May - June 1998
Vol. 9, No. 3

By Kevin Vicroy

Some have called her the Michael Jordan of racquetball. Others might say that Michael Jordan is the Michelle Gould of basketball. Whichever way you choose to describe this Idaho wonder, her picture of success in the professional and amateur ranks can be painted with pure facts.

What will it take to Beat Her?

But as good as she is, Gould’s beatable. Actually, there have been three WIRT pro stops out of the past 33 that she didn’t take home the first-place money (one was a no-show). Since the beginning of the 1994-95 season, Gould holds a 106-2 (.981) record in professional matches. See, two losses . . . she’s beatable. The Boise resident won 18 consecutive pro tournaments from October 1995 through May of ‘97 - sweeping all nine events of the 1995-96 season. She’s practically falling apart.

All sarcasm aside, why is Michelle Gould so dominant and how does one go about defeating this future hall of famer? RACQUETBALL magazine caught up with several experts from among the top WIRT pros and asked them.

Gould & Friedman

What are Gould’s greatest assets?
“She’s got an awesome serve,” Randi Friedman said. “If her serve is a little off, you’d be able to return efficiently and get in the rally. Once you get in the rally, I think anybody can play her.”

Jackie Paraiso answered, “She’s got a great serve and consistency and I’d say those are her two best assets.”

“I have the highest respect for her game,” Laura Fenton said. “Michelle is a very tough player to beat. I play a lot of men’s open matches and have a much easier time in those matches than I do playing Michelle.

“People think its a male-female thing and it’s not at all because it’s not how hard you hit the ball. The men hit it as hard as she does, it’s not the power. It’s her accuracy. Michelle is very accurate and probably the most mentally tough player there is. You don’t see her make a lot of mistakes. Even if she does, you don’t see her change her expressions or anything. That takes a lot of work, determination and dedication.”

Even Gould admits that mental toughness is her most dangerous weapon. “I would say that (mental strength) is the difference between good and great athletes,” Gould stated. “There are a majority of ladies on the tour who have a lot of the same skills (as me), a lot of the same physical ability, but the difference is the mental game. I spend an awful lot of time on that. I do a lot of visualization for specific shots and possible situations. I believe that’s why I’m able to do a lot of things that most people can’t.”

Psst ... lefties take note! Marci Drexler (shown right) and Robin Levine (both southpaws) each took a title win from Michelle. Once on tour, and once for the USRA national singles crown in '94. And since this issue's release, Levine defeated Gould again in the quarterfinal round of the '98 Pro Nationals. Drexler defeated Levine in that event final.

Drexler vs. Gould at the U.S. Open

How do you beat Michelle Gould?
Fifth-ranked Lynne Coburn said that you have to “be as consistent as you possibly can be.” Marci Drexler, who’s beaten Michelle three times in her pro career, agreed, saying, “You’ve just got to be consistent and finish the rallies.”

According to Friedman, “The keys to beating Michelle Gould are: one, to return her serve effectively so you can move her out of center court. The other thing is that when you get her out of center court, you need to pinch.”

Among the top four players, the responses were a bit more detailed.

“For me to beat her, I knew that I had to get stronger and quicker,” fourth-ranked Fenton said. “I had to become more accurate in my game. When she’s accurate, you can’t read her serves – they just go over the short line and don’t come off the back wall.

“She’s got basically three serves – a drive to the forehand, a drive to the backhand and, if she’s off a little bit, she might serve the high-lob that kicks off the left side wall. You have to return serve well and pass her. If you can return well, then you can sideout. But, you have to serve almost perfectly to beat her. If you can’t score points, forget it.”

Although she’s never won any of their match-ups, Fenton has taken Gould to five games on two occasions on the pro tour – she even held a 2-1 game advantage in the semi-finals of the 1997 Foxwoods WIRT Pro Nationals in Las Vegas.

“She is beatable, but you have to play very, very well to do it,” Fenton said.

Third-ranked Cheryl Gudinas responded to the ultimate question by joking, “I’ve never beaten her. You’re asking me how to beat her, how should I know? What have I ever been able to do?” After the laughter died down, Gudinas continued.

“You have to return serve better. You have to have an effective return. It could be just going to the ceiling and getting her out of the front court and not setting her up. If you set her up, she puts that ball away. She’s got a good first step and usually that’s all she really needs. You need a drive serve that’s not readable – a lob isn’t going to cut it with her. A hard ‘Z’ is effective if it’s high because it’s out of her power zone. But, you have to have a good drive serve – which has been my problem.”

Former pro tour champ Paraiso, who has defeated Gould twice on the pro tour, stated her keys to success against the champ.

“You definitely have to be focused, that’s for sure. For me, I have the quickness and focus to return that serve and get her into a rally. Once I do that, I use the pinches or cross-court passes to get her moving.

“The mental part of it too – you’ve got to believe that you can. A lot of the women, including myself, we’ve put her in (an unbeatable) position. We’ve made her seem like she’s not beatable because we don’t believe we can beat her. I know I can and people have to believe that.”

So, now we know how to beat Michelle Gould, based on inside information from those who play her the most. Yet, her losses still seem to occur as often as Sudsy Monchik is rendered speechless. Maybe she knows something the rest of the WIRT doesn’t.

“Above all, make no mistakes,” Gould said. “I think that one of the reasons that I’ve been able to stay on top for so many years is because I’m very consistent.

“I always expect that my opponent is going to play that unbelievable game when they play me, I think the people that are the shooters and strength players – people that can play that style of game cause me more fits because it’s more physically demanding than somebody who’s going to serve me lobs.”

Maybe she has some extra motivation that others do not.

“Above all, I hate to lose . . . I can’t stand it,” she said. “Whether I’m playing darts or golfing, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing – I’m just that competitive. I like to do whatever I do very well. That personality, more than anything, has allowed me to play at the level of play that I’ve played at for years.”

When will the Gould dynasty end?
“I have no idea,” Gould responded. “I take everything on a two-year basis and re- evaluate as I go. When I walk on the court and I’m no longer having fun and enjoying what I do, then it’s time for me to quit. But, I haven’t gotten there yet.”

Top of Document | Table of Contents | RBMag Homepage | USRA Homepage
© United States Racquetball Association -- All Rights Reserved