MLP ATLANTA: DAY 2 RECAP – PREMIER LEVEL GROUP STAGE PLAY AND CHALLENGER QUARTER AND SEMIFINALS
Day 2 Recap
Happy Friday from Peachtree Corners, Georgia! Here’s a recap of today’s exciting pro pickleball action.
The day began with intense and sustained Premier Level Group Stage Play, during which four matches went to a Dreambreaker as new teammates took the MLP tournament courts together for the first time since July’s draft. All Premier Level teams will return tomorrow for Round 3.
After several exciting Challenger Level Quarterfinal and Semifinal matches, Saturday’s Challenger Finals will feature two undefeated teams: the Las Vegas Night Owls (4-0) vs. the SoCal Hard Eights (4-0).
Read on for Friday’s match-by-match highlights.
PREMIER LEVEL GROUP STAGE PLAY
Group A Matches – Atlanta (0-2), Bay Area (2-0), Orlando (2-0), Texas (0-2)
First up on Court 3, lefties Rafa Hewett (Bay Area Breakers) and Pablo Tellez (Atlanta Bouncers) took turns exchanging shots across the net, dazzling fans in the morning sun with a 25-23 Breakers’ victory in Men’s Doubles. Hewett led the crowd in a “Round ‘Em Up” chant before embracing Tellez at the end of that game. Etta Wright and Lea Jansen continued Bay Area’s command of the court, responding steadily to the Bouncers’ offense to win their game 21-18. Partners on and off the court, Hunter Johnson and Parris Todd gave the Bouncers their first point of the match with a 24-22 battle against Hewett/Jansen. Connor Garnett and Wright closed the second Mixed Doubles game on a 9-2 run, taking the match for the Bay Area Breakers.
On Court 4, the Orlando Squeeze put the pressure on the Texas Ranchers early and won their first match. The Ranchers’ Jorja Johnson and Travis Rettenmaier saved the team from going down 0-3, and came back from a 14-20 deficit in spectacular fashion, winning their game 26-24. Lauren Stratman and Dylan Frazier fought to maintain the comeback for the Ranchers, but fell short to Orlando’s Rachel Rohrabacher and Zane Navratil, 23-21.
On Grandstand Court, Jansen and Wright took the Women’s Doubles point for the Breakers with a 21-18 victory against the Ranchers. Etta’s backhand attack volley won it on game point as she proved she has the “Wright” stuff. Frazier and Rettenmaier leveled the match for the Ranchers by taking the Men’s Doubles game. There was some friendly jawing between Rettenmaier and Bay Area’s Hewett throughout the game, who both came through on clutch comebacks. Wright and Garnett got off to a quick start and didn’t let up on their 21-12 victory against the Ranchers duo of Stratman and Frazier. Texas powerhouses Rettenmaier and Johnson forced a Dreambreaker after a decisive 21-16 win. The Breakers rallied hard as every member of the team won their respective matchups in the 21-12 Dreambreaker to take the match.
Taking a broom to Championship Court, Orlando squeezed Atlanta in every game and emerged as the victors with a clean 4-0 match sweep — tough loss for Atlanta with new Bouncers’ investor and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young in the house.
Group B Matches: Chicago (1-1), Dallas (0-2), D.C. (2-0), Utah (1-1)
Chicago’s Jessie Irvine and Lacy Schneemann played excellent defense to hold off 3 separate game points, and then Irvine converted a forehand attack volley to give the Slice a 1-0 match lead over Dallas. World #1 Ben Johns followed suit for the Slice and took nearly every third shot before his partner Erik Lange ended the 21-17 Men’s Doubles game with a clever lob. Not to be outdone, Dallas’ Jay Devilliers and Callie Jo Smith won several clutch rallies and displayed some pickleball acrobatics to bless DPC with their first match point. In the fourth and final game, Johns and Irvine proved to be too tough a duo for DPC’s James Ignatowich and Allyce Jones to overcome. With a backhand ATP and a snazzy backhand Erne, Johns reminded fans why he’s at the top of the sport.
For the day’s second match on Championship Court, D.C. Pickleball Team brought a bus-load of college students to cheer them on in their first match against the Utah Black Diamonds. D.C.’s Kawamoto twins tucked their dinks behind Anna Leigh Waters and Irina Tereschenko, taking the first game 21-19. During the first Mixed Doubles game, Anna Leigh Waters continually fired shots to Chistian Alshon’s backhand side, which proved to be a winning strategy for the Utah Black Diamonds, as they earned their first match point. Fueled by a fired up crowd, Riley Newman put on a dominant performance full of quick-handed shots alongside a nimble Jade Kawamoto to get the match win for D.C.
Dallas and D.C. wrapped up the day on Grandstand Court. D.C.’s Kawamotos played so well in their 21-13 first game win that a witness swore their opponents were seeing double afterwards. Following their lead, the D.C. Men’s Doubles team of Newman and Alshon never fell behind en route to a 21-16 win. Newman playfully chirped at Dallas’ Ignatowich that he was 3-for-3 on head-to-head speed-ups aimed at him. Continuing D.C.’s dominance, Jackie Kawamoto and Alshon teamed up for a solid win against the Dallas duo of Devilliers/Smith. The game was tied at 15 before D.C. closed on a 6-1 run. Completing a 4-0 sweep of the match, Jade Kawamoto and Riley Newman won the second Mixed Doubles game 21-14, during which Newman excited fans with a flying Erne to double down on their lead.
