They can’t all be big tournaments. Fresh off the first 2022 MLP event and the very popular PPA Orange County Cup in San Clemente, the APP continues the California swing with the SoCal Classic taking place at Bobby Riggs. The fields are noticeably thinner across the board, including the typically strong men’s doubles field. The only bracket that still has that higher end depth of competition is the men’s singles field for this weekend. The most prominent absence from the draw is Parris Todd, who is playing the two doubles events but is not playing singles after her first PPA gold medal in San Clemente. The notable player attendance we want to highlight is 2018 TOC Champion, Matt Goebel. Goebel is playing his first pro tournament since TOC in 2021 and he’s jumping back in with what should be a wild Jeff Warnick partnership. He’s also playing mixed with fellow PNW resident, Susannah Barr. These are the draws that separate the casual fans from the hardcore ones.
Slim is still 5 up on the year after a tie last weekend. As a reminder, the chart above does not set out our respective podium picks. It is a snake draft without duplicates and the person with the most total points from their team at the end of the tournament wins the week – 3 points for a gold, 2 points for a silver and 1 point for a bronze. Slim had the first choice in this draft after losing the toss intentionally for the millionith week in a row.
(1) Dylan Frazier / JW Johnson (Slim)
(2) JW Johnson (Gritty)
(3) Jorja Johnson / Anna Bright (Gritty)
(4) Lee Whitwell / JW Johnson (Slim)
(5) Anna Bright (Slim)
Slim – JW and Dylan are the class of this men’s doubles field and have had a lot of success together this year. I elected to go with JW and Dylan in men’s doubles over JW in men’s singles just because I think there is a lot more depth in the singles field. With the fourth pick, I went with my rule of always betting on JW Johnson. I think in this mixed field, you’ve got to go with the best player JW and as we saw in St. Louis, JW and Lee can get the job done against higher end competition. With the fifth pick, I went with Anna Bright in singles, even though her singles results have been a little stagnant of late.
Gritty – The only player that has been able to take down JW recently is Zane Navratil, who is not in this field. While it is a deep men’s singles field and JW has been playing a ton of pickleball, I had to go with him at this spot. I prioritized the women’s doubles field in this draft because there are only 4 teams that can realistically medal, and the top 3 is pretty firmly set in some order. Anna Bright and Jorja Johnson had a good run last weekend and I expect them to be the best team out there this weekend.
(6) Jorja Johnson (Gritty)
(7) Lee Whitwell / Lauren Stratman (Gritty)
(8) Parris Todd / Susannah Barr (Slim)
(9) Lauren Stratman / Julian Arnold (Slim)
(10) James Ignatowich (Gritty)
(11) DJ Young / Mario Barrientos (Gritty)
Slim – I actually had Parris Todd and Susannah Barr ahead of Lauren Stratman and Lee Whitwell, so when Gritty left them available in a very shallow women’s field, I felt like I had to take them. While I do like the potential of the team, I do have some concerns about how they may gel as a first time partnership. Lauren Stratman and Julian Arnold are one of the most talented mixed teams in this field, but they seem to have been falling just short of the podium in their tournaments together, but I think that ends this weekend, so I am happy to grab them here.
Gritty – I really didn’t like my draft this week. I prioritized the two women’s brackets because they only go 4 deep, but it has left me thin at other spots. Jorja Johnson’s singles results have regressed since earlier in the year, but she has more podims than either of the next two competitors. I like Whitwell and Stratman because they are a great theoretical fit with Stratman probably being the best women’s doubles player in this field. While Parris and Susannah have lots of weapons, Parris still is not as doubles seasoned and Barr’s women’s doubles results can be less consistent. For men’s singles, I decided on Igantowich solely because of his run last weekend even though the “longer” history would say Staksrud should have been the pick. DJ and Mario are the 2nd best men’s team in this field so to get them here feels pretty good.
