Tournament attracts talent

Number 2 racquetball player in the world, Rhonda Rajsich (grey), plays Jo Shattuck (blue) , ranked number 9, in the finals of the womens' pro open during the 11th Annual Great Balls of Fire Tournament held at the wellness center. Jessica Hodder // The Miami Hurricane

On a normal day, the racquetball courts at the Wellness Center attract casual players looking for a good game. This past weekend, though, visitors got to watch some of the best there is to offer.

The University of Miami Racquetball Club hosted the 11th annual Great Balls of Fire tournament at the Wellness Center this past weekend. For three days, the sounds of sneakers squeaking, fans cheering and balls pummeling the glass doors of the courts took over the lobby.

The tournament welcomed 115 participants from all over Florida and parts of Arizona, Colorado and Virginia. These players ranged from collegiate athletes from UM and the University of Florida to some of the top female athletes in the sport participating under the Women’s Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO).

Alain Pujolar, the president of the UM Racquetball Club, is currently the No. 1 collegiate player in Florida under the United States Racquetball Association.

“I love the sport; I love promoting the sport and teaching other people how to play,” he said. “When I was asked to become president, I thought it would be a great way of me showing back my love of the sport to other people.”

The Racquetball Club currently has 25 members and is comprised of undergraduates and graduate students, as well as some staff members. They practice in the Wellness Center every Wednesday and Thursday.

David Lukens, a freshman on the squad, participated in the tournament for the first time.

“I’ve learned a lot about the game,” he said. “It’s amazing how fast-paced it gets with some of the pros that you get in these tournaments.”

The Wellness Center’s esteemed racquetball courts are what help to make this tournament so popular.

“It’s one of my favorite spots to play,” says Rhonda Rajsich, currently the No. 2-ranked player on the WPRO circuit and winner of the WPRO division of the tournament. “It’s in Miami, the facilities are great and the tournament is out in the open where anyone walking inside can come over and watch.”

Lynne Olvey, the tournament director and backbone of the Racquetball Club, first started the tournament as a way to get a racquetball community started at UM where high quality courts are easily accessible. The first tournament in 2000 attracted 80 people and has grown ever since.

“I love being able to host the tournament here,” she said. “This club has the nicest courts anywhere; it’s fun being able to be here and help develop the club while at the same time making money for charity.”

Every year, the tournament donates a portion of its profits to a charity of its choice.  This year, the club will donate to Camp Kesem Miami, an affiliate of Camp Kesem National, a nonprofit project that assists children whose parents either have or had suffered from cancer.

Ernesto Suarez may be contacted at