The Low Riders finished in first place; an achievement that was expected by their team manager, Geniene Dugan.
“We have a lot of players on this team that have played for a lot of years and have knowledge and experience that does not exist on a lot of teams,” she said.
While the confidence was high, Dugan did worry about a local opponent — Yale Billiards — which would end up losing to them in the regional tournament.
“We beat them in seasonal sessions, but they are always a phenomenal team,” she said. “It goes to show the amount of heart that we have.”
While the team has demonstrated its ‘heart’ and will to win, the cast of characters’ mental side to the game differs.
Wallingford resident John Vanaman’s approach is to enjoy himself and play without the feeling of pressure.
“I go out and have fun,” he said. “That’s what makes me a better player. When you put pressure on yourself, winning becomes more difficult. I tell opponents that I’m not very good. Mentally, it helps me out. I try to stay humble even when I’m shooting well.”
Vanaman’s teammate, Larry Shryock has a different method.
“It’s about having fun, but I play to win the trip to Vegas,” he said. “Whenever I’m playing, I present myself in a calm manner, but on the inside, my heart is beating so rapidly. This game brings a certain adrenaline to my body.”
The divergent personalities can be a challenge to Dugan.
“It’s trying,” she said. “It’s like I have five children that I have not given birth to. I’m dealing with five different personalities and ages. It’s an interesting gathering of the minds.”
The challenge ahead for the Low Riders is a steep one, but it is feasible.
Wallingford’s Yale Billiards won the USAPL championship in 2014. And, the youngest Low Rider, 19-year-old Tyler Cooper, made an appearance last year in the Junior Nationals.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” he said. “You’re playing in front of a lot of people and some very good competition.”
Cooper thinks the team will be more than ready, but thinks his experience will be helpful in July.
“I will definitely use last year’s experience to prepare me for July,” he said. “But, we are going to be ready. There’s too much talent on this team. It’s about bragging rights. And winning is why you play.”