We’re going to do our best to keep up with the action all weekend. Hopefully the MLP website is improved but, if not, you can turn to us for some random thoughts of commentary on all the happenings around Daytona. If you want to get a flavor for what you should look out for this weekend, take a peek at our top Challenger Storylines and Premier Storylines.
There are also a number of rules changes being implemented with respect to challenges, line calls, player conduct and tiebreakers. We posted a breakdown of the changes on Wednesday that you can read when you inevitably get confused watching this weekend.
Sunday. March 26th – Premier Semis and Finals
4:50 pm EST – Seattle def. California (3-1) – Seattle just a little too much for BLQK. Ben has 2 titles in 3 tries at MLP. Great run from California and it was really nice seeing Frazier have such a good run as it never has made sense that he struggles as much as he has at MLP. Meghan Dizon played well in women’s and Etta Wright has proven she can hang at that top level. It is a little much to give Dizon MVP, but then again Lee Whitwell has won two MVPs. Neither of these teams were big energy teams and they found themselves in a final together, which is noteworthy.
1:10 pm EST – California def. New Jersey (3-1) – The entire California team is just playing really well. Their ability to put Staksrud with Koop makes their team unique with that 1(a) and 1(b) mixed team as Maggie Brascia has been a big boost for their doubles prowess. The greatest women’s match in MLP history probably went their way, 25-23, and Maggie was able to get her mixed match with Dylan against Hayden/Anna Leigh. Federico has been getting really good mixed wins so it is no surprise he can win with Koop. For the 5’s, the Anna Leigh taking a ton of court situation has looked just a little awkward in women’s and mixed. Jansen never plays that setup role and Patriquin/AL haven’t formed a mixed team that is a #1 duo. It is tough for the 5’s to win if AL loses both her matches. Ritchie Tuazon has another team going to the finals.
11:00 am EST – Seattle def. Los Angeles (3-0) – The magic wasn’t quite there this weekend for the Mad Drops. Hunter Johnson played admirably but he lost both his matches against the Pioneers, and the women also couldn’t get it done against Wright/Dizon. Seattle is off to the finals after their one hiccup against California in the group stage. Seattle is scary if they get just one of those matches from Dizon because Ben has only lost one game across two events so far. It’ll be California or the 5’s, and the people may want to see that AL vs. Ben matchup we thought we might see after the draft.
Saturday, March 25th – Premier Group Stage and Playoffs
4:45 pm EST – Bay Area def. Dallas (3-2) – Great Challenger final. Tons of trash talk that some may or may not enjoy. French played like a monster in men’s but Bay Area was too much overall. Jillian Braverman and Daniel De La Rosa we’re game changers for this team, especially Braverman. As an alpha female, it is amazing Dallas was able to swing her in that trade as Fudge’s steadiness is not as valuable as a #1 female in Challenger. Bay Area too much. Ewa Radzikowska and Rachel Summers forming the best women’s team with 2nd and 4th round picks was masterful.
3:20 pm EST – ATX def. Florida (3-2) – This Premier season has come down a lot to who has picked the right players as opposed to right strategy. We have seen the Mad Drops thrive with a two girls situation, the Mashers and Smash not be quite as successful. The Smash gender matches were lost again and they won their mixed, but Jessie Irvine being a huge minus in singles crushed them as Gabe Tardio took advantage of that matchup. It looks like ATX is out on net games won but a 2-1 weekend is a better result for them.
Los Angeles def. St. Louis (3-2) – Julian Arnold has not been the unstoppable force without Thomas Wilson and he hasn’t been there in mixed the same way with Catherine, but the Mad Drop women and Hunter/Irina pick up the slack. They win the Dreambreaker again with their very strong Dreambreaker team and are off to the playoffs on net games. It is not a fluke for LA without Thomas Wilson and it has to feel good for St. Louis that they are right in the mix.
