Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Finals: BCAPL Women's Open Teams

The Open Women's Team I was on, How's My Rack, won our 9:30pm hot seat match Friday night in Vegas on May 18th.  We were ELATED!  It was a very tough match against fellow Texans from the DFW metro-plex area, and we barely squeaked by 9-7.

Because we won that match, we were in the finals of the 2012 BCAPL National Championship Women's Open Team division!  Eeek, omg!

We don't play the finals until 7pm the next night.  7pm?!  What the hell does one do with themselves for so many hours leading up to one of the most important matches of your life?!?!

Well, a few of us went to eat, some gambled slots, some played card games, some went to sleep.  I think I played Let It Ride for about an hour.  Even though we didn't play our match for almost 20 hours doesn't mean a "free" night in Vegas getting drunk was the answer for me.  I wanted to be fresh and rested! 

Our team shirt, hehe

I watched a couple of men's team matches the next morning and afternoon, ate lunch, and then I played some more Let It Ride.  I then picked up a Quiznos toasted ham sandwich (yummm!) and went to my room for a small, needed nap.

My boyfriend sent me a text for all us ladies on the team. Instead of "Good luck ladies!" it said, "Good lick ladies!" :) lmao!  His typo made for a great pick up for the team!

One of my teammates came to my room and we talked about pool, pressure, shared stories, yacked, etc.  She was pretty adamant we would NOT be double dipped in this final, like what happened to us at BCAPL State just a mere month before.  She said each of the team members all agreed we didn't want that to happen again.  I also agreed, altho I have to admit being double dipped never even crossed my mind.  ;)

She then mentioned she heard I put on FB our team was in the Finals.  She wasn't very happy I did that, because if we lost, it meant we got double dipped.  My reply was, "We aren't going to be."

It hadn't even dawned on me that anyone would be upset I shared the great news that we were in the finals!  However, because my actions bothered her and added some concerns to her heart and mind, that in turn bothered me.  And it stuck with me all the way into the start of the match.  I felt like it was on my shoulders that I put that added pressure on her.  BUT - I was freakin' proud of our team!  I wanted everyone to know we were in the finals!  How can I NOT share that!?

It truly hadn't even crossed my mind the invisible pressure of "what if."

I didn't DARE mention to her that everyone were already talking on FB that we were in the finals; I didn't want her to feel more pressure by sharing that.  I just tried to accept what I said bothered her, and tried to play in the finals with no distractions.   That's easier said than done, lol.

Women's Open Team:  How's My Rack?  Connie, Jennifer, Lisa, Me, Monica

My teammates and I show up at our match tables about 10-15 mins early.  Interestingly, our opponents aren't even there yet.  I thought that was kinda weird, tbh.  Why weren't they at the tables already?  What were they doing?

Altho they had won 3 matches earlier that day and made it the finals, I figured at least one team member would be in the area already. 

BTW, we had heard they "expected" to be in the finals with us because "we shouldn't have beat them," their captain told one of my teammates.   So, we knew the finals would be a good, tough match.

The team from Chicago (Monsters Inc.) finally showed up and they were in a good mood. 

We were quiet.  


We each kept the same line up from when we met a few rounds earlier, and we played the finals match two tables at a time right next to each other.

My team did our normal "chant" in a circle to pump each other up, and then we were ready to play!

Lisa and I were first and as our opponents were racking, I walked over to her and I high-fived her with authority!  I really liked doing that - it showed I had faith in her, and it got me ready as well!

My opponent and I both missed shots in that first game for some reason.  Finally, I told myself "if she misses again, that's it - I'm getting out."  I was tired of missing shots, lol.  

As I sat there waiting, I noticed a distinct difference between our team and there's. They were very lose, laughing, talking, having fun. We were, well, not intended, but we were "acting" uptight and very quiet.  Not laughing either.  We should be having fun!

Sure enough, I got another chance at the table and ran out. :) My teammates were barely clapping or saying anything during my run or after my win.

I reacted to being VERY relieved to win against their best player and walked up to my teammates and shouted, "Come on ladies! Let's hear some noise, we are in the finals!!"

