Fernando Goñi renews with Aspe by frontonnews
December 24, 2009, 10:47 am
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , ,

Fernando Goñi has signed a contract with Aspe to play for another year. The defender from Zubiri is, along with Juan Martinez de Irujo, the defending doubles champion. Aspe have also announced the contract renewals of Pedro Martínez de Eulate (for one year) and Íñigo Pascual (until 2014).

Fernando Goñi

Source: Diario de Noticias, image from: La Rioja

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San Sebastian round-up by frontonnews

Last night, Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino became the first pair to progress to the final of the Torneo Cuidad de San Sebastian. The Asegarce pair dominated proceedings at Atano III, defeating Xala and Fernando Goñi by 22 points to 12. The victorious partnership outplayed their rivals both in attack and defence; Begino was especially impressive, showing terrific strength, accuracy and range which put the usually unflappable Goñi in the shade. Berasaluze continued in his recent vein with some stunning forward play and all of the fiery defiance for which he is known. Xala was a contradiction, playing at times with mastery and at times with baffling carelessness, stinging airez winners mixing with too great a number of txapas. The result was never in serious doubt.

 The second semi final takes place this evening as follows:

 c. 23:00 (CEST) TITIN – EULATE v BENGOETXEA VI – MENDIZABAL II

 Sadly there will be no webcast.

 The first game, a ‘special’ match, of the festivities in San Sebastian was an unusual one, pitting as it did Juan Martinez de Irujo (playing with Titin III) and Aimar Olaizola (playing with Pablo Berasaluze) against each other as defenders. As one might expect, it was an extremely atypical encounter. Neither of the ‘defenders’ seemed terribly keen to play as such with all four pelotaris at times in the front portion of the fronton. This led to a fast and furious encounter with some highly entertaining points. However, Irujo did not appear entertained in any way, shape or form. The Manomanista champion looked like a fish out of water as he made error after error and constantly found himself out of position. Confusion reigned between him and Titin. In contrast, Olaizola and Berasaluze had a ball, perhaps ironically given Aimar’s reputation as a poor back court player in his junior days. They appeared relaxed and worked swimmingly together as a team, resulting in a crushing 22-7 victory. Despite being an encounter of little importance, Aimar will surely have been delighted with yet another score over his old rival this summer. The pair will meet again, rather more conventionally, in a mano a mano game on Saturday.

Begino and Berasaluze VIII

Begino and Berasaluze VIII



Virgen Blanco Final: Xala and Goni III weather the storm at Ogueta by frontonnews
August 9, 2009, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sunday 9th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz
XALA – GOÑI III beat BERASALUZE VIII – MENDIZABAL II 22-17

Battles locked in attritional stalemate are wont to turn with sudden and brutal force. On 21st June 1813, Joseph Bonaparte found this to his cost as his French defences crumbled at the hands of Arthur Wellesley at the Battle of Vitoria, signalling a virtual British victory in the Peninsula War. Today another battle was fought in Vitoria, which though less deadly in a literal sense, followed a similar pattern. For an hour or more, four of the best pelotaris the Basque Country has to offer flew at each other hammer and tongs until one side cracked. For Bonaparte read Mendizabal and for Wellesley read Xala, who in an ironic twist, if our metaphor is to be played out, hails from the French side of the Pyrenees. In a match of searing quality, it was the forward from Lekuine who turned the tide.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1813

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1813

Both partnerships had won their respective semi finals with consummate ease and happily for the enthusiastic but not overly large crowd at Ogueta, all four players carried their excellent form forward to the showpiece match. Matters began in whirlwind fashion with Pablo Berasaluze unleashing a txoko and two hooks to stamp his authority. Xala could only stand by and admire. However, if this early dominance by the pocket dynamo from Berriz appeared total, his rivals had other ideas as from 0-3 down, Xala produced two hooks and a devastating smash on his way to a 4-3 lead. And so the battle proceeded, neither side ceding a significant advantage for point after point. Berasaluze and Mendizabal perhaps held the marginal upper hand for the majority of the game, but only by a proverbial hair’s breadth. Berasaluze in particular displayed white hot form. The Asegarce forward is nothing if not a fighter and time and again he rescued points when all seemed lost. On several occasions, he dug out what should rightfully have been txoko winners from Xala and turned defeat into victory. Focussed and indefatigable, he threw himself in all directions, even finding the energy to encourage his partner mid point, all taut muscles and pumped fists. Particularly extraordinary was his return of Xala’s hook in the point which took his pair’s lead to 10-6 and his stinging airez following a brief but vicious forward battle at 13-11. Oier Mendizabal too played his part, managing some towering returns from Xala’s considerable serve and showing tremendous willingness and skill in coming forward to cover for Berasaluze when it was required.