In a much-anticipated match on Championship Court, Waters/Tereschenko found their groove and pulled out a 22-20 win for the Utah Black Diamonds against Irvine/Schneemann of the Chicago Slice. When Utah was down 17-20 during Men’s Doubles, Thomas Wilson had a tremendous defensive save against Ben John’s signature diagonal putaway to keep the Black Diamonds in the running. It wasn’t enough to stop Johns and Erik Lange from taking that game on their next serve. Johns/Irvine cruised past Waters/Wilson with a brow-raising first Mixed Doubles game score of 21-8. Utah stormed back in the fourth game as Lange/ Schneemann kept their bid alive and sent everyone to a Dreambreaker. Even in the face of a couple challenges, the Black Diamonds kept their grip on the match as Anna Leigh Waters shined in her individual match-up 7-3.
Group C Matches: Arizona (2-0), Brooklyn (0-2), Columbus (1-1), Miami (1-1)
Miami Pickleball Club and the Brooklyn Aces got the day started with an incredible match full of momentum swings on Championship Court. Tyson McGuffin and Federico Staksrud took the first game 21-15 for MPC. Then veterans Andrea Koop and Catherine Parenteau came out on top (27-25) for the Aces in a close battle against Hurricane Tyra Black and alternate Allison Harris (replaced Mary Brascia for MLP Atlanta). Black/Staksrud found success in their Mixed Doubles firefights, edging out the Aces 22-20. The fourth game had it all from both sides – skilled offense, impressive defense, a flying Erne from Tyson McGuffin, and a between-the-leg reset from Tyler Loong. The Aces won 26-24 and brought on the day’s first Dreambreaker, but lost their juice and Miami took this one 21-11. Notably, McGuffin took 7 individual points to Loong’s 1.
On Grandstand Court, Vivian Glozman made her Premier Level debut for the Arizona Drive, but Meghan Dizon and Maggie Brascia’s consistent play gave the Columbus Sliders the advantage for game one. The Drive’s Julian “Andiamo” Arnold riled up the crowd for Men’s Doubles, pulling out a tight 24-22 win for Arizona. The teams traded wins in Mixed Doubles and gave fans an intense Dreambreaker, with the Arizona Drive taking the match and Premier rookie Glozman winning her individual match-up 7-1 against Dizon.
Back on Court 4, the Columbus Sliders’ combo of Brascia/Dizon offered a solid one-two punch against the Brooklyn Aces’ Koop/Parenteau to win Women’s Doubles 21-19. Continuing the Sliders’ menu of wins, Collin Johns and JW Johnson handily took the Men’s Doubles point with a 21-11 game. Collin controlled the kitchen line and hit a walk-off ATP to finish the game. Down 0-2 in the match, Brooklyn regained some ground with Loong/Parenteau taking the first Mixed Doubles win. During the fourth game, Koop and Gabriel Tardio (who replaced Hayden Patriquin after an injury) led 18-14 for the Aces, but fell short under pressure as Brooklyn lost the match, 1-3.
Taking over Court 3, Dekel Bar and Julian Arnold drove Arizona to a 21-13 Men’s Doubles victory over Miami. Arnold and Vivienne David dominated the second Mixed Doubles game and won the match in front of very excited AZ Drive ownership group.
CHALLENGER LEVEL QUARTERFINALS
California vs. New Jersey
Returning for Challenger Quarterfinals, the California BLQK Bears’ Marshall Brown and Anderson Scarpa played strategically in the kitchen to give the Bears the first match point against the New Jersey 5s. During Women’s Doubles, Jersey’s Shelby Bates and Alli Phillips were up 20-10 when Tina Pisnik and Alix Truong started making a comeback. Despite that countereffort, the 5s squeaked out a 21-19 win. Stefan Auvergne came out swinging for the 5s alongside Bates, taking the first Mixed Doubles game, 21-17. With two sets of quick hands, Phillips and John Cincola closed out the match 3 games to 1 and advanced New Jersey to the Semifinals.
New York vs. Seattle
Meanwhile, Megan Fudge and Lina Padegimaite got Seattle’s quest for Semis off to a strong start on Court 4, winning the Women’s Doubles game 22-20. Patrick Smith and Wesley Burrows followed suit for the Pioneers, giving the team a 2-0 match lead. Jillian Braverman and Juame Martinez Vich fired back for the Hustlers with a 21-18 game win. Sarah Ansboury and Kyle Yates fought hard to keep up New York’s late momentum shift, but ultimately succumbed to the Pioneers in a 23-21 overtime game. And with that, Seattle punched their ticket to the Semis.
CHALLENGER LEVEL SEMIFINALS
Las Vegas vs. New Jersey
With the stakes high on Grandstand Court, the 5s’ Stefan Auvergne and John Cincola handled all that the Night Owls threw at them. With back-to-back firefight wins, New Jersey captured the Men’s Doubles game 21-16. The Vegas ladies countered with a convincing win thanks to long-standing chemistry between Susannah Barr and Emily Ackerman, evening the match 1-1. Carrying that energy into Mixed Doubles, the Owls edged out the 5s in an entertaining 27-25 game that included a deft Erne from Bates, immediately followed by a bodybag from Barr. The 5s weren’t going down without a fight as Cincola and Phillips sent the intense match into a Dreambreaker after winning the fourth game 21-15. In the end, Vegas stopped the comeback attempt and pulled out a 21-19 victory, advancing to the Championship match on Saturday.
Seattle vs. SoCal
After the Pioneers and Hard Eights finished Men’s and Women’s Doubles with one win each, Seattle’s Smith and Padegimaite outmaneuvered SoCal’s Newell and Todd Fought in a close 24-22 Mixed Doubles game. Ewa Radzikowska and CJ Klinger came through in a big way for the Hard Eights in the fourth game, boasting an 11-2 lead at the changeover and ending with an authoritative score of 21-6. This led to an epic final Dreambreaker game, where the Hard Eights reigned supreme, earning their spot in tomorrow’s Challenger Finals against the Owls.