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

Virgen Blanco Semi Final: Pablito and Oier finalists at Ogueta by frontonnews

Friday 7th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz

The second semi final of the Torneo Virgen Blanco was significantly better attended than the first, in which only about 500 of 2155 seats were filled. Friday, in contrast, brought a near full house of enthusiastic fans who appeared torn in terms of allegiance between the master Titin and ‘Pablito’ Berasaluze, the terrier from Berriz. In the final analysis, it was the fans of the latter who left satisfied; Berasaluze produced a trademark performance of tenacity and drive, belying once again his small stature. Titin looked a shadow of the man we know he can be and it was only when the victory was as good as in the bag for the Asegarce pair that he showed any kind of convincing fight. Berasaluze in contrast chanced his arm and succeeded, bringing off some stunning hooks and returning everything his opponents could throw at him. In defence, Inigo Pascual seemed oddly off colour and never truly found his range. Oier Mendizabal, conversely, was at his metronomic best, the perfect bedrock for the attacking instinct of his partner.

The Asegarce victory here means that the final will be an inter-empresa affair; Berasaluze and Mendizabal will play Xala and Goni III of ASPE for the Virgen Blanco crown on Sunday. Catch it on ETB-Sat at 17:55 (CEST).

Mendizabal II: eye on the ball

Mendizabal II: eye on the ball

Impressive Ibai Perez wins on debut by frontonnews
June 13, 2009, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

Friday 12th June, Las Llamas, Sestao


ASPE have been shopping for new young blood and on Friday in Sestao, their second recent acquisition made his eagerly awaited professional debut. He had a hard act to follow after the convincing win pulled off by the first new pro, Cecilio, two weeks ago, but Ibai Perez delivered with cream on top. In front of a large and enthusiastic crowd in his home town, the young forward played with incredible tenacity and verve to humble a quality pair in Aritz Lasa and Eulate. They say the young have no nerves and of this Ibai is living proof.

In a match which lasted nearly an hour and a half, almost every point was a game in miniature. The first play continued for a lifetime and Ibai Perez was kept waiting for his first contact with the pelota by his partner, Inigo Pascual, who took on the point almost singlehandedly. However, when he did enter the breach, he made his presence felt, immediately overcoming Aritz Lasa in the forward tussle when his pressure caused his opponent to misfire with a hook. However, despite this excellent opening salvo from the pair in blue, the first half of the match was all about Aritz and Eulate, who despite never appearing streets ahead, possessed the edge in finishing power. From 0-1, they took the score to 4-1 and then 7-2 thanks to some solid serving from Aritz and an unfortunate error from the debutante who had a gargantuan point at his mercy before hitting inexplicably low. However, from this juncture, Pascual and Ibai Perez began to claw their way back. Two errors from Aritz reduced the deficit to three before another monstrous point gave Ibai Perez in particular a huge fillip. It was an excellent example of doubles play from all concerned; Pascual was peppered with one long ball after another but returned with interest and his young partner flung himself in all directions for the cause before flooring Eulate with a masterful drop. The apprentice had suddenly turned boss.

The lead of Aritz Lasa and Eulate grew once more to five points at 13-8, due in large part to three errors from Pascual, who hit wide and low in succession, before missing the ball altogether, and a slip and a winner from Ibai and Aritz respectively. In this early portion of the game, it was Eulate who held the key to red control, providing a solid and dependable platform from which Aritz Lasa could attack. Nobody could have imagined that the wheels would fall off in such dramatic fashion. Eulate, extraordinarily, committed five errors in a row, hitting both high, low and short. Ibai Perez’s pressure and strong service are an explanation of sorts, but Eulate seemed to have lost the metaphorical plot. When Ibai struck a stinging txoko winner to take the lead for the first time, the crowd raised the roof. The local boy was on fire and would never be headed again. The ‘home’ team’s lead never grew to more than three, but so assured did they look that the result seemed sealed. Eulate, although he improved, made a further six errors in the match and this was extremely telling, but nothing must be taken away from the triumph of Ibai and Pascual, who fought like warriors for every scrap which came their way. The point which closed the lead of the eventual winners to a single point at 18-19 was emblematic of a match where every rally was a tussle to the death. It lasted 4.40 minutes and 91 strikes of the ball before Aritz Lasa finally out-manoeuvred Ibai Perez to take the spoils. But this was transient triumph for Aritz and Eulate; they won the battle but Pascual and his rookie partner won the war.