1:00 pm EST – California def. Milwaukee (3-2) – Chalk Milwaukee as another team definitely disappointed with its results. They were not going to get through on game differential anyway but their women haven’t won enough together. We wonder if this team may look to explore a trade in some capacity, at a minimum to try to change things up for next round. They only beat Frisco Clean Cause. BLQK, on the other hand, with Maggie Brascia back rides a balanced roster to a top of the group finish and semi-finals appearance with the bye. Maggie has looked solid and their men are playing well with Koop always being steady.
Seattle def. Frisco (4-0) – Seattle wins easily. Frisco has to try to make a change at this point. They are, by far, the worst team in Premier without a win to their name. How much value any of their players have is a different question and who would want to make a move with them. They can’t be losing their men’s matches. Those guys are 1-5 together across two events if we are not mistaken.
11:05 am EST – NYC def. SoCal (3-2) – Brendon Long in for Tyson McGuffin is no problem for NYC as he wins his mixed match with Bright over Brascia/Koller and then he finishes off the Dreambreaker for the victory. Anna Bright took 7 of 8 from Mary Brascia as NYC was able to overcome Riley Newman besting Rafa 6 for 8. It’s a tough loss for the Hard Eights who have Brascia/Koller go 0-3 on the weekend and don’t get enough from the rest of their squad as Riley Newman went 5-1 on the weekend. NYC is through to the playoffs once again and it is quite impressive without Tyson McGuffin.
New Jersey def. Las Vegas (3-1) – New Jersey went up 3-0 so that last game was meaningless in this matchup. Las Vegas’ men not being able to beat Patriquin/Ignatowich was the biggest thing here and meant that the 5’s only needed one mixed match. Las Vegas got a weird win in the wind yesterday and, although they are competitive every match, what you get with this team has been about as expected. New Jersey finally plays a match that is not a Dreambreaker and, if their men can win together, it opens everything up.
Friday, March 24th – Premier Group Stage and Challenger Playoffs
6:48 pm EST – Dallas def. Miami (3-1) – We clearly did not give Brandon French enough credit. He played very well this weekend and his team is off to the finals of the Challenger division. They won the gender matches and then French/Braverman were able to close it out in a trash talk filled, epic 22-20 victory. French and Warnick have to be the only two guys out there who can hit their backhands essentially backwards and do it so effectively. It makes them both quite difficult to play against. The De La Rosa for Chuck Taylor swap has worked along with what was always an outstanding trade to get Jillian Braverman. Braverman belongs here and you have to wonder if Columbus made a mistake swapping Braverman for Fudge. Really good run for Miami.
Bay Area def. Chicago (3-2) – Bay Area wins another Dreambreaker. They haven’t been as dominant as Tellez/Alshon lost their doubles match and Summers/Alshon lost their mixed matches – both of those teams have been their two most vulnerable spots across the two events. Tellez took a whole bunch of points off of DeHeart in the Dreambreaker and Chicago could not overcome that, 21-18 in the Dreambreaker. DeHeart seemed to finally find his stride in doubles but he didn’t have it for whatever reason in singles. Bay Area will go in favored for the final but you have to expect it will be close with Dallas.
5:02 pm EST – California def. Seattle (3-2) – Not only do we have an upset here, but we had Dylan Frazier getting after Ben Johns in the Dreambreaker, including 4 straight late in that Dreambreaker to help his team win. BLQK’s mixed situation is not really working this tournament as both Fed and Dylan lost their mixed matches to have this go to a Dreambreaker. Impressively, they were able to take down Ben Johns in men’s, which gave him his first MLP game loss on the year. Fun match and a group changing win for California.
Milwaukee def. Frisco (4-0) – Poor Frisco. That cannot be funout there to lose every match. They only have Seattle left and that’s unlikely to be a win for them. There’s not much to say and it’s just tough to do anything in Premier this year because you don’t get to make any moves. Maybe is a trade out there to be made?
Las Vegas def. SoCal (3-2) – Weird match. The women of the Hard Eights won while the men lost. The wind is playing havoc on these matches outside the covered center court and it’s making for some unique pickleball. The Hard Eights could have been in a position to really take control but they don’t get their biggest advantage, the men’s match and lose in a Dreambreaker. Kyle Yates was ripping and speeding up everything, and it worked in the wind. LV went back to Dekel/Vivienne and Lauren/Kyle, and that was important because it guaranteed them 1 mixed win with Dekel/Vivienne beating AJ/Mary. We now have 4, 1-1 teams in this group and it is 100% up for grabs. The Dreambreaker giveth and the Dreambreaker taketh away.
