MLP Atlanta Premier Division Group Preview

📸 @majorleaguepb

It’s time to really start getting hyped for MLP Atlanta. It doesn’t sound like players are going to be boycotting so each team should have their full squad out on the courts. Even though Premier and Challenger won’t be a thing for next year and the rally scoring situation is changing once again, we have pickleball to watch and the stakes are still high with how much money is on the line for the players in Premier. Moreover, there remains substantial incentive for the players to keep showing out at these MLP events.

Lea Jansen talked about the 2024 free agency model for MLP on our most recent podcast with her understanding that teams would be able to sign players above whatever amount they are currently signed for. How well players perform at MLP matters because teams will directly correlate that to their ability to perform in the MLP pressure cooker. With all that said, let’s get into the Premier division group previews for Atlanta.

Group A – Atlanta Bouncers, Bay Area Breakers, Orlando Squeeze, Texas Ranchers

This is a relatively balanced group outside of the Atlanta Bouncers. Parris Todd withdrew from singles part way through the day and did not play mixed or women’s after that at the last APP event in New Jersey. Even if she is healthy, this Atlanta team is shaping up to be the worst team in MLP with Hunter Johnson, Simone Jardim and Pablo Tellez. Simone and Pablo are the only two players that have shown recently they can compete at the top level in doubles.

We’ll have to see what type of roster prevails with the rest of this division. Bay Area has the two strong women in Lea Jansen and Etta Wright while Orlando has a more balanced team with Anna Bright as the foundation of their team. Texas has to be worried about what Jorja Johnson is going to bring to MLP. Her mixed game is generally her strongest doubles event, but she has been flat out poor in women’s doubles for the entirety of 2023. Jorja was one of the biggest risers heading into the year, and not enough of it has come to fruition so far. We’ll also see how the Texas team handles the target that comes with being possibly the highest paid 2024 team at MLP with Dylan Frazier, Jorja Johnson and Lauren Stratman on the roster.

Orlando is very balanced with their top 3 players and Rachel Rohrabacher has been playing well recently. We’ll have to see what a team with Andrei Daescu and Zane Navratil gets you. We could see all 3 of Texas, Orlando and Bay Area making the playoff round, but we’ll give a slight edge to Orlando and Bay Area. Round ‘em up for MLP Rafa!

Update: With Lauren Stratman missing, Texas could be in trouble if they don’t get a top 4 female from Challenger. If they do, the loss of Stratman could be minimized.

Group B – Chicago Slice, Dallas Pickleball Club, DC Pickleball Team, Utah Black Diamonds

The alleged group of death for this Atlanta event, Group B features Anna Leigh Waters, Ben Johns and Riley Newman. Even though we don’t see a clearly dominant team at MLP, we’re on board with a group consisting of the 3 best players in pickleball being considered the group of death. Chicago has a flawed roster on paper with the up and down Schneemann, declining Irvine and men’s specialist Erik Lang surrounding Ben Johns. This will be a great test for how good Ben is.

Utah will have a fill-in for AJ Koller on Saturday* but this roster consisting of ALW, Irina and Thomas Wilson will go as far as AJ Koller wants to take them. DC may be the frontrunner going into the event with how well the Kawamotos are playing. Christian Alshon’s doubles game has elevated since the draft and Riley Newman is still Riley Newman.

We also can’t sleep on the Dallas team in this group. They might be the most balanced team in Premier. Hopefully we get to see Jay Devilliers with right side Jimmy Ignatowich as a souped up Pat Smith. Callie Smith and Allyce Jones have proven they can compete at the top level together in their recent PPA partnership. There is nothing dominant about this team, but there’s no free wins against them either. Group of death it is!

We probably like Utah and DC to come out of this group, but there hasn’t been a time in MLP history where Ben Johns hasn’t made the playoffs.

Update: AJ Koller will miss the entire event so we’ll see what Utah decides to do and who is available. It makes them a bigger question going into the weekend.

Group C – Arizona Drive, Brooklyn Aces, Miami PC, Columbus PC

While the teams are just more balanced this year in Premier, group C appears to be the weakest group out of the 3 in Atlanta. but top to bottom this is the softest group. We also don’t see a clear favorite anywhere in this group either. Arizona is flawed in its construction with two left-side guys in Julian Arnold/Dekel Bar. What does this team get building around Vivienne David? The fit with Vivian Glozman makes sense on paper, but it’s hard to believe in Glozman’s mixed game with the results she has been getting recently.

Brooklyn is probably the most proven team of this group. Catherine Parenteau is a legitimate anchor for an MLP team but the two biggest questions are whether Andrea Koop still warrants that 2nd round pick and if Hayden Patriquin is good enough to be the lead male on an MLP team. Tyler Loong is a steady Eddy but he’s also a slight stock down for season 2 despite being fine enough value at the end of the draft.

Miami is in a better spot than we thought they would be right after the draft. Tyra Black has proven she is a legitimate Premier player since and both Tyson and Federico are playing very good pickleball. Our big question was about Mary Brascia but we understand she will be missing this event. That means Miami will be relying on a fill-in from one of the non-playoff Challenger teams. There are 4 players that could be considered neutral, or an upgrade, on Mary Brascia in our view – Jill Braverman, Susannah Barr, Yana Newell and Tina Pisnik. If none of those 4 players are available, Mary’s loss could be a major issue.