We high-fived and cheered and that seemed to wake them up a little.  We all seemed to cheer more after that and complimented each other when we were at the table - I know how much the encouragement from my teammates helps me when I'm at the table and wanted my teammates to hear it, also.

We won many games right off the bat, and found ourselves on the hill to 2!   We were 8-2 in a race to 9 already.   OMG!

We only needed one more game to win!

When this is going on, you're not too sure what really is at stake - we were just going through the motions of playing the game we love. It all seemed to happen so fast that we were on the hill.

But then it happened, one by one, we lost a game. Then another. Then another.

I actually had a chance to win it for the team with a 3-ball out with ball-in-hand. I didn't want to overhit my last ball and therefore fell WAY short and got out of line on the 8ball. This is how bad I hit it:  I could bank the 8 ball in either pocket to my left and right, or I could cut the 8ball in the side or the end pocket. I had so many choices, lol!

I finally decided to cut it in the corner. I decided to put inside on the ball so it wouldn't scratch in the opposite corner. I made the 8ball nicely!   Sweet!   But, I hit her ball in the center of the table and the cueball went right in the side! omg.... :(

One of my teammates said I underhit the ball, well no shit.  I already knew that and I already felt bad I let the team down.

We were up now only 8-6. :( I wanted SO badly for my two other teammates who were at the tables to win.... so everyone would forget my mistake.   haha.  Well, that's not funny - I am serious!  If we won, no one would remember I dogged it to win for the team.  And I felt SO badly I messed up.  :(

We were all feeling the pressure all of a sudden.  It was brutal - None of us could get out. 

Score is now 8-7.

Jennifer is left playing her match and if she wins, we win. If she loses, we go to a tie breaker at 8-8.  And that tie breaker person is yours truly.

We won the hotseat, so they would have to beat us twice and this was only the first set.  If they won the first set, then we simply play again.

I want to wait and see if the lone match left determines a tie breaker game or not, but my opponent for the tie breaker match doesn't want to wait; she wants to play.

We ask a ref if we are suppose to play, or suppose to wait. I want a ruling - why start our match if we don't have to?

A call to the head ref's table tells us we have to play.  Dang it!  lol.

However, as I look back, this was actually a good thing.  Jennifer was doing well in her safety battle on the next table.  And so all eyes would be on BOTH tables, not just a lone match had we waited.

I was pretty lucky for my teammates:  I felt no pressure.

I was calm, cool, collected.  I knew if we lost, we would just play another set. Simple as that. Therefore, I had no pressure.   It wasn't the end of the world, not the very last game of the second set. In my mind, we were still alive... no matter what.

That made all the difference in the world for me personally: I didn't feel any pressure to HAVE to win.

Sure, I wanted to win.  But as most people, I play best when I'm calm and don't sense pressure.

My opponent breaks dry.  I see that stripes are better than solids. Altho I *think* the 1 ball goes by the 8ball, it's awfully close and I'd have to cheat the pocket for the run, and so stripes looked better.

I had several choices of which stripe to take, but I choose the stripe that would break up the cluster at the bottom of the table so I could run out.

And, I missed it!  lol.

I still didn't mind, tho. I figured if she ran out, then everyone would just see what a great out it was and we would just play the second set. No biggie.

Jennifer was still in her precarious match next to me and she was safetying her opponent a lot from the 8ball.

So, since I missed the first shot, I still broke up the cluster and my opponent had an open table layout that was runable with no balls tied up. :(

I sat in my little chair and watched her run the table.   One by one she makes a stripe; then another.

Then, with only 3 strips left, she missed!   I was like, really?  Yikes!  Of course, tho, she accidentally left her ball right in front of a pocket, blocking my 2 ball and my 6 ball. She had barely missed it.

 Click to enlarge

I wanted to make her ball so my two balls would go in that pocket later, but I couldn't play that safety because her two other stripes were make able from anywhere on the table. I had no choice:  I had to go for the runout.