The scores drifted upwards in the favour of the pair in red but Xala and Goni were always in comfortable touching distance with the gap never growing beyond four points as the tally moved from 4-4 to 16-15. In style, Xala and Berasaluze are chalk and cheese. Berasaluze appears to play on pure adrenaline and desire, but Xala’s more measured, almost brooding approach is no less effective. Despite a pair of faltas, he served clinically, inducing two consecutive errors from Mendizabal, which brought the score to 7-6. His tactical intelligence led to perfect placement in the three points which brought his pair to parity at 11-11, two txoko winners and a whipped crosscourt volley leaving an out of position Berasaluze with no chance. Goni, as he was in the semi final and as he has been almost all year, was extremely solid. He was also marginally less error prone than Mendizabal, and proved once again the perfect partner in a battle where no inch can be lost.

Despite this near stalemate, the feeling persisted that the Asegarce partnership would come through, such was the firepower of Berasaluze. However, as with military warfare, one seminal moment is often all it takes for well founded conviction to be blown out of the water, and so it was when Xala stepped forward to serve with the score at 17-17. He had hinted at his growing confidence with a devastating dosparedes winner in the previous point and he now produced two long dipping serves just as required. Mendizabal swung and struck but could not make good contact. Twice he tried and twice he failed. All of a sudden, the ASPE pair was ahead for the first time since the score stood at 4-3. Mendizabal’s double failure triggered meltdown for the duo in red; Berasaluze hit wide and Mendizabal mishit completely before Xala caught him napping with an innocuous looking txoko while he loitered far too far back. When Beraslauze hit low the game was up. As the curtain fell on this modern Battle of Vitoria, blue was the colour of victory.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2009

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2009

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-4, 4-4, 7-4, 7-5, 7-6, 8-6, 10-6, 10-7, 10-8, 11-8, 11-11, 13-11, 13-12, 14-12, 14-13, 15-13, 15-14, 16-14, 16-15, 17-15, 17-16 and 17-22.



Virgen Blanco Semi Final: Xala and Goni through after show of strength by frontonnews
August 8, 2009, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday 6th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz
XALA – GONI III beat BENGOETXEA VI – BEGINO 22-9

Ogueta was strangely under-populated for the first Virgen Blanco semi final on Wednesday. Whether this was due to the lack of star attraction on the fronton or to more attractive happenings elsewhere at Vitoria-Gasteiz’s fiesta is anybody’s guess, but these pelotaris deserved better. However, despite the absent sense of occasion, Xala and Goni III put on a display worthy of the largest possible stage.

For nine points, the match was a tight affair, characterised by some superior play by Aritz Begino, who initially had the better of his opposite number, Fernando Goni. However, with the score at 5-4 to the eventual losers, the game blew apart with eight unanswered points from Xala and Goni. Begino suffered an all too obvious errosion of confidence and went on to commit eight errors. In contrast, Goni was unflappable and as solid as the proverbial brick wall, maintaining the form he showed in partnering Martinez de Irujo to pairs championship glory earlier in the year. Xala took some time to hit his stride but when an astonishing hook from the ASPE forward took the score to parity at 5-5, the die was cast for the remainder of the match.

At the front of the court, Xala moved the ball at will, toying with both the walls and his forward opponent Oinatz Bengoetxea. The former Manomanista champion has been absent through injury for the past two months and sadly for him, it showed. He fared well in the flow of play but lacked any kind of closing power when it came to striking winners, something which came naturally to his opposite number. There was also an apparent lack of teamwork in the play of the Asegarce pair, who have not played together at all in recent months. On several occasions, Bengoetxea left balls for Begino which he should rightfully have taken himself, resulting in confusion and mishits. All in all then, this was a night to forget for Bengoetxea and Begino, but one which will provide Xala and Goni with a massive boost ahead of Sunday’s final.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-5, 12-5, 12-6, 14-6, 14-7, 17-7, 17-8, 20-8, 20-9 and 22-9.

Xala on song in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Xala on song in Vitoria-Gasteiz



Mano results roundup: Ipar Kutxa Final and Cecilio’s debut by frontonnews
 
Ipar Kutxa Final

The Ipar Kutxa Tournament is a doubles competition involving some of the best pelotaris not entered, or no longer involved, in the Manomanista Championship. Each empresa entered two pairs as follows:

For Asegarce: Berasaluze VIII – Begino and Olaizola I – Mendizabal II
For Aspe: Gonzalez – Laskurain and Titin III – Pascual

In the first semi final, which took place in Villamediana de Iregua on 16th May, Asier Olaizola, a losing Manomanista quarter finalist, and Oier Mendizabal defeated Titin III and Pascual 22-15. The second was a tight affair which saw the victors escape the clutches of their opponents only in the dying points of the game. Those victors were Sebastian Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain, who triumphed over Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino by 22 points to 18 in Bermeo.