Ibai Perez, on the strength of his performance here, is a tantalising prospect. He is fast and bustling, somewhat in the manner of Oinatz Bengoetxea, and hits with abandon and a noted lack of fear. This was a tense, close match, where almost every point hung on a knife edge, yet the young forward never lost focus, displaying a maturity far in advance of his tender years. ASPE must nurture him with care.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 4-1, 4-2, 7-2, 7-3, 7-5, 8-5, 10-5, 10-7, 11-7, 11-8, 12-8, 13-8, 13-9, 13-16, 14-16, 15-16, 15-17, 15-18, 16-18, 16-19, 17-19, 18-19, 19-19, 19-20, 19-22.

Ibai Perez

Ibai Perez

Manomanista Championship: Pascual triumphs as Astelena is treated to the two faces of Zubieta by frontonnews
April 6, 2009, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday 5th April
Astelena, Eibar

Inigo Pascual was forced to come from behind last night in his defeat of Aitor Zubieta. This was expected to be a close run thing and in the end, the score tends to suggest that this was the truth. However, that would be a drastic over simplification of a strange match which Zubieta lost as much as Pascual won.

The early signs were that Zubieta would find himself home and dry at a canter. The 25 year old from Etxarri Aranatz stormed to a 12-2 lead and in the process showed what an exciting and skillful pelotari he can be. He dominated with both hands and was especially impressive when volleying. His defence was every bit as good as his attack. Pascual seemed a broken man. However, having seen the good side of Zubieta, we were now to see the bad. Possession of all the shots in the pelota armoury is half the battle but this is nothing without consistency. Zubieta appeared to flick a switch and change in the blink of an eye. 12-2 became 12-9 as Pascual made the most of his opponent’s new found waywardness. In the next point, Zubieta, with the entire frontis at his mercy, somehow contrived to hit too high; he seemed incapable of hitting the green part of the wall at all. Pascual passed his rival with ease, and although he handed the lead back momentarily at 14-15, Zubieta could not capitalise. 22-18 was the final score but numbers alone cannot tell the story of such a capitulation.

Zubieta will leave the competition and rue an opportunity missed. Pascual on the other hand will prepare for his next contest, against Xala on Friday.

Inigo Pascual

Inigo Pascual

Mano pairs: Bengoetxea and Beloki in the ascendent by frontonnews
February 15, 2009, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday 14th February

Labrit, Pamplona


Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ruben Beloki last night made it three wins out of three to climb to third place in the championship standings. While the Asegarce pair have overcome their slow start to take their place among the favourites to progress, Titin and Pascual are heading in the other direction; they now lie seventh and should be very worried indeed, especially given their points difference only of +1. They could still qualify for the semi finals but they have not made it easy for themselves.

The Asegarce partnership triumphed not by whitewashing their opponents but through hard work and intensity of effort. Despite finding himself on the losing side, Pascal was the best of the four pelotaris on show. It was Titin who allowed the victors their upper hand; the man from Tricio played without inspiration or spark and as the confidence of the Aspe pair gave way, Bengoetxea pounced. Although the manomanista champion committed six errors, he was able to keep his forward opponent at bay, and together with the solid hitting of Beloki from the back, was able to keep Pascal contained by applying sustained pressure rather than searching for out and out winners. Although the match was a close one, Bengoetxea and Beloki showed impressive composure to take the spoils, turning a 19-20 deficit into a 22-20 triumph.

Scoring sequence: 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 3-3, 3-5, 5-5, 5-6, 8-6, 8-9, 9-9, 9-11, 10-11, 10-13, 12-13, 12-14, 17-14, 17-16, 18-16, 18-19, 19-19, 19-20 and 22-20.

Bengoetxea VI at full stretch

Bengoetxea VI at full stretch

Image from: http://www.deia.com/cache/fotos/ce93333186e184bb13a55e5ff2799d8b.jpg

Source: Diario Vasco

Mano pairs: Asier and Patxi finally hit the high notes by frontonnews
February 7, 2009, 1:04 am
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Friday 6th February


This has been a long time coming. For much of this tournament, Asier Olaizola has been forced to watch little brother Aimar scale the heights while he and his partner, an out of form Patxi Ruiz, plunged the depths. They remain lowly in terms of the overall table but they can now rejoice in a performance which has saved their faces. They hang onto a mathematical chance of qualification for the semi finals thanks to this win over fifth placed Titin and Pascual, although they would need a miracle. Their opponents for their part have failed to gain a crucial point as the fight to reach the last four hits fever pitch and will wait anxiously on other results this weekend to find out where they will stand as they enter the penultimate week.

