The Carolinas team won the 2008 CARVA Challenge, held July 11–13 in and around Fulks Run, Virginia. The tournament, pitting a North & South Carolina team against a Virginia & West Virginia team, has been held nine times since its inception in 1993. This year is the first time the tournament has been won by the visiting team.
The Carolinas team did not get off to a good start on Friday. Championship Flight went back and forth all day, ending in a 6–6 tie. But in First Flight the Virginians gradually built a four-match lead to finish the day up 8–4, while in Second Flight the Virginians won the first two rounds for a four-match lead, which they maintained to end 7–3 on the day. This put the Virginias up 21–13.
Team communication was hampered by having each flight at a separate venue, so team captain Jeff Soo and NC District President Frank Thompson sent messages around in an effort to rally the team. Whatever the cause, the Carolinas players were in much better form the next day. In First Flight the team erased their previous day’s deficit with an 8–4 record, while in Second Flight the result was nearly as good, 6–3. Championship Flight was still tied going into the final round, but the Carolinians ended the day with a pair of one-point wins to put the team up 34–33.
In Sunday’s first round the Championship matches were split, but in First Flight it was the Virginians with a pair of one-point wins to take a 36–35 lead. All play then moved to the Turner court for the final two rounds. In Second Flight, Carolinas players Russ Hanson and Bill Hartmann never looked in doubt against John Lee and Robert Lankford, thus giving the team some breathing room. The First Flight match of Eileen Soo and George Enochs vs. Jack Chase and Stephanie Paduano stayed close throughout, finally clinched with a nervy hoop and attack by Soo to close out the match with a one-point lead. The Carolinas again led by one, with two Championship singles matches to play.
Mack Penwell (Carolinas) and Ron Turner (Virginias) started first, with a tactical opening followed by attacks and break play but also errors and deadness on both sides. Jeff Soo (Carolinas) started with some two-balling against Doug Grimsley (Virginias), but Grimsley gained control with an attack and break. Despite good play on an an all-round break, a mental error left Grimsley six-ball dead and without a good leave. A few turns later Soo got a free break when Grimsley’s attempt to clear his rover ball from the line left the ball on court. Soo played the break and pegged out Grimsley’s rover ball, making no effort to pick up the spent ball in corner I. Meanwhile Penwell took control of his game, building a big lead with an all-round break and pegging out one ball after time had expired and leaving only desperation plays for Turner. After a croquet out Soo had set up a game-winning break, but when Turner’s last shot missed Penwell had clinched the match for the Carolinas with an unassailable 38–36 lead. A few minutes later Soo finished his break for a final score of 39–36.
Sunday at the Turners’ means homemade ice cream, a treat for the players and spectators. The tournament also featured courtside lunches each day, plus an opening reception and tournament dinner at the Crest Ridge court. Travis Watson’s court was back in action and better than ever.
All players from both teams contributed at least one win, thus helping make this one of the most exciting CARVA Challenges yet. The match is as much a goodwill and friendship tournament as it is a competitive match, with every effort made to pick teams that match up well, so it is a sign of success that the match was so close.
The tournament was an annual event from 1993 to 1999, but fell into abeyance until 2003 and then again until this year. With such a successful event this year there is every expectation that the event will again become a fixture, now as a biennial tournament. Plans are underway for the Carolinas to host the next event in 2010 at Etowah.