I played extremely slow.  Taking my time, looking at the angles, deciding in my mind what to do before executing the shots.  I also have to make sure I stay out of the way of the next table.  As I reflect back, I swear it took me 15 minutes to run out, lol.  You will see in the video link below it is much faster, but that's because it's edited, lol.

 Click to enlarge

I started my run.  I make the 3 ball, then decide to make the 5 ball and try to bump either the 2 or 6 ball.  I luckily got on the 6 ball and decided that even though it would barely fit by the 1 and 8 balls, I had to just focus on hugging the rail, and NOT hit the 1 ball so I wouldn't sell out.

I told myself to STAY DOWN.  LEVEL cue.  I nailed the long rail shot!

I then decided to shoot the 1 ball next.  I figured if the 6 ball ball went by, then the 1 ball will slide by, also... IF I again hug the rail and NOT hit the 8 ball. 

I made it, also.  :)

I was then left with a couple of choices for the 4 or 7 ball next (see cue position B in the above table).  After much deliberation, I finally decided that the tough cut on the 4 in the side was the shot, no matter how difficult it was.  Honestly, I had no choice - it was for the run; for the win.  A long straight-in shot on the 7ball for the 4 was not the right choice.  But I also had to worry about shape on the 7 ball!  The 7 ball only went in 3 pockets.  The 4 ball was a tough shot to make and then to hope to get good shape on the 7 made it that much tougher.

But... I made the tough cut in the side!  You can see in the video it barely went in, too.  Whew!

The 2 ball still had no pocket, so all along I had decided I would just bank it, but then something weird happened:  after I cut the 4 ball in the side, the cueball rolled nicely by the 7 ball and left me a great angle to get down to the 2 ball. :)

I made the 7 ball and slid down below the 2 ball and clipped it just a little.... and left myself a shot!  It was another long rail shot, but again I told myself to just stay down with a level cue.

I didn't realize where I was, what was going on.  I heard my teammates clap for my shots, heard my name a few times, "good shot, Melinda!" but I honestly never thought I would win.  That's how calm I was:  I wasn't thinking of the future.

I just didn't feel pressure.... because again - if we lost, we would just go to another set.

I made the 2 ball nicely!

Then it hit me:  If I make this 8 ball, we win.

"Just stay down, Melinda."

I hoped something crazy wouldn't happen like a kiss off a ball resulting in a stupid scratch, so I just tried tried to stop my cueball.

I made it!  I immediately jumped up and down and jumped up and down!  I then pointed my cue to the sky and said, "This is for you, Mom!!"  I started to cry as I high-fived my teammates, hugged them tightly, and smiled SO BIG from ear to ear.  There were claps and cheers from the sidelines and we were all so excited!


The final game...!!

I went over to shake my opponents' hand, and apologized for not doing so right away.  But, I knew I would do that - I react for big wins instead of shaking hands right away.  It's not right, but I am so new to winning, that I react first.  (sorry)

I was still so stunned, I told our opponents "good luck" (like they had a future match or something) instead of "good shooting" or "congratulations."  I wasn't thinking clear at all and fumbled my words.

Our whole team was SO elated!  WE WON!  We were National Champions!  Took me so long for this dream to come true and I was SO SO HAPPY!

I kept crying and crying and hugging and talking.  I was like a little rabbit on speed - I couldn't stop smiling or talking or expressing my excitement or moving around!

We had to wait almost 45 minutes to get our checks, photos, and plaques but it was worth it:  We were now National Champs!  We had a drink and toasted our win while we waited!

Teammate Connie taking the brackets for her home pool room.  :)

One of our friends from Texas was there for EVERY match - Andy.  He even changed his flight back home so he could stay for the finals. :)  Andy recognized a few times when the team was lacking energy and cohesiveness, and would get us together for a group hug.  To have someone there for us each match was amazing.

And we also got lucky that Jennifer's sister from Montana was able to come to Vegas.  Amy was there for every match Friday through Saturday and her enthusiasm for us was contagious.  :)

During the final match, the guys from OB Cues were in the stands and watched us win.  They were so supportive and it felt wonderful to hear them in the crowd!  Royce was my scotch doubles partner for two years and to hear his words of encouragement from the stands was very helpful to me.  And then when they came down to offer their congratulations and hugs afterwards meant a lot!