The final was held on Saturday 30th May at Beotibar in Tolosa and in a tough encounter, where the scores were tied at 15-15, the plaudits went to Gonzalez and Laskurain, who eventually ran out 22-16 winners over Olaizola I and Mendizabal II. In a match which lasted 73 gruelling minutes, fatigue set in for the losing pair as the skill of Gonzalez proved telling.

Cecilio delivers dream debut

Today (Sunday 31st May) saw the professional debut of the 21 year old Riojan Cecilio Valgañón in his home town of Ezcaray. The defender recently signed a two year contract with ASPE. Hailing from the Titin III Centre for High Performance, Cecilio is the under 22 World Champion and also won the Diario Vasco Tournament in 2008.

In his first match for his new empresa, he was paired with his fellow Riojan Titin III against Capellan and Goni III and he could not have got his career off to a better start. In a 22-7 victory, the debutant and his veteran partner crushed the life out of their considerable opponents. Titin was on sparking form, particularly ruthless in his aggressive hooks and beautifully delicate in his deft touches to the corner. Cecilio too showed impressive skill, especially from the back of the fronton from where he let rip with his powerful right arm. He displayed a young man’s lack of nerves as he entered into the tough new environment of professional mano, and on this showing he should thrive. He and Titin were aided by the errors of their adversaries; while Fernando Goni was for the most part his usual solid self, Capellan was a clear second best to Titin and appeared at sea. As the winning shot was struck, Cecilio’s sizable fan club erupted with a barrage of drumming and shouting, before the young man was hoisted aloft, the hero of the evening.

Cecilio Valgañón González
Date of birth: 28/09/1987
Place of birth: Ezcaray (La Rioja)
Weight: 92 kg
Height: 1.89m
Position: defender
Past results: Campeonato del Mundo, sub-22, 2008; Campeonato de España de Clubes, 2008; Campeonato Diario Vasco 2008; Campeón GRAVN sub-22 parejas, 2007

New pro Cecilio

New pro Cecilio

Image from: ASPE


Mano pairs final: thrilling victory for Irujo and Goni III by frontonnews

Sunday 29th March
Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – GONI III beat OLAIZOLA II – MENDIZABAL II 22-21

Stunning Aimar almost turns the tables but Irujo and Goni show themselves to be the consumate partnership as the championship goes down to the wire

This was the final to end all finals: for a championship three months in duration to come down one point in the final match in front of a packed audience in full cry is the stuff of Hollywood. That it as a close run thing was not wholly unexpected, pitting against each other as it did the two best pairs, containing some of the very greatest players, of the bunch. For two weeks, press and public alike have discussed the relative merits and weaknesses of the protagonists; Irujo’s passion? Olaizola’s tactical intelligence? Goni’s consistency? Mendizabal’s talent for the big stage? Which would win the day? In the end, none of the four deserved to lose, but as the tournament hovered in flux, the sword of Damacles had to drop for two.

The first two points of the final whetted the appetite for the forward battle to come as the great Irujo and Aimar locked horns from the off. The first point went to the former who used both walls to wrong foot Aimar and signal his intent. But the Goizuetan showed he would not be dictated to with a brutal airez of his own. In reality though, it was the duel at the back of the fronton which was to set the pattern for the majority of the game. It seemed to all the world as if the Aspe pair would waltz away with the prize as they consistently held their opponents at arm’s length, never closer than two points. This seeming air of inevitability was brought about largely by the rock solid play of Goni III to whom the very idea of the unforced error seemed anathema. No matter how hard Aimar tried to set him up for a fall, the man from Zubiri returned with interest. It took the defending champions 17 points to knock him, briefly, from his pedestal of perfection when Aimar manipulated him back and forth until he hit wide. In contrast, Oier Mendizabal creaked almost from the off; before Goni had made one mistake, his young opponent had failed four times. The discrepancy in the defensive play was clear for all to see, not least for Irujo and Goni themselves, who milked it for all it was worth. Aimar played with assurance but for the large part was totally unable to impose himself. Irujo played with all his usual fire and more in his expert partnering of Goni. He was not immune from the odd careless error, greeted as usual but furious incredulity, but with dominance surely applied these hardly mattered.

When three Mendizabal errors in succession took the score to 16-11 in favour of Irujo and Goni, the Aspe partnership must have smelt the finishing line. However, this was to reckon without a man by the name of Aimar Olaizola who was not in a mood to let a potential eighth txapela pass him by. The Asegarce botillero called time out for his pair and when they returned to the fray, the match was very nearly turned on its head. With Aimar slightly repositioned on the fronton, the trailing attacker cut loose. A drop, an airez and a trademark lethal left handed hook ensured that the gap in points edged down, gradually, but assuredly. With the score at 18-15 to Irujo and Goni, Mendizabal hit low from the back of the fronton and one sensed that it was now or never for the Asegarce pair.

