Season 2 of MLP has really been a reminder of how lucky they got for season 1. Injuries and Covid have led to there already being 4 replacements needed as of early Friday morning, and it’s quite possible there could be more if Covid is going around plus possible injuries. The format itself is far different than the first go around with the pool play and rally scoring to 21 as they have been operating on Pickleball Night in America. Teams are only guaranteed 3 matches and, with the rally scoring, it likely means a lot more room for unexpected results. MLP is clearly keen on this format so we’ll try to keep an open mind to it even if we’re not the biggest fans of it. Change. Human nature. You all know the deal. Keep it locked here for live random thoughts all weekend on the event.
You can find the schedule on MLP’s website here.
You can check out our draft grades here to see how right or wrong our assessments of the teams are throughout the weekend.
Sunday, June 5th – Semi-Finals and Finals
10:30 pm EST – Different team. Same result. BLQK win the first event of MLP Season 2. In the men’s Rafa and Zane were down 20-16, but worked their way back to a huge win propelling them to the $100k team prize. Rafa Hewett undoubtedly the performing above expectations winner for the weekend. Again, we were skeptical but he demonstrates he is one to watch as we go forward. We’ll have more on the event in our takeaways tomorrow!
4:10 pm EST – Every game within 2 points here so of course we went to the Dreambreaker. Lina Padegimaite is 8-0 at MLP. JW has taken over when the time has called for it. Pablo Tellez has held his own. The crazy thing for the 5s is that if you throw Nunnery with Simone and then Lange with Lina they could be unstoppable. Lange is limited in mixed and didn’t win enough with Simone against the opponents #1 teams.
With all that, it came down for a dreambreaker. A running theme in the Dreambreakers have been how passively the men continue to play against the women. Erik Lange did not come up to the net against Whitwell, presumably afraid of Whitwell’s groundstrokes, and only split the points with her in the first go around – he played far more loose the 2nd time but they were down by too much at that point. JW had played passively in earlier Dreambreakers against women but not against Simone in the semi-finals going 10 for 10 in rallies. This was a runaway Dreambreaker as no one could get it going for the 5s until it was too late. Florida Smash in the finals this evening. JW with a paddle drop even on the closing point.
1:56 pm EST – It’s been a helluva couple of weeks for Rafa. To get the men’s match and his mixed match against ATX was huge. Seen as a somewhat odd pick, Rafa has been a huge success story as the 18th man. A lefty in this no switching format, I’d be curious to hear what BLQK’s logic was behind the choice. His mixed prowess is probably underrated but he has been steady in the men’s stuff all weekend, where they always have a chance. ATX needs to get both their gender matchups to have a chance but what Dylan Frazier didn’t win either of his games, it is lights out basically for ATX. Sarah and Altaf are not a strong mixed team. Still a great showing for ATX that I’m not sure they can replicate at future events.
Saturday, June 4th – Pool and Bracket Play
10:40 pm EST – The Florida Smash are in the semis after yet another Dreambreaker. 22-20 after two incredibly close mixed matchups. Travis Rettenmaier is no doubt a story as he has held his own as the 24th self-selected player. He got the win against Cincola/Barr. Cincola is another questionable draft choice who did not win enough doubles matches and is just not as good a doubles player as others left on the board. Pablo Tellez would have been in this boat too but it has worked out better there. Such close losses and we are coming around to this format with all the excitement it provides.
7:30 pm EST – If Riley Newman is a Tasmanian Devil, I have no clue what Julian Arnold is. He was all over the place in his mixed match with David. He’ll learn to tone it down but for now he’s a talented, crazy man all over the court. You really never know what you’ll get with him right now. Also, Vivienne David may possibly be the most positive person on the planet. She somehow stayed even keel through all the madness of their mixed matchup. It didn’t end up mattering as BLQK won both doubles matches and they got the win with Zane/Parris over McMillan/Newell. It’s the benefit BLQK gets for having Parris Todd as we noted yesterday. To have your number 1 male play with your number 2 female is huge. They move on to the semis tomorrow.
4:45 pm EST – The Hard 8s go through and it’s a tale of the missed selection. Maybe we are harping on this too much but Carr and Oshiro was not the right combo. Oshiro went a little high but if you pair her with a more power player it’s not a bad fit. However, with Carr it doesn’t work so well and Oshiro hasn’t played a ton at this higher level. The Hard 8s may he sorting things out as they are very strong on paper.
