Tag Archives: Eulate

Arretxe II and Ibai Zabala crowned Second Tier Pairs Champions

Sunday 28th March, Pamplona


Second Tier Pairs Final

The final of the Second Tier Pairs Championship seemed on paper to be an enticing prospect. The fans, with their banners, certainly came with enthusiasm to see the battle between two pairs who have matched each other win for win through the competition as a whole. However, the result was in reality a forgone conclusion from very early on, for Arretxe II and Ibai Zabala defied the bookies to thrash Saralegi and Eskudero 22-7.

The winning pair had a clear game plan and their opponents fell for it, hook, line and sinker. They bombarded Eskudero, their rival defender, with long ball after long ball and his armoury proved to weak for the task. Arretxe and Ibai did not open well, their rivals taking a 3-0 lead. They levelled at 3-3 and 5-5, scores which hinted at a tight match. It was however, not to be, as they raced to a 16-5 lead which proved utterly insurmountable. Iker Arretxe controlled the game from the front with ease and interacted well with his partner, who left Eskudero with no room to breathe. Ibai managed some stunning pieces of play, including taking a near impossible ball on the rebound, and ended with four winners. Saralegi, who has showed great spirit both in this competition and in the main championship, where he deputised for Olaizola I, failed to fire and was unable to release his hapless partner from the stranglehold.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-5, 5-5, 5-16, 6-16, 6-17, 7-17, 7-22.

Earlier in the evening, Labrit staged a stunning curtain raiser between Martinez de Irujo-Eulate and Olaizola II-Apraiz. It was taken by the latter by 22 points to 18, with Olaizola showing freedom to swing. Apraiz, too, was highly impressive, and hinted at great things to come.

Source: El Correo

Photo by Javier Sesma, Diario Vasco

Irujo and Eulate find an extra gear as Asier and Apraiz miss their chance

Friday 5th February, Urduliz


Pairs Championship

The Pairs Championship began its fifth week in the small Bizkaian town of Urduliz, with a match between two pairs whose fortunes have differed wildly. Juan Martinez de Irujo was partnered here by Pedro Martinez de Eulate, standing in for the resting Mikel Beroiz. Eulate, however, was a replacement deluxe, having won this very championship with Irujo four years ago. The two have a clear rapport. The most talked about substitution in the match though, was not that involving Eulate. Alexis Apraiz stood in for Patxi Ruiz for the second match in succession, with the latter now suspended from the tournament until further notice by his empresa in a wrangle over the level of his match fitness. Apraiz played well last weekend and Ruiz was certainly not missed. Another such performance was needed here, but despite the best efforts of the Asegarce pair, Irujo and Eulate had the edge in terms of class and match play.

The early exchanges were extremely tight, and Olaizola and Apraiz easily held their own with the overwhelming favourites. Irujo failed to hit the ground running, with four errors in the first eight points. Indeed, seven of these first eight came from errors, with Olaizola and Apraiz also opening their account in this regard. Irujo had no real excuse for nerves, his pair having a foot in the semi finals before the evening began, but his opponents badly needed a win and showed it in their lack of fluency. From 4-4 however, Irujo and Eulate found their poise and gradually pulled away. Irujo was never at his stunning best, but managed several trademark winners, both into the corner and crosscourt, which made his many fans coo with delight in the stands. Eulate backed him with utter assurance and was solid as a rock, fielding everything with extraordinary calm. The defender played a textbook opening spell with no hint of an error until he failed to field a long, fast serve from Olaizola at 11-7. Eulate’s opposite number, Apraiz, played solidly enough but could not match him.

