VENICE BEACH, Calif. -- The afternoon sun finally broke through the marine layer that provided relief to players up to that point. This also came at a time when quarterfinal and semifinal matches became more competitive and heated on the second day of the 2018 USHA National Junior 3-Wall Championships.
This year's first national title went to Tucson's Team 520 player Sophia Della Croce in Girls 17-Under division, 15-14, 15-6. Della Croce and teammate Belisa Camacho played to a 14-14 stalemate in the first game before Della Croce took the final point. In the second, Della Croce's serve dictated the pace, and she used an ace to secure championship point. Della Croce and Camacho paired to win the Girls 17-Under doubles later on Friday.
In Boy's 19-Under action, Andrew Garcia earned a return to the final with a 15-11, 15-10 win over Jonathan Gutierrez in the semifinals. Gutierrez kept each game close and wowed the Venice crowd with some amazing shots, showing tremendous poise to run down and return deep shots. Garcia answered, showing off amazing hand control with fly-kills and soft paddle shots in the front court that landed beyond his opponent's reach.
In the other 19-Under semifinal, Luis Mendez, last year's 17-Under champ looked unstoppable, stopping Brandon Ramirez (shown right) 15-8, 15-4. Mendez and Garcia will face off in the Sunday morning final.
The best match of the day was in the 19-Under semifinals. Luis Mendez and David Ruiz gave Brandon Ramirez and Jon Gutierrez a tough first game but looked overwhelmed, losing the first game, 15-12. In the second, Ruiz caught fire, delivering timely rekills and keeping rallies alive to take pressure off his teammate. They held a comfortable 14-10 lead and appeared to be heading into a tiebreaker before Ramirez and Gutierrez scored three unanswered points to keep things close. Facing a possible collapse, Ruiz again made another amazing front-court diving shot to help force the tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Mendez and Ruiz cruised to a 15-3 win. They'll face Andrew Garcia and Jesus Mendez in Sunday's final.
Big Ball singles and doubles divisions kickoff on Saturday morning.
See the updated draws and results HERE.