You wonder if Maggie is going to be gone after the confusing supplemental draft. She didn’t even play with DJ in their mixed match against the 5s. Although it didn’t mean anything from a competition standpoint, she did not have a great weekend.
2:51 pm EST – Of course the 2nd team to advance from Pool B would be determined by a Dreambreaker. The Mad Drops go through to the bracket elimination. It looked like the Mad Drops may have the win going up 2-0 after doubles and getting to 20 first against JW, but JW so dominant in this format, especially in mixed with a great partner for him in Lee Whitwell. Point taken from John Davison as Olivia McMillan has played well this tournament, more than holding her own, and she is not far removed from a knee surgery. She didn’t get the mixed game in this match but having to play a lot on the left side too has been impressive.
The Bus found their stride a little too late. They put Kyle on the left in the mixed matchup and Milan Rane won her 2nd mixed game of the weekend. It is such a small margin for error with only 3 matches on the weekend and these Dreambreakers could go either way. The Bus are a flawed team but who isn’t out here? It could be a different story in Newport. The lack of singles experience for the Chimeras from their men did them in. Yates and Lica got the vast majority of points going head to head against the Chimera’s male players, and Andrea Koop almost willed them to a win going for an 8th straight point on Stratman, sailing an approach just long. Heartbreaking for the Chimeras.
11:55 am EST – ATX the surprise of the tournament so far. I don’t think you can overreact too much to this. They were on the brink of losing their first match and you wonder what happens if that first one does not go their way. I think a little underrated is Sarah’s steadiness when she has a really good partner. Jade is great. I was worried this team could not win 3 matches with Sarah and Altaf. Altaf was always a good fit in men’s but if you can’t steal the women’s match then you need the women to hold up. They sure did against BLQK and that will be a bye in the brackets for ATX, which is huge in this format.
Friday, June 3rd – Pool Play
1:10 am EST – More dreambreakers. Hard 8s on the back of Susannah Barr getting the best of Anna Bright do take the Dreambreaker. The Ranchers were a high upside, low floor team going into the event and they end up with the low floor on the outs of the bracket. Their mixing of the top players did not get it done in mixed. Barr has had a rough go with Cincola today in mixdd but her and Jorja did win their women’s match that they needed.
The 5s end up with a fantastic day. Amazing what that Dreambreaker can do for you. I’ve never seen Erik Lange so jacked up before. This event format does weird things to people. They sweep the Lions with the most notable win being Lange/Tellez getting that men’s win. Tellez wanted to prove us wrong after we said others should have been taken ahead of him as a replacement. He did get the mixed win too, but that was after being up 3-0. It’s the men’s win that was most impressive against a formidable team. Big day for the 5s. Makes a huge difference getting such a strong woman so late in the draft.
7:58 pm EST – All the Dreambreakers! Big day for the Florida Smash. They start out 2-0 as they win the dreambreaker. I can’t help watching this event and see all the drafting missteps. The thing is, almost every team appears to have had ways they could have improved their teams so their are flaws in almost every team. Of course, there are going to be flaws regardless as is the nature of the event, but the flaws have been larger due to drafting errors, in my opinion. At the same time, when each team has made mistakes it doesn’t matter as much. Travis Rettenmaier has not appeared to be a mistake so far as he has won both his men’s matches, which is all you can ask for the 24th male paired with JW.
Kyle Yates and Milan Rane looked like they may be left for dead after the partnership switch to Lica/Stratman was unsuccessful against Mad Drops’ #2 mixed team. Yates and Lica still aren’t gelling as a men’s team, but they were able to get to the dreambreaker after the “upset” win by Yates/Rane over David/Arnold. But it was all for not. The Bus are done after Vivienne David was the difference maker as she got the best of Lica in the dreambreaker. I guess David is not out of practice for singles!
5:30 pm EST – One initial comment we had is with the video replay why they aren’t able to set up cameras on the lines. We would guess there is a reason for this but it is problematic either way when you have all these other cameras, but not down the line.
