. The men took seventh place for the second straight year, and all but one of the women’s events between singles and doubles resulted in a fourth-place finish or better.

“When I think about our program, I think about how amazing our girls team is,” club racquetball President Daniel Witt said. “Our guys can put up solid numbers, but the girls are the pride and personality of this team.”

Bringing back five of six players from last year’s Nationals roster, the women now set sights for club racquetball’s first three-peat in program history. The team recruited four freshmen for the upcoming season while maintaining its two highest-seeded players from last year, Gauch and Hughes.

“Madeline and Christina are the leaders of our women’s team,” Witt said. “They are the two oldest, and humbly go about their business in practice.”

Gauch has 63 singles victories through her first two seasons of college racquetball and won Nationals as Mizzou’s second-seeded singles player in 2015. She has career wins against opponents from 11 different states and finished second place in last year’s nationals competition on Mizzou’s first-seeded doubles team. Gauch also won three state championships with Parkway West High School in St. Louis as the team’s top-seeded player.

Hughes, along with her doubles partner Madison Myers, secured Mizzou’s only doubles championship in Nationals last year, prompted by a comeback where she trailed her opponents 14-5 in the second game of the championship match. Prior to college, Hughes played four seasons of high school racquetball with five-time state champion Cor Jesu Academy, also located in St. Louis.

While the St. Louis metropolitan area features over 400 high school and college racquetball players, Gauch and Hughes knew of each other’s capabilities prior to becoming college teammates. The two matched up against each other in regular season and state competition in 2012, Hughes’s final season of high school racquetball and Gauch’s first in the Midwest.

“Christina and I had quite a high school rivalry because she gave me the only loss of my high school career [against St. Louis opponents],” Gauch said. “The loss made me nervous for state that year, but I was able to beat her. We respected each other for the abilities we had then, and realized we could use each other’s skills to our advantage on the college team.”

The local connection stretches beyond Gauch and Hughes, as only one player in the program’s last four years did not play racquetball in a St. Louis high school. Fittingly, Mizzou will open up the 2016-17 season in the Gateway City on Friday, competing in the Mike Pohlman Memorial Racquetball Classic from Sept. 23-24.

In addition to this weekend’s meet, club racquetball will play three more competitions in St. Louis and host two meets at Mizzou before traveling to Los Angeles in the spring for nationals. The team practices from 8-10 p.m. on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday at the Student Recreation Complex.

Contact information:

_To learn more about Mizzou club racquetball, visit the team’s Twitter page or USA Racquetball website, or email the team at clubracquetball@mizzourec.com_

Edited by Theo DeRosa | tderosa@themaneater.com

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