Lovely Day for First-time Junior Nationals Winner

The 2006 Billiard Congress of America Junior Nationals would’ve been a re-run of last year if it weren’t for the debut of Elizabeth Lovely, who dethroned the defending champion in her division to join the three other defending champions in the winners’ circle.

The 9-ball event brought 94 of the nation’s brightest young pool players to Tucson, Ariz., where they competed in divisions of 14 and under and 19 and under.

In the 14 and Under Girls division, Lovely of Centerville, Ohio faced defending champion Chelsea Hardwick from Evansville, Ind. in the final. Both players felt the pressure to perform and the match was marred by nerves. Lovely took an early 2-0 lead, but Hardwick came back to take the lead at 3-2. That third game would be the last that Hardwick won as Lovely took the next three racks for the 5-3 victory and her first Junior Nationals title.

At age 13, Austin Murphy from Folson, Calif. has accolades well beyond his years including the 2005 Junior Nationals title and a spot on the International Pool Tour. Now he can add two-time winner of the Jr. Nationals, defending his title In the 14 and under Boy’s division. Murphy cruised through the winners’ side to meet Ryan Dunn from Hillsboro, Tenn. in the final. Murphy was cool and confident, controlling the table to the tune of a quick 4-0 lead. It was looking bleak for Dunn until Murphy finally made a mistake in the fifth rack and Dunn capitalized, getting on the scoreboard, 4-1. Murphy continued to commit uncharacteristic errors and Dunn caught up 5-5. He had the chance to sprint ahead and get to the hill first, but Dunn missed a 2-9 combo with the crowd on the edge of its seat. Murphy came back and ran the table to make the score 6-5. Dunn had another opportunity to reach the hill in rack 12, running his way through some difficult shots but a miss on the 6 marked his end as Murphy ran the last three balls to defend his 14 & Under Boys Title.

While both 14 & Under Division Matches were close until the end, the 19 & Under Division Matches were very one sided. The 19 and Under Girls division saw defending champion Anna Kostanian from Albuquerque, N.M. take on 2004 Champion Mary Rakin from Daly City, Calif. The competition looked even at first, with the score tied at 1-1, but Kostanian commanded the table and pounced on every miss from Rakin on her way to a 6-1 lead in the race-to-7 match. Rakin saw a short reprieve in the eighth rack as Kostanian missed the case 9-ball, but the match end after a Konstanian won a short safety battle and ran out for the 7-2 win.

In his 18 years, Justin Bergman of Fairview, Ill. has become a force to be reckoned with by players of any age. As defending champion of the Boys 19 and Under division, it didn’t look like he was going to allow Chad Palmer of Battle Creek, Mich., to come even one game closer to his title in the final. Bergman’s game was near flawless as he cruised to an 8-0 lead and kept Palmer grounded in his chair for the majority of the match. Palmer put together a nice runout in game 9 after a Bergman miss but a foul on the one ball in game 10 would be his end as Bergman confidently ran out the final rack for the 9-1 win.

BCA Junior Nationals Brings 97 Players to Arizona

The 2006 BCA Junior Nationals got under way on July 5 at the University of Arizona student union with a total of 97 hopefuls in four divisions.

The 18 & Under Boys Division has wooed back last year’s winner, 18-year-old Justin Bergman, who also won in 2003. In his last year of eligibility, he hopes to take home his third title with a repeat performance. Last year’s third-place finisher, Kevin Peterson, is anxious to decorate his trophy stand, however. He and Bergman will face off today, July 6.

There is also an impeachment campaign for the returning champion in the 14 & Under Boys Division. International Pool Tour player Austin Murphy, 13, is back and so is last year’s runner up Landon Shuffett. Shuffett dropped a match on Wednesday, but Murphy has dominated all of his matches so far in the event.

The 18 & Under Girls Division has a field of six players. Anna Kostanian won in 2005, after two years of runner-up finishes. She looked to be en route to a second straight title on the first day of play, going undefeated. The 2004 champion, Mary Rakin will serve as the last line of defense in their hot-seat match today.

The 14 & Under Girls Division also has a returning champion as Chelsea Hardwick looks for another title win in her division.