In terms of results, both ATX and BLQK are through to the elimination bracket. The story here is missed opportunities in drafting. Regina Franco and Mary Brascia both went quite a bit higher than they should have, in my opinion, leaving better players on the board. Parris Todd being a steal for BLQK allows Zane to play with Parris and Rafa to play with Irina. Rafa is a beastly mixed players when he gets going and it creates essentially two separate #1 pairings. Patriquin also has a ton of talent but the consistency isn’t there in his higher risk game yet.
3:52 pm EST – Dreambreakers all around for today. Oshiro/Carr got smoked in their match against Brascia/Bright after they oddly played far too many balls Maggie’s way. After the Lions men got the win, Bright/Gridley were able to pull out a tight one over Oshiro/Wilson. We assume DJ Young wanted to play with Maggie so it made sense they played together, but if they are going to play together they better win. And they weren’t able to do it, which led to a dreambreaker where Oshiro finally allowed to Lions to pull away getting 4 straight points on Gridley, which if you have ever watched Bobbi play singles is not surprising. Then Chuck Taylor took over against Anna Bright when he got another chance. The strategy is fun. We saw Gridley/Bright switch their sides to Anna on the left and that seemed to give them the edge to win the match.
In the other matchup, the Dreambreaker goes to the 5s. In the matchups, Jorja Johnson/Barr seemed to go against the expected sides and had Barr on the left. We think Jorja should be on the left. They ended up losing that one, but their men were able to get through Tellez/Lange. Unfortunately for the 5s, Tellez is such a big drop off from Nunnery and it leaves them quite vulnerable in every men’s matchup. Surprising to see Barr/Cincola get tuned up by Padegimaite/Tellez though as Barr cannot be having a fun MLP experience again so far. Lange is not nearly the mixed player that he is a men’s player, and Johnson/Daescu are going to be real tough no matter what so they lose that one to Johnson/Daescu. For the Dreambreaker, the women of the 5s got the better of Johnson and Barr, and that was the difference.
1:27 pm EST – Tough start for the Bus. The men’s doubles match was their only close one of the first 3, with Rettenmaier going straight on with Lica oddly enough. JW was the difference. Rettenmaier is best suited to be a team owner to questionably draft himself as he does not lack for confidence and probably doesn’t give a crap at all. An interesting thing to monitor with these teams staying the same all year is how teams handle the struggle. It is one thing for it to only be for one event but when you have to come back in August to do it all over again, it’s a different story. So little margin for error with only 3 matches too.
The Chimeras with a big start too. Cloes matches all around but the Koop/Fudge opposite stack with Oliva McMillan on the left was interesting. McMillan played well but they fell short.
It’s clear people are not a fan of the scoring format. Neither are we. The score on your serve to finish the game is a thing in beach volleyball and the purpose is to allow for comebacks. We agree that it feels wrong to have that ability to get a few sideouts and win a match despite being outplayed. It feels wrong. If you want rally scoring, keep it true to rally scoring the entire match.
11:50 am EST – What a crazy first couple of matches, particularly the opening match. ATX Pickleballers led by Dylan Frazier go 2-2 in the matches and are no doubt the weaker singles team on paper. However, maybe we need to stop overrating Dekel in singles. He never plays singles in tournaments and then has to come out in these pressure packed environments. Dylan Frazier took 9 of 12 points off of Dekel, and it could have very easily been 10 of 12 if not for a challenge that didn’t go their way. ATX did well with their singles line-up as Jade Kawamoto against Joey Farias was played close to a push and then Altaf, despite being in his late 40s, figured out after the first go around that he could win points by getting up to the net on Michelle. It was interesting to see Team Clean go with Farias and Esquivel together, and that partnership did not pay dividends with a win against Frazier/Kawamoto.
After it looking like it may be a runaway, BLQK squeaks out a victory 3-1, avoiding the dreambreaker. The issue with Patriquin’s game right now is that it is quite volatile. He’s a shot maker but he goes for a lot. It can lead to big swings in matches. Kawamoto/Koller made a big comeback against Irina/Rafa to keep it level but Zane/Parris Todd then won 22-20 to hold off the comeback. Zane’s serve with this format in mixed is less effective. If they stack so he serves against the female, then they have to unwind the stack every point on return. If they don’t stack, he is always serving to the guy. Something that probably didn’t get factored in during the draft.