New Jersey def. NYC (3-2) – The 5’s only play Dreambreakers apparently. Much like the Hard Eights, what was supposed to be the 5’s biggest advantage, the women’s doubles, has not been there for both MLP events as Lea and Anna Leigh lost handily in their first match. Lea/James also have not been able to get it done in mixed, but Big H and Anna Leigh came through against the #1 team for NYC in mixed to get it done. This was supposed to be the Group of Death and that has borne out as it has been very competitive across all 4 teams so far. It means we will be avoiding any tiebreakers tomorrow in Group B and it comes down to a win and you are in situation for all 4 teams. Hilarious side note here was Rafa Hewett calling us out for questioning how good he would be with his Adidas paddle after winning his mixed match and then playing with a JOOLA in the Dreambreaker. Keep being you, Rafa!
2:45 pm EST – ATX def. Los Angeles (3-2) – ATX was up on the side switch for all of their 5 matches and only got the split in the doubles matches, but they had the favorable wind to finish along with some favorable net cords to win the Dreambreaker. The Mad Drops are even more built for a Dreambreaker with Hunter Johnson in for Thomas Wilson, but we have continued to believe these Dreambreakers are volatile. Jackie Kawamoto going 7 for 8 against Irina was a big difference maker. Despite the win, this Gabe Tardio situation is not ideal for ATX. They lose their men’s match to the Mad Drops with JW and a substitution of Hunter Johnson for Thomas Wilson, and then Jade/Gabe drop 10 straight points in mixed to Hunter/Irina to lose 21-15, after being up 15-11. Tardio has some really fast hands and there’s talent in him, but his consistency lacks still at times. If you had told the Mad Drops that Hunter Johnson wins both his doubles matches, do you think anyone thinks this team would lose?
St. Louis def. Florida (3-1) – The St. Louis Shock are going to be the belle of the ball if the keep winning. Their energy is completely infectious and it’s hard not think that does not make a difference. Allyce Jones and Simone Jardim would never be favored on tour against Irvine/Johnson, yet they won 21-13 with the most epic and fun final point to win it. Jay Devilliers and Erik Lange together are exactly what Jay needs for himself to be optimized – a heavy counter, right-side guy that will let him do his thing. Maybe some PPA partnerships together for those two? And Devilliers’ hands may not be the best but he covers so much ground in mixed, combined with Simone’s steadiness and it is a tough recipe for Rettenmaier/Johnson. At least Travis got his trash talking in the mixed match when they were up 7-3 but down 2 games to none. The Shock lose their last mixed match with Jones/Lange, which is the weak spot, but a 3-1 win is still a win.
12:48 pm EST – Chicago def. Columbus (3-0) – Columbus could not figure out its women’s matches as Fudge finishes 1-7 on the weekend. Yates Johnson and Fudge were up in their mixed match against Barr/Garnett, but couldn’t close the deal after some close calls at the end of the match. Chicago was also down in the women’s match and were able to pull it out. They are just a solid team that is tough to beat. They will play Bay Area.
Miami def. Texas (3-1) – You don’t know what you got ‘til it is gone. We didn’t realize how much we missed Jeff Warnick on tour but that man is a national treasure. He is barely playing pro pickleball these days and he’s coming out here with all his bravado along with winning matches. Warnick’s stuff is weird and you combine that with his trash talking at the Challenger level, he makes for a guy you don’t want to play against. The Miami women lost but the rest of the group picked up the slack as the women did their thing to allow Long and Warnick to make stuff happen in mixed. Confirmed that Matt Manasse picking himself may have been a poor draft selection. Miami will play Dallas in the semis.