Jennifer's significant other was there, Shane, and he shot the video for us (thank you, Shane!) and one of Connie's good friends watched us a few times, including the finals (Ross) and he was supportive, too.

Lisa, Monica, and I's significant others were back home in Texas.  They followed our every move and watched the brackets online from afar.   They were supportive all the way from Texas! 

After we won, pool's dynamic duo, Gail Glazebrook and Tony Robles, came by and they each made me cry more as they gave me a congratulatory hug.  It was very, very sweet they stopped by after they heard we won!

The win seemed to hit everyone at different times.  Monica would cry an hour later.  It finally hit Jennifer about 1 1/2 hours later.  Connie wanted a better dinner to celebrate.  And Lisa kept smiling all night.  :)

It was one of THE most important moments in my life.  I will never ever forget the team chemistry, team dedication, and the thrill of winning such an important tournament with good friends.

It truly is A. Dream. Come. True.

The team celebrated by having a nice big meal and cozy drink at the Peppermill.  We toasted our win and ate happily.  :)

 My celebratory meal with a champagne cocktail :)

As I reflect on the night of our win to write this (long, sorry) blog entry, it seems quite amazing to me that I dogged it to win, then won it to win.  The more difficult run in the last match was obviously a lot more exciting to win on that note, than the little 3-ball out I had goofed up earlier. 

I would have loved to win no matter how, no matter who sunk the final 8ball, but I admit that final rack will be etched in my mind forever.

Of the final game, two friends commented after they saw the video:

"Holy shit!  You were at the table in the case game!

OMG.  That's amazing. 
There is nothing that can really explain how much pressure there is at that moment, and how awesome it feels to pull through.
Wow, that's just awesome.

I am SO happy for you.  "

And another friend told me:

"That was some clutch shooting right there.  On each shot you were steady as ever.  I would never have known that it was a run for the National Championships."

To remain calm and get out so well in the final match was all due because I had experiences in the last year of not staying down well, with not thinking ahead in my Oct win, with dogging it in the past from pressure.  I was able to come through for my teammates because I had been in situations before that caused me to falter.  I have been told my whole life that the second place loser is the true winner, because we learn more from our mistakes.

So, basically, I'm glad I screwed up a lot in the past so I could help the team win, LMAO!

Everyone on the team stepped up.  Everyone played good.  We all played so much better than at State.  I am kinda glad our team only placed 2nd in State - it made us play better at Nationals.  Everything happens for a reason.

Lisa made a really good point and kept expressing that she was glad she wasn't the clutch, like she normally is on her other teams.  It took the pressure off her, and she was able to focus on playing the game she loves, and not worry about letting her teammates down or letting the pressure of team play get to her.  I was happy that she was able to play and not worry - that's what we needed from her:  Her true talent to show up without interference. 

Monica unfortunately got sick from stupid Denny's (several people got food poisoning from Denny's and were literally incapacitated for 48 hours).  However, altho Monica felt bad she wasn't able to play because she was sick, she probably didn't realize her words or encouragement kept us going. She was kinda of like our personal mental coach.

I had several instances of feeling bad for my decisions based on other's remarks.  I would feel worse after bad choices or misses because people would point them out to me.  But then Monica would do the opposite:  when I ran out well, she would tell me.  "Babe, you are playing good."  Or "You are stroking so smooth, that was a nice out."  She even called me the MVP.  Awww!   I can't begin to express how much her words of encouragement kept me focused.  It's funny, when you are the clutch player, you are "suppose" to play good; it's expected.  But, words of encouragement STILL go a long way for every single player, including me who thrives on it.

Jennifer was our Rookie of the Year - she was so solid and shot so well under pressure.  She impressed us!

Connie also played great!  At State she had distractions, but at Nationals, she was able to finally play good pool.  I know that felt good to her, too!

We all meshed together perfectly for the pool-fecta:  A National Championship win!

1 comment:

TimKrazyMon said...

Celebrations at the Peppermill. Good times. Congrats on the win.