For some players on the NCA Tour it only feels like it will only be a matter of time before they are competing for tournament titles. For a couple members of the Tracey family, that day came, but it was Ray Beierling who defeated Nolan and Jeremy Tracey in successive playoff rounds to win the 2017 Belleville Crokinole Challenge.
31 players descended upon the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, hailing from Owen Sound, London, Kitchener, Oshawa, Toronto, Kingston, St. Jacobs, Penetanguishene and the local region of Quinte for the 7th edition of the Belleville event.
In the morning round robin, Nathan Walsh was the hot hand scoring 58 points and 97 20s through 9 games for the top score. While he qualified for the A group in the afternoon, he was joined by carpooling-mates, Ray Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson, as well as Fred Slater and Nolan and Jeremy Tracey. Also making the A pool was the far traveller of Roger Vaillancourt and the somewhat more local crowd of Kingston's Wayne Scott and the Quinte Region Crokinole Club's (QRCC) own Len Chard and Matt Brown.
As always, a few people got the unfortunate draw of just missing the A pool, such as Eric Miltenburg and Ray Campbell (missing by one point), and Cathy Kuepfer (missing by 2 points). In the Pool B round robin, Roy Campbell left no room for doubt on making the playoff round by scoring 55 points for the top seed. He was met in the semifinals by Bev Vaillancourt, who earned the fourth seed with 42 points and 63 20s. Roy Campbell was equally strong in the semifinal and was able to win the match in two-straight games with a 6-2, 5-3 victory.
Also making the playoffs were Peter Tarle and Eric Miltenburg, who were only separated by two points, and proved to be closely matched because they were tied after 3 games of the semifinals and required extra rounds to be played via the Quinte Convention. They tied through the first set, but Eric Miltenburg finally sealed the win by earning the decisive edge in the second set of extra games.
While Eric was able to loosen up following his tense semifinal to match the finals competitive, Roy Campbell was unstoppable, as he won the final and earned the B title.
In the Pool C action, Shirley Sager was clearly on her game through the round robin as she scored 55 points (similar to Roy Campbell's afternoon high score). Peter Klaassen came in behind at 44 points, while both Janet Diebel and Gloria Walsh scored 41 points for the final two semifinal spots. Just missing out was Ron Hebden at 38 points who earned 5th in the pool.
In the (1) vs (4) semifinal, Shirley Sager continued her strong play and held her seed to advance to the finals. While some locals were hoping QRCC Peter Klaassen could add some male representation to the C pool final, it was not to be, as Gloria Walsh won the other semifinal, and also broke up the chances of an all QRCC Pool C final.
In the finals, Gloria Walsh earned an early edge as she won game 1, before play really tightened up between Sager and Walsh. Game 2 ended in a tie, while game 3 also finished in a tie, giving the best of 3 match victory to Walsh, who earned the Pool C title.
In the A pool round robin, Nathan Walsh and Ray Beierling led the way with 51 and 50 points respectively. Nolan Tracey grabbed the third seed with 44 points through 9 games, becoming the youngest ever player to make the semifinals of an NCA Tour event. Grabbing the 4th and final playoff spot was Jeremy Tracey at 39 points, just edging out Andrew Hutchinson who had to settle once again for 5th place as he scored 38 points.
In the semifinals, Jeremy Tracey had a much better start than Nathan Walsh, as he dominated game 1 5-1. Tracey even scored the first 2 points of game 2, but Walsh eventually found a groove to take the second game, But it was all Tracey in game 3, as he won the match and advanced to his first ever NCA final.
In the other semifinal Beierling/Tracey began deadlocked with a 4-4 tie in game 1. Beierling gained an edge when he took the final 3 rounds of game 2 and then clinched it by reaching 4 points in the third game for a 4-4, 6-2, 4-2 victory.
The championship final had a lot of tension as the lead interchanged within rounds several times. So much of the match came down to a final 20 shot. For Jeremy Tracey, he was unfortunate to miss his final open 20 shot in rounds 1 and 3 of game 1, missing a chance to tie each round. Conversely, Ray Beierling made his open 20 in the final shot of the fourth round to tie the round, and win game 1 5-3. In the second game, Tracey made several ricochet and follow-through 20s, but Ray Beierling saw the finish line and only extended his lead to 4-0 in game 2. Beierling clinched the title making another open 20 on his final shot of the third round, to win the match 5-3, 5-1.
So Ray Beierling becomes the fourth ever winner of the Belleville Crokinole Challenge, joining past winners of Justin Slater (3 times), Brian Cook (2 times) and Nathan Walsh (once). The victory will also vault Ray Beierling up the standings of the NCA Tour to second place, just behind Nathan Walsh, while both Jeremy Tracey will also see his ranking rise due to his stellar performance in Belleville.
With this week also marking the first day of Fall, it's clear the Fall swing of crokinole events is upon us, with the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship coming up in Brucefield in 3 weeks, and the Scenic City Crokinole Classic in Owen Sound looming large in November.