It’s official … the Oregon State racquetball program is a dynasty.
Competing in the USA Racquetball national collegiate championships this past weekend in Tempe, Ariz., the Beavers made history by sweeping all major awards — a first for any team. OSU won the men’s, women’s and combined titles as well as the coach of the year honor for Rob Durbin.
“I’m proud of the fact that I don’t really recruit outside the state — all six men and all six women are from Oregon high schools,” said Durbin, who is also the director of racquetball at Timberhill Athletic Club. “Actually, I’d like to thank all of the high school coaches for making my job easier. I may refine or whatever I do as a coach but the racquetball IQ of these kids is far superior to any other college. I don’t have to explain … it’s just a matter of execution.”
The OSU women have now won five straight titles and six overall. For the men, it was their first-ever team championship. It was also OSU’s sixth straight combined team championship and seventh out of eight years.
The sport is not sanctioned by the NCAA and athletes receive no scholarship assistance.
“If there was a spirit award, OSU would win that too,” Durbin said. “I make it a point that no kid is left alone, there are at least two or three others watching them. I can’t be at all of the matches all the time … the guys are coaching and helping the girls. It’s a really neat family atmosphere.”
Taylor Knoth has become a well-known name for those who follow the sport, which he has dominated for the past three years. Knoth won the Division I individual men’s title with a 15-10, 8-1 (ret.) victory over Colorado State-Pueblo’s Nick Montalbano.
With the win, Knoth, who is out of La Salle Catholic in Milwaukie, qualified as a member of the U.S. Adult National Team and will compete in the World Racquetball Championships.
Rick Charbonneau (No. 3 singles), Ryan Charbonneau (No. 4 singles), Micah Hoffman (No. 5 singles) and Sam Reid (No. 6 singles) also won individual titles. Joel Barshaw was runner-up at No. 2 singles. OSU swept the doubles titles with Knoth and Barshaw, Rick and Ryan Charbonneau, and Hoffman and Reid.
For the women, Karissa Beatty (No. 3 singles) and Stephanie Moyle (No. 4 singles) won individual titles. Rachel Creel (No. 2 singles) was a runner-up and Amanda Lindsay (No. 1 singles) placed third. The Nos. 5 and 6 singles featured a round-robin format and placing for OSU were Meghan Foster (No. 5 singles, fourth) and Kelli King (No. 6 singles, third).
The team of Creel and Foster won the No. 2 doubles title. Lindsay and Beatty (No. 1 doubles) and Moyle and King (No. 3 doubles) each finished second.
In all, 10 of the 12 players earned all-America status.
As is often the case, Durbin doesn’t know what type of talent he may have on the court from year to year. But with the high school talent so plentiful in Oregon — Sprague just won a fifth national high school title — players often recruit other players. For high-schoolers who want to play the sport in college, Corvallis has become the place to go.
“With a graduation of four seniors last year, I didn’t know of anyone coming directly on campus playing racquetball for OSU so I inquired from the other kids,” Durbin said. “Meghan Foster and Stephanie Moyle, they used to play in high school so they said they might be interested if you ask them.”
Durbin did just that with a few phone calls. Foster jumped back into the sport after competing in high school at Sprague while Moyle out of Beaverton’s Southridge regretted not playing sooner.
Then there was Kelli King, a freshman that Durbin had instructed since she was 10 years old and had been through the local junior program. She hadn’t played much and chose to focus on gymnastics in high school but returned to the sport in college.
Those are just a few of the typical stories for Durbin when it comes to putting together a team.
The coach has a story of his own and in a way, racquetball was his savior.
On Nov. 19, 2011, Durbin was diagnosed with leukemia and two days later, he was on a ventilator and his wife was told he had a 10-percent chance of living. After he was stabilized, Durbin began chemotherapy treatments.
Durbin’s physical condition was one of the reasons for his survival. He has been playing racquetball for 30 years.
“The doctor said, in part, you can say racquetball saved your life.,” Durbin said. “I was blessed, I was saved and blessed by my faith, which really got me through it as well. It sounds cliche ... but I never gave up.”
Durbin missed last year’s trip to Arizona for the championships. His leukemia has been in remission now for 12 to 14 months.
“I’m almost playing at the level of the kids again,” he said.
Team standings: 1. Oregon State; 2. Brigham Young; 3. Colorado State-Pueblo
No. 1 singles: Taylor Knoth (OSU) def. Nick Montalbano (CSU-Pueblo), 15-10, 8-1 (ret.)
No. 2 singles: Jake Bredenbeck (CSU-Pueblo) def. Joel Barshaw (OSU), 15-12, 15-5
No. 3 singles: Rick Charbonneau (OSU) def. Brenan Giljum (Missouri), 15-9, 15-3
No. 4 singles: Ryan Charbonneau (OSU) def. Alex Fischler (Missouri), 15-8, 15-9
No. 5 singles: Micah Hoffman (OSU) def. Ryan Gleason (Missouri), 15-10, 15-3
No. 6 singles: Sam Reid (OSU) def. Nicholas Schmidt (Missouri), 15-4, 15-5
No. 1 doubles: Taylor Knoth/Joel Barshaw (OSU) def. Nick Montalbano/Jake Bredenbeck (CSU-Pueblo), 7-15, 15-5, 11-5
No. 2 doubles: Rick Charbonneau/Ryan Charbonneau (OSU) def. Patrick Harris/Braden Hess (BYU), 15-2, 15-8
No. 3 doubles: Micah Hoffman/Sam Reid (OSU) def. Lincoln Cluff/Jim Renouard (BYU), 15-2, 15-5
Team standings: 1. Oregon State; 2. Arizona State; 3. Brigham Young
No. 1 singles: Kaelani Bailey (Shenandoah) def. Danille Key (Arizona State), 15-11, 15-13
No. 2 singles: Deven Pimentelli (Arizona State) def. Rachel Creel (OSU), 15-10, 15-1
No. 3 singles: Karissa Beatty (OSU) def. Abby Brotherton (Missouri), 15-8, 15-3
No. 4 singles: Stephanie Moyle (OSU) def. Becky Spezia (Missouri), 15-12, 15-11
No. 1 doubles: Danielle Key/Devon Pimentelli (Arizona State) def. Amanda Lindsay/Karissa Beatty (OSU), 15-10, 15-7
No. 2 doubles: Rachel Creel/Meghan Foster (OSU) def. Abby Botherton/Becky Spezia (Missouri), 15-14, 10-15, 11-10
No. 3 doubles: Kristin Hatch/Lisa Kuttler (BYU) def. Stephanie Moyle/Kelli King (OSU), 15-12, 15-14
No. 1 singles: Amanda Lindsay (OSU) def. Kelly Gremley (Purdue), 9-15, 15-14, 11-6
No. 5 singles: 1. Kristin Hatch (BYU); 2. Brandy Buck (Arizona State); 3. Kimberley Brendel (Missouri); 4. Meghan Foster (OSU)
No. 6 singles: 1. Jordan Giljum (Missouri); 2. Lisa Kuttler (BYU); 3. Kelli King (OSU)