11:20 am EST – SoCal def. New Jersey (3-2) – Dreambreaker’s can be volatile. The 5’s lose their second Dreambreaker in a row going back to the last tournament. They lose 21-18. Riley Newman played like an absolute beast all match, winning the men’s, dominating the mixed over Lea/James Ignatowich and taking down Anna Leigh Waters for the win in singles. We just don’t think you can win every Dreambreaker no matter how good you are and the 5’s will have to figure out their men’s and mixed stuff if they want to go far. The Hard Eights get a break to win in a Dreambreaker, which is not optimal for them, but Mary Brascia also played a strong Dreambreaker, getting points over Hayden. A surprise first match and this is what MLP is all about. Some stare downs from the Hard Eights men towards Jimmy Ignatowich in this match. Have Riley Newman and AJ Koller been listening to some podcasts?
New York def. Las Vegas (4-0) – New York is off to a much stronger start this time around as they dominate a Las Vegas team that beat them in a Dreambreaker last event. Las Vegas switched up their mixed pairings to put David with Yates and Stratman with Bar. It did not work for them after going down 2-0 and this is going to be a problem for this team if they can’t win either of their gender matches. That’s their strong point but that’s how it can go with a “balanced” team sometimes.
Seattle def. Milwaukee (4-0) – Seattle is off to the start we expected. This team could be a train. Semi-finals last time but Ben was undefeated, and he stays that way. If Milwaukee’s women are not beating the Pioneers, what are you getting at this point? It is looking more and more like Callie/Lucy are just another team that is good but not great, which has borne itself out on tour the first 3 months.
California def. Frisco (3-2) – Look at Clean Cause going to a Dreambreaker. They finally got a men’s win, which they should be able to do, against a strong Frazier/Staksrud team to boot, and they also were able to win against the California 1(b) mixed team of Koop/Staksrud, tight 22-20. They actually have an okay enough Dreambreaker team, other than Matt Wright and could not get it done. California has a good singles team, but not elite, and they end up taking it. That has to be tough for Frisco when a match was there for them to steal.
Thursday, March 23rd – Challenger Group Stage
7:30 pm EST – We want to give a little summary here of what happens going forward with Challenger. The playoffs are set with the #3 seed Miami vs. #6 seed Texas, and the #4 seed Columbus vs. #5 seed Chicago. The winner of the Miami vs.Texas match will pay Dallas and the winner of the other match will play Bay Area. The Shuffle Draft has created more competitive teams in the league with 3 teams missing the playoffs last event to now making the playoffs – Miami, Columbus and Texas. Both matches should be fun and there’s nothing that differentiates either team significantly. Columbus or Chicago will have a major uphill battle against Bay Area, but Columbus is better built to take them down in a Dreambreaker of any of the remaining 5 other teams.
6:23 pm EST – Ranchers def. Columbus (3-2) – The Ranchers, a perfectly built Dreambreaker team, win 2 of their 3 on the day, and are through on point differential of 0.18%. Apparently the Johnson brothers didn’t get the playbook on how to beat Whitwell in singles. Find the right ball and then go up on her, and when you get up don’t keep her back, bring her up to the net. There is a playbook, the Johson’s should read it. The other key though was Whitwell coming to net regardless on her returns and making Yates pass her, which he had trouble doing. Whitwell went 5 for 12 against Yates, which was the difference maker, and Scott Doerner did what he needed to against Megan Fudge. The Ranchers pulled all the right strings. Columbus was up in the women’s match and did not win that, and that was the difference maker in the gender doubles stuff. Columbus is still through to the playoffs and are first in their group based on net games on the backs of Klinger’s undefeated doubles day that allows them to compensate for Fudge’s 1-5 day.
As an aside, the line calls today in Dreambreakers have been brutal. It kills momentum and players are just calling balls out because they know that challenge is there to save them. We didn’t expect that the new challenge system would make players less honest, but that appears to be the case.