The gap between the sides never threatened to balloon at this point in the game. Olaizola, despite mistakes, showed great drive to keep his pair in touch, just about holding the coat tails of Irujo in the forward battle. They must have hoped that if they could keep the match tight, a chance may present itself, and such a chance did come, in the form of four successive errors from the Aspe pair, caused partly by their own ambition and partly by the pressure of Olaizola’s excellent serve. They came within one point of parity at 15-14, and one more point would have dealt a serious blow to the moral of their more fancied opponents. It was time for the underdogs to take the game by the scruff of the neck. However, Apraiz blew this golden opportunity in the blink of an eye with two nervy and unnecessary mistakes. Irujo and Eulate, perhaps sensing they had been let off the hook, never looked back, and seized the initiative with a show of class. Eulate managed an implausible crosscourt winner from the midcourt to regain a four point margin before Irujo took the baton and pulled off commanding txoko and crosscourt winners. The deal was sealed with an error apiece from Apraiz and Olaizola, and Irujo, with little heed to the identity of his partner, marched on in his unbeaten vein. Olaizola and Apraiz must surely now be down and out.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3, 3-4, 4-4, 8-4, 8-5, 10-5, 10-6, 11-6, 11-9, 12-9, 13-9, 13-10, 15-10, 15-11, 15-14, 22-14.

Asier Olaizola could not find enough to thwart Irujo

Asier Olaizola could not find enough to thwart Irujo

Image from: El Correo Digital

Fernando Goñi renews with Aspe

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

Impressive Ibai Perez wins on debut

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: Berasaluze IX serves up a thrashing

Friday 3rd April

The television cameras at Zeanuri last night seemed far more interested in the fact that Pello Martinez de Eulate’s botillero was none other than Juan Martinez de Irujo, than in the fact that this was a championship match of huge importance to the protagonists. The big players do not enter the draw until the third round but for Asier Berasaluze and Eulate, both from ASPE, this was their chance to prove themselves and to keep alive their hopes of being there to face the likes of Irujo himself in two weeks time. Berasaluze is on something of a high, having recently won the second division pairs title with Xabier Urberuaga, and his surge of confidence was to serve him well.

The match began with Eulate strutting his stuff. Twice pairs champion, the man from Lizarra-Estella signalled his intent by rendering Berasaluze flat on his stomach as the latter struggled to recover from a masterly long serve. Two miscues from the native of Berriz took Eulate’s lead to 3-0 as Berasaluze yelled in self reproach. However, this was not to be the pattern of the remainder of the game. In the very next point Eulate committed the same error as his opponent had in the point before, mistiming a driving volley, and ceded the service. And service was to be to key. Berasluze’s first serve was a pasa, not the confidence boost for which he might have wished, but from there on there was no stopping his stinging right arm. The 25 year old served fast and hard. In taking the score to parity at 3-3, he unleashed a 122kmph monster against which Eulate had no hope. This was to be the fastest of the evening but he lost no potency, regularly hitting the 116kmph mark.

It took Berasaluze some time to impose himself, despite his gargantuan serve, as Eulate’s tactical nouse held him at bay. In this sense, the point which took the score to 8-6, reducing Berasaluze’s deficit to two points, must be seen as a turning point. Eulate repeatedly pushed his opponent back, controlling him like a puppet on a string as he ran back and forth for over 20 shots. But he would not succumb and broke Eulate’s control with a combination of a drop into the corner and a crosscourt flick which appeared to break his spirit. Berasaluze never looked back. His aforementioned serve took him to a 12-8 lead in quicktime. Eulate hung onto his coat tails and was only two points adrift at 13-11, but then the elastic snapped in catastrophic fashion. Four errors did not help matters for the afflicted pelotari but it was the pressure exerted by Berasaluze which told, as 13-11 became 22-11. In the dying points, Eulate appeared to have given up, and there was nothing Irujo, sitting stony faced in his chair, could do to raise him.

An so, a dejected Eulate leaves the championship while the ever smiling Berasaluze IX marches on. His next opponent is Inigo Leiza, who will no doubt be practising his return of serve.

Scoring sequence (Eulate first): 1-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-3, 3-4, 3-5, 4-5, 5-5, 8-5, 8-6, 8-12, 9-12, 9-13, 11-13 and 11-22.

Asier Berasaluze

Asier Berasaluze

Mano pairs: Aimar and Oier show nerves of steel to qualify at Astelena

Sunday 22nd February

Astelena, Eibar


The equation was simple: the winners would qualify for the semi-finals and the losers would sweat it out. This duel had been headlined by the meeting of Olaizola II and Barriola, two immovable obstacles of big match play, the former possessed of a lethal left hand in attack, the latter resembling a brick wall in defence. The result, many thought, would hinge on their respective abilities to hit the high notes in a game where every point would matter. In this respect, the match turned out to be a let down, for the haematoma in Barriola’s right hand, acquired last week, had failed to recover. Leitza’s famous son was therefore replaced by Pedro Martinez de Eulate Maestresalas, the 29 year old from Lizarra-Estella who has two pairs championship wins on his resume. Despite Eulate’s status as a highly dangerous customer, the defending champions were now firm favourites, but matches of such magnitude are rarely straightforward to call. In the end, nerves of steel were required and unshakable determination would win the day: step forward Aimar Olaizola, the coolest cucumber in Navarre.

