“I WON!!!” she declared on her Facebook page, with all three exclamation points. “Now, I pass out.”
Thirteen-year-old Sofia Mast of Land ‘o Lakes, FL, fresh off her victory in the 13 & Under division of the Junior International Championships’ 2nd season opener, less than two weeks ago (Jan. 14-16), competed on the ladies’ Tiger Florida Tour this past weekend (Jan. 22-23). Not only did she come from the loss side to qualify for the eight-player, single elimination phase of the event, advance to the finals and then defeat WPBA veteran competitor Stephanie Mitchell, but in her first loss-side match, she defeated another WPBA tour veteran and the Florida Tiger Tour’s 2021 Tour Champion Jeannie Seaver. The $500-added, 2022 season opener of the Florida Tiger Tour drew 32 entrants to Brewlands South in Lakeland, FL.
Asked if there was anything about Mast’s performance that stood out in her mind, Eastern Billiards and Andy Cloth-sponsored runner-up, Stephanie Mitchell had to laugh.
“Mostly,” she said, “that if I missed, she didn’t.”
It was, of course, not Sofia Mast’s ‘first rodeo.’
“I went to my first Tiger Florida Tour (stop) when I was 11, back in October, 2019,” she wrote. “My Dad thought I could get better if I played competitively rather than playing in leagues.”
“My mom,” she added, “thought he was crazy to have a kid play against grown ladies and think I could win. I dreamed about one day winning the whole thing (and) my dream started to feel more real as I kept playing in many of their events and placing closer and closer to first.”
“My dream,” she went on to say, “is now a reality, (so) never give up on your dream!”
This past weekend, Michel Monk kind of rattled the cage of those dreams, briefly, when she earned the distinction of being the only competitor to defeat Mast in the second round of play 7-5. Undeterred by setbacks, large or small, Mast persevered to win two on the loss side; the 5-2 win over Jeannie Seaver and subsequent shutout of Erica Pennington, which put her (Mast) into the single elimination phase against, first, fellow junior competitor, Kaylee McIntosh.
Mitchell, in the meantime, had worked her way through her first three opponents during the double-elimination phase (Deborah Gerken, Kimberly Housman & Sonya Chbeeb) to arrive at her first opponent among the final eight, Helen Caukin. In the remaining two, single-elimination matches, Vanessa Seaver (Jeannie Seaver’s older sister) squared off against Jessica Barnes, while newcomer Xare Qualis faced Tracy Mullen.
Mast advanced 7-5 over McIntosh, Mitchell got by Caukin 7-1, Seaver downed Barnes, double hill and Mullen eliminated Qualis 7-4. And then there were four; Mast and Vanessa Seaver, Mitchell and Mullen.
Mast shut the elder Seaver sister out and advanced to the finals. Mitchell joined her after dispatching Mullen 7-4.
Things did not go well for Mitchell in the early stages of the final race to 7, but she rallied in rack #9.
“She was (on the hill) at 6 and I was at 2,” said Mitchell, “and I won the next three.”
In her effort to force a double-hill, single-game showdown by winning the 12th rack, Mitchell made an unforced error in what proved to be the final rack and missed her shot at the 5-ball. Mast wasted little time stepping to the table and closing out her first victory on the Tiger Florida Tour.
“She had really good composure,” noted Mitchell of her opponent, adding that even in ‘safety play,’ Mast would “kick it and hit almost anything. She played a few safes back that worked for her and then she’d run out.”
“I played well,” said Mitchell of her own single-loss performance. “I made almost everything I shot at and I’m proud of my own performance.”
“At 1 am,” she added, “I found a second gear, but it was a little too late.”
Mast posted her “I WON!!!” notice on Facebook at 1:52 am
Tiger Florida Tour director, Mimi McAndrews, who’d noticed Mast’s “determination,” even back when she’d first begun to compete on the tour, had nothing but the highest praise for the junior competitors’ skills, as well as her general demeanor at the tables.
“She had a lot of focus, even back then,” McAndrews said. “A lot of concentration and a decent stroke. We were just impressed that she was coming out to play. She kept coming back and has gotten progressively better. Nobody expected that she’d get so good; not just in making balls, but in shape (for the next shot).”
“If you took a video without showing the player,” she added, “you’d never know that it was a child.”
They call her the “Pink Dagger,” which, even on the face of it, is an image that’s hard to wrap your head around. But it encapsulates the skills, determination, focus and an even more astounding ability to perform like an adult, while maintaining a grip on her childhood. This is no grim-faced teenager, so dedicated to the application of specific skills, that any semblance of a child has been lost. Sofia Mast, who is sponsored by Predator Cues, Jam Up Apparel and Dunnski Dungeon, is still a kid and enjoying every minute of it. So are those who are watching her mature. She’ll be competing in the 2nd stop on the JIC series next month (Feb. 11-13) at Diamond Billiards in Cape Coral, FL. You might want to consider getting there early.
Tiger Florida Tour director Mimi McAndrews thanked Larry Walthall, Mike Dauskart and their staff for hosting the event and their continued support of the tour. They also thanked the 32 players who came out to compete in the 2022 season opener and Jerry Sotelo and Josh Arnold for their invaluable help running the Florida Tiger Tour events. Thanks were also extended to Randi Allen, Director of Marketing and Events and to title sponsor Tony Kalamdaryan and Tiger Products, Brutal Game Gear, Stitch It To Me, Boynton Billiards, AZBilliards, and new sponsors Eastern Billiards and Andy Cloth for their support. Congratulations were extended to Jeannie Seaver for winning the tour championship for the third year in a row; the only player to have done so in the history of the tour since 2009.
The next stop on the Florida Tiger Tour, scheduled for February 26, and likely to feature another appearance by the “Pink Dagger,” will be hosted by Brewlands North in Lakeland, FL.