Brooklyn def. Atlanta (3-1) – Brooklyn got it done 3-0 to start so the final mixed match between Carr/Nunnery and Buckner/Newell was a moot point. It seemed pretty obvious to us that Atlanta could not sit tight and do nothing at the Shuffle Draft, but they rested on their laurels to an 0-3 flipping of the script here in Daytona. The Aces, on the other hand, took a bold approach with Hurricane Black and finish a solid 2-1 in the group. Black went 3-0 in women’s doubles on the day. She has two things going for her right now: (1) fast hands, (2) covers a lot of court. With her being so new, keeping her on the left in mixed with Dow so comfortable on the right has been the right thing to do and finally paid off in this match for them. Heartbreaking for the Aces not to make it through to the playoffs on such a minor point differential but if they win that last mixed match against Atlanta they would have been in.
4:28 pm EST – Chicago def. Miami (3-1) – We have three, 2-1 teams, in this group, which means we go to the tiebreaker. The Slice beat Miami in a close one. A split of the gender matchups with the Slice women winning and the Miami men, left the Slice to take both the mixed matches. That has to feel good for Ryler DeHeart/Emily Ackerman, who had not looked great together. They avoid a Dreambreaker and will be through on game differential along with Miami – net games won. Miami is 1st in the division at 2-1 and Chicago is 2nd. We didn’t have any of the 2-1, 3-way ties last go around.
Utah def. D.C. (3-2) – Utah is done despite the win, but the Dreambreaker is inevitable int hese events. D.C. and Utah both play their second Dreambreaker of the day after Utah went up 2-0 and lost both their mixed matches to D.C. for a tie ball game. Utah comes out on top of the Dreambreaker. No stream so we didn’t see the results of it. Utah’s weakness is as a Dreambreaker team, but that’s the second one they win today. The most consistent performer for D.C. in doubles has been Stefan Auvergne/Shelby Bates as they have won all 3 matches today, but they just didn’t get enough wins again elsewhere today. The Hendry pickup didn’t really work and Querrey continues to be the same, maybe slightly better version of himself. Tough haul for Utah, who just lose out on game differential, and continue to show they are a solid team in this format. D.C., on the other hand, are hurting from that Querrey selection and finish 0-3 on the day in spite of their competitive matches.
Bay Area def. Dallas (3-2) – Dallas is making some noise as a team. They finish 2-1 and only lose to the Challenger favorites in a Dreambreaker. They lose the gender matches and win the mixed matches, and this revamped Dallas team, with a probably underrated weird Brandon French, is a legitimate contender now. Bay Area has now played two Dreambreakers and it is almost hard to see how any other Challenger team can get 3 wins off them. They are so good as a Dreambreaker team, with 3 elite Challenger level singles players. They will be tough to stop in the playoffs as they get a bye to the semi-finals.
3:05 pm EST – Dallas def. Orlando (3-1) – Plus 1 for a way better website for MLP. Minus 1 for less streamed courts. We have missed some matches here. The Squeeze women have been struggling together and they are done from the playoffs. Rettger and Oshiro also have lost their women’s match against AZ so they are 0-3 on the day. The Squeeze men lose to French/De La Rosa and Rettger/Fought couldn’t beat Gecheva/De La Rosa. The Jillian Braverman move pays off for them as they are in the playoffs regardless of how they do against Bay Area.
Bay Area def. AZ (3-1) – Bay Area is through to the playoffs as well. Heather Nobler has had a good showing today in women’s, going 2-1 as she has beaten Bobbi Oshiro/Rachel Rettger. But that’s the only win AZ get here as Pesa Teoni has not been able to get anything rolling, despite losing a close mixed match to Tellez/Radzikowska. AZ is 0-2 and out of the playoffs once again. Tough for them to lose Andreas Siljestrom to injury, but the Nobler pickup was still weird.
Texas def. Atlanta (3-2) – Another Dreambreaker loss for Atlanta. They lose 21-10 in a Dreambreaker that stacked Whitwell against Hunter Johnson (she went 2 for 8) and Pat Smith went 8-0 apparently. The men for the Ranchers stopped their losing streak as Scott Doerner went 2-0 in this matchup while the elders, Lee Whitwell and Pat Smith, continue to struggle overall relative to this Challenger level. Atlanta was the most obvious choice to take a step back this event and they sure have. Texas will need a win over Columbus and a Brooklyn loss to guarnatee the playoffs.