Early signs suggested that the defending champions had blown it. They endured a nightmare against Irujo and Goni III last week, hardly aided by Aimar’s suspect stomach, and it appeared that they had continued where they left off. After six points, Gonzalez and Eulate were 6-0 up, through a combination of some excellent attacking play from Gonzalez, two mishits from the back by Mendizabal and a wide swipe from Olaizola. Mendizabal found himself peppered with long balls in an early attempt to test his mettle; in the first seven points, he struck the ball 24 times to Olaizola’s 9. For the Asegarce pair it was therefore imperative to find a way to break the stranglehold in which they found themselves.

An error from Gonzalez gave the champions the serve and the advantage of their elected balls and from this point on, the disparity in points closed, gradually. As the score moved from 1-6 to 9-9, one sensed that Aimar had finally settled into the task at hand. Errors from Mendizabal, who still appeared ill at ease, were obviated by three exquisite hooks by his partner as well as a searing 98 kph serve expertly placed down the wall to which Eulate had no answer. Another excellent serve then set up a sitting duck of a winner and Aimar seized the lead for the first time in the match.

There now began a period of play when the Asegarce pair slowly and almost imperceptably pulled away in terms of both quality and composure. True, Aimar would make four more errors in the course of the game and Oier five but their opponents were the guiltier. Eulate in particular leaked points, his earlier solidity in the face of Olaizola seemingly gone. Mendizabal on the other hand saw his trajectory rise, hitting with ever increasing confidence and class. He was responsible for one of the shots of the match when, with the score at 17-15 he hit a skidding ball from the back of the fronton at such an angle that Gonzalez stood open mouthed in bewilderment. But it was Olaizola who was the chief architect of the solid recovery. Aimar’s great strength is his control of the pace of a match, every nuance calculated by his superb tactical brain. His pair never built a commanding lead and never obliterated their opponents with a barrage of dramatic hitting but the impression he gave was of a puppeteer pulling the strings. So clinical was his outward demeanour that one could be forgiven for overlooking his moments of brilliance as he demonstrated his wide repertoire of hooks, smashes and drops. Particularly impressive was his skill in turning defence into attack from the side wall; lack of operating space seemed to concern him not one bit. One match point was squandered when Gonzalez pulled off a masterful shot into the corner under unimaginable pressure but another miss by Eulate ensured the defending champions safe passage to the next stage of the competition. While his supporters gasped in relief, the tension past, Aimar nonchalantly signed autographs as if nothing had ever happened.

Scoring sequence (Olaizola II and Mendizabal II first): 0-6, 1-6, 2-6, 2-7, 2-8, 6-8, 6-9, 9-9, 10-9, 10-10, 11-10, 11-11, 12-11, 15-11, 15-12, 15-15, 19-15, 19-16, 20-16, 20-18, 21-18, 21-19, 22-19

Aimar in control

Aimar in control

Image from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_wzAwusJnS8k/ST45MBUdXZI/AAAAAAAAh_Q/CrTsvMp4ZyM/s400/aimar.jpg

Mano pairs: Barriola injured, to be replaced by Eulate

Abel Barriola will be forced to watch tomorrow’s vital match at Astelena. The defender from Leitza has failed to recover from a hand injury sustained in last week’s match. He will be replaced by 29 year old fellow Navarran Pedro Martinez de Eulate Maestresalas for the game against defending champions Olaizola II and Mendizabal II. The winner will qualify for the semi-finals while the loser must wait on Monday’s final game to learn their fate.

Eulate (left) is a former pairs winner

Eulate (left) is a former pairs winner

Image from: http://manista.blogs.com/bitacora/images/2007/03/26/xal_eulate_beloki20070325.jpg