The first four points of the match seemed depressingly like business as usual; Patxi hit short from the back, as has been his wont in almost every encounter so far. Asier then hit short down the wall and was beaten by Titin before the pair found themselves comprehensively out-manouevred. Asegarce eyes must have rolled. But then in what seemed a most unlikely turnaround, Patxi and Asier took the next eight points and had their opponents yelling and stamping in fury. The Aspe rot started when Titin miscued carelessly from close in to the frontis, and Olaizola pounced, bossing the great Riojan without any regard for his exalted status. While the man from Goizueta seemed inspired, Titin’s attempted winners appeared bafflingly lacking in bite. Pascual played his part by hitting carelessly short, in stark contrast to a rejuvinated Patxi Ruiz. A mishit from a disgusted Patxi halted the Asegarce run and onlookers must have been tempted to assume that Titin and Pascual would now stamp their authority, but despite their own run of points, Asier fired his pair ahead once again to 9-8. The underdogs built another lead, taking the score to 13-9 in their favour. Olaizola managed to partially nullify the Titin factor by hitting long, thus avoiding an ill advised forward battle and Pascual delivered the hoped for errors. However, yet again Titin and Pascual hit back and with the score at 16-16, hearts were in mouths on both sides. When the Aspe pair raced to a 20-16 lead, owing largely to some wayward defensive play from Patxi, surely the die was cast? Titin ensured that this was not the case as his two errors returned Patxi’s favour. With the glimmer of victory only just out of reach, Asier hit again, sending Titin into an undignified full frontal slide into the corner. The final two points were protracted, virtuousic and almost unbearably tense. The advantage ebbed and flowed like an angry river as neither pair would give a centimetre, but once again, Asier, dark curls flying, proved to have the coolest head; a beautifully executed drop shot and an opportunistic long smash sent Titin and Pascual reeling, terminally.

And so, not before time, Olaizola I and Patxi Ruiz have a pulsating win in the bag, to add to their somewhat dismal victory over Xala and Zubieta. Titin and Pascual must surely have viewed this match as an opportunity to regain their composure after last week’s rout at their expense by Olaizola II and Mendizabal II. They should perhaps have recalled the hackneyed adage of the wounded but dangerous beast, for the whipping boys tonight put in jeopardy their very survival in this championship.

Asier Olaizola rampant

Asier Olaizola rampant

Image from: http://www.elcorreodigital.com/vizcaya/prensa/noticias/200804/16/fotos/052D3VIZ001_1.jpg

Mano pairs: Defending champions go top after show of authority by frontonnews
February 1, 2009, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Saturday 31st January
Labrit, Pamplona

If the pre match press was anything to go by, this encounter was all about the forwards. Aimar Olaizola and Augusto Ibanez are two of the very best of their generation and have a long and turbulant rivalry so it was little wonder that the citizens of Pamplona snapped up the hottest ticket in town in such vast numbers. Their previous encounter in this championship had ended in a win for the Asegarce pair by the narrowest of margins as an injured Olaizola hung on for his life. However, by the evening’s end, the man from Goizueta had left onlookers with no doubts as to who was the king of this particular castle as Titin was left reeling in defeat and boiling over with fury.

Right from the off, Olaizola had his rival at his mercy. The cold statistics tell us that he hit nine winners to Titin’s three but figures cannot tell the story of his mastery. The game remained close for the first 16 points but with the score at 9-7 to the Asegarce pair, it was as if a tidal wave hit their opponents. The Aspe partnership were in such disarray that they even committed three errors in mutual understanding, seeming incapable of a decision on who should take the shot. The merciless Olaizola was backed up by a no less magnificent Mendizabal, who hit with control and power in defence and utterly eclipsed Inigo Pascual who seemed a shadow of his former self.

The score continued to build in favour of the defending champions, who strolled comfortably to a 15-7 lead. It was then that Titin exploded. Perhaps it was a sense of total impotence in the face of Olaizola that made him react as he did to a gantxo from his opposite number which seemed to fall wide but was called in. The Riojan was incensed and entered into a furious, arm waving row with the judge. Able to take no more, he retired to the changing room, hurling his foot at the door as he went. When he returned, one minute later, he asked for permission to sit at in his chair and gather himself but it was denied. Again he hit the proverbial roof and it was all Pascual and Aspe botillero Martin Alustiza could do to make him continue. Continue he did, but there was no way back. Olaizola and Mendizabal, completely unfazed by the interruption, continued in their dominant vein and refused to cede a single point to their rivals as they completed a 22-7 anihilation.

Olaizola and Mendizabal have now won four of their five matches and find themselves at the head of the pack. One more point would guarantee them a place in the semi finals but in the event of a tie their superior points difference should provide a lifeline. Having defeated all of their direct rivals, they are now top dogs.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 2-3, 3-3, 3-4, 5-4, 5-9, 7-9 and 7-22.

Aimar Olaizola

Aimar Olaizola