Doubles team has identical shot for title Twin sisters in pursuit of third championship

October 16, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Joy MacKenzie and Jackie Paraiso are mischievous. Identical twins, they like a good laugh and they play a good game of racquetball -- an exceptional game.

Together, they are the current world doubles champions, the defending U.S. national doubles champions and the 1995 Pam American Games gold medalists. They hope to earn the right to defend their Pam Am title with a victory this weekend in the

Ektelon U.S. National Doubles Racquetball Championships at Merritt Athletic Club/Security.

Women's and men's open division play runs through Sunday -- today starting at 2: 15 p.m., tomorrow at 1: 30 and title matches Sunday beginning at 1: 15.

"Everyone seems to think we have an advantage because we're twins," said MacKenzie.

"A mind advantage," said Paraiso, with a laugh.

"But the only advantage we really have is that Jackie is a great player," said MacKenzie.

"But I couldn't have won all these titles without Joy," Paraiso said.

They have played since they were 10, according to their mother and father, June and Rudy Paraiso, who took all nine of their children to play racquetball and other sports nearly every day when they were growing up.

The twins have been in these national finals seven straight years and won twice. They begin play today at 5: 15 p.m. against Aimee Roehler of Allentown, Pa., and Michelle Wiragh of Alexandria, Va., who had never played as a team before this tournament. But that should be a warning.

It was only a year ago that this year's No. 2 seed, Yesenia Delbusto and Kersten Hallander, shocked the racquetball world in their first team competition, upsetting last year's No. 1 seed in the first round.

"We don't have frosting on our feet," said MacKenzie, who has heard winning a third national title called "a piece of cake."

"Once you let your guard down, it's hard to get it back up," said Paraiso. "We expect every team we play to be good and gunning for us because we're No. 1."

Over the weekend, more than 600 entries, including nearly 100 from Maryland, are competing not only in women's and men's open competition, but also in numerous other divisions determined by age (19 to 85-plus), gender and ability.

On first meeting, MacKenzie and Paraiso seem mirror images of one another, and tell several shopping stories in which they have confused even themselves.

"Sometimes," said MacKenzie, "I've looked in a mirror and thought it was me, and it was Jackie."

At 32, both have friendly smiles, long dark hair, sparkling brown eyes and about 125 pounds spread across their 5-foot-3 frames. It is only after talking for a while that differences emerge.

But you certainly wouldn't want to make a determination in the midst of a doubles racquetball game.

"Usually, when you're playing, you try to figure out who's the weaker player," said MacKenzie, who like her twin is right-handed. "But when we cover each other, and if we cross over, it's hard for our opponents to remember which of us is which."

(Results, Page 8D)

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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