Columbus def. Brooklyn (3-1) – It is problematic for the Aces if their men don’t win. CJ Klinger is 4-0 on the day overall as they win in men’s and he wins in mixed over Carr/Nunnery. If CJ Klinger is winning his matches, this is a contending team. The problem is that Fudge is not winning like a #1 female needs to as she and Rane lost 21-16 to Carr/Black, which was Columbus’ only loss of the day here. Brooklyn needs a win over ATL to get into the playoffs but will need a Texas loss.
2:26 pm EST – D.C. def. Chicago (3-1) – Pretty even Dreambreaker with the Slice pulling out a win after almost blowing a big lead, with the surprise difference maker being Susannah Barr winning her matchup against the better singles player in Shelby Bates. The Slice win the matchup but it was unclear what the Slice were thinking in their men’s doubles match. Players sometimes don’t like dinking straight on but Ryler DeHeart constantly going cross-court with Auvergne instead of getting more balls Sam Querrey was baffling. Querrey is basically playing the role of a giant, mixed female on the left and his length creates issues to dink straight on to him. He’s almost half-Erne-ing all the time and sitting heavy on that forehand counter so teams need to figure out how to exploit that better because playing the majority of balls to Auvergne is not a winning recipe. It seemed like Ryler was figuring out where to go at Querrey right towards the end of their mixed match as they staved off match points against Hendry/Querrey to push it to a Dreambreaker. DC, competitive as expected.
Miami def. Utah (3-1 The Shuffle Draft is making the league more competitive overall. We saw that with Columbus, even though Megan Fudge didn’t win her matches, and we are seeing it with Miami too. Regina Goldberg is a reset machine so putting her with Brendon Long suddenly creates a very solid mixed team and they were able to beat Esquivel/Smith in a tight one. The women for Miami did what they needed to against a slightly favored Utah Black Diamonds pairing, which allowed them to split the gender matches. Jeff Warnick is a damn weird due to play against as he and Truong were also able to beat Cassidy/McMillan. That’s a win against one of the favored teams for Miami but this team suddenly looks way different with Brendon Long.
12:12 pm EST – 4 matches already played so far today in Challenger. The Breakers win in a Dreambreaker against the Squeeze. The Breakers got their first two men’s matches but. surprisingly, went down in the mixed matches, and then were able to pull away in the Dreambreaker. The Breakers have two men that are built for mixed but two women that are less experienced. . Their Dreambreaker team may be the best in Challenger, though, and the Squeeze have one player who is an above average singles player in Bobbi Oshiro, and she doesn’t even really play singles on tour anymore. In the other early match, Dallas wins 4-0. We wondered how good this AZ squad would be and it’s hard to see what you have with both their #2 players.
In the second set of matches, we had the Bouncers looking fairly strong to start the day but could not pull out the Dreambreaker. The Atlanta Bouncers have now played 6 Dreambreakers but they have lost their last 2. We thought this might be unsustainable given their roster and that played out in match #1. They get smoked 21-8 in the Dreambreaker. Not sure what Columbus was doing in the first women’s match. They didn’t start grinding Trifunovic until they got down 15-6 and almost made a comeback, but it was too far gone. Interesting to see Fudge on the right with Milan Rane on the left in that matchup. The Bouncers men beat Hunter Johnson and Ben Newell. It’s not a good start for Megan Fudge going 0-2 as they traded her with the hopes she would boost their team and it didn’t happen in this first match, but they get the win so all is well that ends well.
Who had Lee Whitwell getting dominated in a Dreambreaker by a lady who is 7 months pregnant? The Dreambreaker magic is officially gone for Whitwell who dumped far too many balls into the net and the Aces win despite blowing a 20-16 lead in the Dreambreaker. The Brooklyn Aces got their doubles matches, including Hurricane Black’s first MLP match ever against the revamped Ranchers team with Scott Doener. Corrine Carr looks pretty damn good for 7 months pregnant and is moving well. The Ranchers get their mixed matches as Black did not look comfortable at all, which makes sense with how new she is to the game. Dow may have to come over and try to take all the drops because she can’t work up right now at this level comfortably. Tyra Black confirmed fast AF.