When Irujo miscued close to the side wall, Aimar pounced and attacked full on. Another hook levelled the score at 19-19. The crowd, now at fever pitch, gasped in stunned unison. This had hardly seemed possible a mere half an hour previously. When Goni could not return a long ball from Aimar, the defending champions were ahead for the first time and all hell broke loose in the Oier Mendizabal fan club, which was sizeable and deafening. However, their hero once again hit too low from far out and the score was tied again. Now the Aspe pair inched ahead and claimed a match point when Irujo left Aimar unceremoniously sprawling with his legs above his head. Surely this was it? But 21-21 came; Irujo could hardly comprehend how his shot failed to find the frontis. And so, one point to win it all. Who had the nerve and who would fall? The final point was agonising in every conceivable way. One moment of brilliance, one mistake and sporting fate would be sealed. Nobody had deserved this, but there was Fernando Goni brilliant to the last, sending a ball of beauty, low and skidding to the frontis. Aimar ran, dived, hit and watched. One inch was all it took to kill a dream. Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni had won.

Points sequence (Olaizola II/Mendizabal II 1st): 0-1, 1-1, 1-3, 2-3, 2-5, 3-5, 4-5, 4-6, 4-8, 5-8, 5-10, 8-10, 8-11, 8-12, 9-12, 9-13, 10-13, 11-13, 11-14, 11-17, 12-17, 13-17, 13-18, 15-18, 15-19, 19-19, 20-19, 20-20, 20-21, 21-21 and 21-22.

Juan Martinez de Irujo: job done

Juan Martinez de Irujo: job done



Mano Pairs Championship Final: the players, the facts and the figures by frontonnews
March 28, 2009, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Aimar Olaizola Apezetxea
Date of birth: 13/11/79 in Goizueta, Navarre
Empresa: Asegarce
Position: forward
Height: 1.85m
Weight: 86kg
Debut: 12/04/1998, Lekunberri
Championship pedigree: Manomanista Champion in 2005 and 2007; Cuatro y Medio Champion in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008; Pairs Champion in 2008; Manomanista runner up in 2003 and 2006; Pairs runner up in 2003 and 2006.


Oier Mendizabal Huitzi
Date of birth: 21/05/83 in Donostia-San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa
Empresa: Asegarce
Position: defender
Height: 1.82m
Weight: 85kg
Debut: 18/06/05, Zarautz
Championship pedigree: Pairs Champion in 2008

Juan Martinez de Irujo Goñi
Date of birth: 04/11/81 in Ibero, Navarre
Empresa: ASPE
Position: forward
Height: 1.86m
Weight: 84kg
Debut: 06/06/03, Pamplona
Championship pedigree: Manomanista Champion in 2004 and 2006; Cuatro y Medio Champion in 2006; Pairs Champion in 2005 and 2006; Manomanista runner up in 2005; Cuatro y Medio runner up in 2008; Pairs runner up in 2004.


Fernando Goñi Erice
Date of birth: 05/02/73 in Zubiri, Navarre
Empresa: ASPE
Position: defender
Height: 1.84m
Weight: 84kg
Debut: 27/02/98, Pamplona
Championship pedigree: Pairs Champion in 2001, 2004 and 2005

Paths to the final 

Olaizola II/Mendizabal II

Beat Titin III/Pascual 22-21
Lost to Xala/Laskurain 10-22
Beat Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III 22-16
Beat Olazabal/Barriola 22-10
Beat Titin III/Pascual 22-7
Lost to Xala/Zubieta 17-22
Lost to Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III 8-22 (Mendizabal II substituted for Zearra due to injury)
Beat Gonzalez/Eulate 22-19

Lost to Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III 17-22
Beat Berasaluze VIII/Begino 22-20
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-16

Martinez de Irujo/Goñi III

Beat Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz 22-13
Lost to Berasaluze VIII/Begino 10-22
Lost to Olaizola II/Mendizabal II 16-22
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-18
Beat Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz 22-8
Lost to Berasaluze VIII/Begino 20-22
Beat Olaizola II/Zearra 22-8
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-19

Beat Olaizola II/Mendizabal II 22-16
Beat Bengoetxea VI/Beloki 22-18
Beat Berasaluze VIII/Begino 22-15

Olaizola II v Martinez de Irujo: head to head record in finals

Manomanista
2005 Olaizola II beat Martinez de Irujo 22-18
2006 Martinez de Irujo beat Olaizola II 22-17
Cuatro y Medio
2008 Olaizola II beat Martinez de Irujo 22-17
Pairs
2006 Martinez de Irujo/Martinez de Eulate beat Olaizola II/Zearra 22-11