Columbus is the weirdest personality mix with JW, Megan Dizon, Maggie Brascia and Collin Johns. The all-energy team! Kidding, obviously. If there’s one team we are not betting on to make the playoffs in this group, it has to be Columbus. Collin Johns is not a Premier mixed player and we still don’t know if he can win men’s matches with anyone other than Ben.

Brooklyn is the safest team to pick to come out of this group. Miami weirdly might be the next safest team depending on their pick up. Until we see what happens with Miami, we’ll reluctantly go with Arizona as the 2nd team out of this group.

Update: With Julian Arnold missing, we’ll go with Miami even sans Mary Brascia as the 2nd team. Banking they can pick up one of Pisnik, Barr, Newell or Braverman.

*This article has been edited to reflect that AJ Koller was initially set to miss Saturday, not Friday.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Threads and Facebook. Also, listen and subscribe to our podcast on Apple, Spotify and YouTube!

19 thoughts on “MLP Atlanta Premier Division Group Preview

  • September 18, 2023 at 11:44 pm
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    Thank you for your time and posting. Really glad they are getting rid of two leagues. One is great and less complicated. IMO, rally scoring will be pballs standard in two or three years, depending on if USAPA wakes up. / I just remember Lea Jansen constantly bitchin’ about Quong’s (sp) $500K. / It is so nice that we still see Simone out there doing great. Glad she didn’t retire. / If JW treats Collin like Ben does, they have a great chance. But it’s not JW’s style.

    Reply
    • September 20, 2023 at 7:38 am
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      We’ll see what they end up doing next year. Lots still in the air

      Reply
  • September 19, 2023 at 12:24 am
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    AZ Drive might do something eventually but for the first event, I’d put Miami above them. I’d give a slight edge to Aces over Columbus because the Ace team members are used to playing with lots of different partners and can adjust quickly. JW and Collin don’t switch up partners often and might need the first event to build team chemistry. Orlando looks strongest to me in group A then Ranchers. ATM, I agree that DC and Utah look good in group B.

    Question: Are the gold cards applicable after the first merger fell through? The gold card is what gave signed PPA players double their MLP winnings – and that double difference was paid by MLP from what was revealed.

    Reply
    • September 19, 2023 at 11:22 pm
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      I thought having the Gold Card gave you the full amount (not double), and the Silver gave you half. But not sure. 🙂

      Reply
      • September 20, 2023 at 7:41 am
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        That’s right technically. Just how you look at it

        Reply
    • September 20, 2023 at 7:39 am
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      Definitely above them now. We’ll see who Miami is able to get to fill in for Mary B. Same with the Ranchers now and Lauren Stratman

      Gold cards should still be applicable because it is what the players signed for

      Reply
  • September 19, 2023 at 1:29 pm
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    Group A — have you guys heard Lauren and Julian can’t make this? Apparently not boycott-related, I hope all is well with them. If true, AZ and TX took huge/modest hits, respectively, depending on who’s available for replacements. I’ll go with Bay Area and TX for grins.

    Group B — we know Ben is the goat, but we don’t know if he’s 1,417 International Greatness Units better than #2 or just 6.5 IGUs better. If he gets out of this group, he can pick whatever number he wants, but I’m thinking it’s Dallas and DC.

    Group C — Brooklyn and Miami. Fed and Tyson are both playing their best lately. So MD and 1 MXD win, and then they just need to get 1 more win and avoid the tie. However, even in a tie, who wants to go against Fed, Tyra and Tyson? No guarantees, obv, but I’ll take those odds.

    Reply
    • September 20, 2023 at 7:40 am
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      We have now. Big change for Arizona. It sounds like they just don’t want to come.

      If Ben gets out of this group, we have to bow down for sure

      Miami is so dependent on what they get for Mary B.

      Reply
  • September 19, 2023 at 2:50 pm
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    I think Arnold was the big surprise today though maybe it should have been expected in solidarity with Lauren. Travis and Graham talked about it on their last podcast that was released just as the merger was announced. Graham said it was 100% that Lauren wouldn’t play. Travis said 95%. Today, Jimmy X’d “Very calculated when you lawyer up immediately” but I don’t think any one has details (yet). Maybe NML will have an update before Friday’s premier play. We’ll at least know on Friday who all the stand-ins will be – 4 so far: Mary B, Lauren, Arnold, Koller. It’ll be wild if someone is “paid” [very heavy quotes on that one] to cause drama. But it seems like Pardoe at least wants some spice to the pro space (bussing in the SMU frat boys, semi-streaker, Hype team, and very heavy maybe on Tyson.)

    Reply
    • September 19, 2023 at 11:27 pm
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      Love it. …”wild if someone is “paid”… to cause trouble?”… And then Pardoe’s name is mentioned. Just got to love it. 🙂

      Reply
    • September 20, 2023 at 7:40 am
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      Not much of an update beyond it sounds like it’s not worth their time

      Reply
      • September 20, 2023 at 8:10 am
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        That would be an odd reason for not playing. Julian won a ton of money in season one, very much worth his time I’d say.

        Reply
    • September 20, 2023 at 9:34 am
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      I believe Koller is playing Friday, out Saturday due to family event at least that is what has been published previously.

      Reply
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