(12) Federico Staksrud (Slim)
(13) Jorja Johnson / Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(14) Lauren Stratman (Gritty)
(15) Mary Brascia (Gritty)
(16) Rob Cassidy / Gabriel Tardio (Slim)
(17) Hayden Patriquin / Julian Arnold (Slim)
Slim – Fed has been one the most consistent singles players over the last couple of months, so I thought he was a steal at 12. I also had Dylan Frazier and Jorja Johnson ranked basically dead even with Julian Arnold and Lauren Stratman, so I was happy to be able to get them here. It would not be surprising at all if the youngsters ended up topping the podium. Rob Cassidy is probably the best male partner Gabe Tardio has gotten to date, and I like those two to make the podium this weekend and for Gabe to prove it was probably a mistake he wasn’t drafted in MLP. Julian and Hayden have been getting some very good pro wins and have a real chance to podium this weekend.
Gritty – Again, I prioritized the women’s fields l so I go with Lauren and Mary Brascia because there are no women beyond #4 in singles that should have any chance of medaling, unless someone like Alee Harris or Dominique Schaefer really surprises. Stratman has quietly been showing some better singles results while Mary took a game off Anna Leigh Waters last week.
(18) Gabriel Joseph (Gritty)
(19) Michelle Esquivel / Regina Franco (Gritty)
(20) Julian Arnold (Slim)
(21) Dylan Frazier (Slim)
(22) Maggie Brascia / DJ Young (Gritty)
(23) Susannah Barr / Matt Goebel (Gritty)
Slim – Julian Arnold hasn’t been back on the podium in singles since the North Carolina PPA, but the talent is there. There were a number of different ways I could have gone with my last men’s singles pick. I took hard looks at Ryan Sherry and Rafa Hewett, but decided to take a flyer on Dylan Frazier who hasn’t done anything in singles in a while.
Gritty – Gabe Joseph could easily find himself in the medals as he showed last week he is right in the mix. Esquivel/Franco are the only team outside the top 3 in women’s doubles that should be able to medal. The mixed picks are where Slim and I totally differed with our boards. I’m not all that high on Maggie Brascia but her and DJ do play well together – although I didn’t think about it until Slim pointed out to me that DJ could be out on the Maggie partnership after they didn’t play together on day 2 of MLP. Susannah Barr is either the 1st or the 2nd best mixed female player in this field. It’s a big swing taking Barr/Goebel simply because Goebel is so volatile with his aggressive style combined with his lack of playing pro pickleball these days, but I wanted the best female left out there partnered with a guy who has a ton of weapons.
(24) Mary Brascia / Maggie Brascia (Slim)
(25) Dominique Schaefer (Slim)
(26) Matt Goebel / Jeff Warnick (Gritty)
(27) Chuck Taylor / Rafa Hewett (Gritty)
(28) Christa Gecheva (Slim)
(29) Courtney McIntosh / Christa Gecheva (Slim)
(30) Michelle Esquivel / Rafa Hewett (Slim)
Slim – The Brascia sisters are playing more pickleball these days at the pro level now that Mary is finished college tennis so it will be interesting to see how they do. Dominique Schaefer was once a very highly rated junior tennis player, so I am betting on that natural athleticism carrying her, as she is still very new to pickleball. Christa Gecheva has been getting a few wins in pro lately and I take her in both women’s singles and doubles with my last picks – there were a lot of directions I could have gone here.
Gritty – I don’t like this draft because I’m really swinging for both men’s and mixed. The men’s field is a weird one but I wanted to get Goebel/Warnick just to cheer for this weird team as I could see them going 0-2 or with a silver medal. There is not a lot of consistency in the Goebel/Warnick partnership but I can guarantee no one wants to be on the other side of their attacks – Jeff’s backhand and Matt’s forehand are scary things. Chuck/Rafa were the only other good option left and they should have the ability to win matches against teams we ranked higher. For my final mixed slot, I deviated from what I had on my board, which was Mary Brascia/Rob Cassidy. I go for Esquivel/Hewett at the last moment because of Hewett’s prowess in mixed.
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