With its two previous winners ‘in the house’ – Brittany Bryant and April Larson – the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic got underway on June 14, at 6 p.m. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Though Bryant would get two chances, hot seat and finals, to win her second Ashton Twins Classic, the attempts were disrupted by a Texas Tornado known as Vivian Villareal, who went undefeated to claim the event title. Defending champion, April Larson, was sent to the loss side in the third round by Line Kjorsvik in a live-streamed match on Saturday and was eliminated in a double hill, loss-side match by Liz Cole to finish in the tie for 9th place. Emily Duddy, who was third in the inaugural event and battled Larson in the finals for the title last year, defeated one of the Ashton twins (Beverly) in a second-round match, and then, after being sent to the loss side by Cathy Metzinger, was defeated in her second loss-side match by the second Ashton twin, Joanne. The $8,000-added event drew 46 entrants to The Hidden Spot in Calgary.
After being awarded an opening round bye, Villareal got by her first three opponents by an aggregate score of 27-4, giving up two racks to Leandrea Gaff, and one each to Claire Pipestem and Valerie Franiel, which set her (Villareal) up to face Monica Webb in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Bryant, in the meantime, who was not awarded an opening round bye, worked her way to the other winners’ side semifinal with an aggregate score of 36-17, sending Elizabeth Jensen (1), Aryana Lynch (5), Sandy Badger (4) and Line Kjorsvik (7) to the loss side and turning to face Cathy Metzinger in the other winners’ side semifinal.
Monica Webb put up a fight against the Tornado, chalking up more racks against her in the winners’ side semifinal than all of Villareal’s previous opponents combined. Villareal, though, advanced to the hot seat match 9-5, and faced Bryant, who’d sent Metzinger west 9-1. Bryant proved to be Villareal’s second strong challenge in a row. She chalked up seven against her, but once again, Villareal advanced, sitting in the hot seat, waiting for what turned out to be Bryant’s return.
On the loss side, Webb picked up Teruko Cucculelli, who, after a defeat by Metzinger in a winners’ side quarterfinal, had downed Bonnie Plowman 9-3 and eliminated Kjorsvik 9-6. Metzinger drew Joanne Ashton, who, after eliminating Emily Duddy 9-6, had also eliminated Franiel 9-5 and Liz Cole 9-7 (Cole had just eliminated Larson).
Webb ended Cucculelli’s loss-side run 9-3, and in the quarterfinals, faced Metzinger, who’d eliminated the last-standing Ashton twin 9-2. Metzinger and Webb locked up in a double hill, quarterfinal battle that eventually advanced Metzinger to the semifinals against Bryant.
Bryant, apparently very determined to get a second shot at Villareal, allowed Metzinger only two racks in those semifinals. In what proved to be a nail-biting, extended-race-to-13 final, Bryant got out in front early, staking herself to a 5-1 lead, which by rack #13 had been extended to a 9-4 lead and then, quickly, an 11-6 lead.
Over the next 40 minutes of the match, Villareal had cut that lead down to a single game. She capped the four-game run by attempting an 8-9 combination which initially failed, only to have the 8-ball continue to travel and drop into a side pocket, leaving Villareal with a straight-on shot at the 9-ball in the opposite side pocket. It was 11-10, with Villareal breaking.
Bryant stopped the bleeding to reach the hill first at 12-10, but the Texas Tornado, which had been lurking on the horizon through much of the match, started to pick up some speed. She won game #23 and when Bryant missed a tough shot on the 7-ball in rack #24, Villareal jumped on it and won the rack to force a single deciding game.
Bryant broke the last rack, sunk a ball and had a clean, albeit bridge-necessary shot at the 1-ball. She dropped the 1-ball in a lower corner pocket, but as she drew back from the shot, her right wrist nudged the 9-ball forward, out of its original position by about an inch. Tournament officials took a minute or two to sort that out to Villareal’s satisfaction, as Bryant contemplated the difficult shot she’d left herself on the 2-ball. She made the 2-ball, but on a much easier shot, rattled the 3-ball in a corner pocket.
Villareal pocketed the 3-ball and played safe, leaving Bryant with a potential jump shot to make the 4-ball. She opted for a kick off the long rail, putting the 4-ball back up-table on a short rail with the cue at the opposite end of the table, leaving Villareal a long, sharp cut shot. A subsequent missed bank shot by Bryant left Villareal with a long-rail cut shot at the 4-ball, which she made, and proceeded to drop the next four balls, including the 9-ball to claim the 3rd Ashton Twins Classic title.