MLP ATLANTA: DAY 3 RECAP – PREMIER LEVEL ROUND 3 AND QUARTERFINALS PLUS CHALLENGER LEVEL FINAL
Day 3 Recap
Saturday began with six Premier Level Round 3 matches in the Georgia sunshine, followed by the Challenger Level Final, and wrapped up with Premier Level Quarterfinals under the lights.
The SoCal Hard Eights were crowned the 2023 MLP Atlanta Challenger Level Champions, with the Challenger Level MVP title awarded to the team’s youngest member, 17-year old Carson “CJ” Klinger.
After Orlando and D.C. earned Premier playoff byes, Arizona and Miami won their Quarterfinal duels to advance to Sunday’s Premier Level Semifinals showdown. Arizona will take on Orlando, followed by Miami vs. D.C. Premier Level Finals will kick off at 1pm ET.
Read on for a detailed recap of Saturday’s match highlights.
PREMIER LEVEL ROUND 3
Atlanta vs. Texas
The Atlanta Bouncers and Texas Ranchers started their day on Court 3 with a good ‘ol Southern square up. During Men’s Doubles, Texas duo Dylan Frazier and Travis Rettenmaier controlled the flow from the jump and fended off a comeback attempt from Atlanta’s Hunter Johnson and Pablo Tellez, finishing the game 22-20. Armed with a wicked two-hand backhand, Parris Todd helped her team bounce back alongside Women’s Doubles partner Simone Jardim, taking the match to an even 1-1. After Texas lassoed Atlanta to claim the first Mixed Doubles game, there was no stopping their determination to take the whole match. The fourth game was a real barnburner between Bouncer beaus Todd/Johnson and “ranch hands” Johnson/Rettenmaier. Rettenmaier nailed an Erne to make the game 24-23 and they finished the match on the next point.
Bay Area vs. Orlando
First up on Championship Court, it was a battle of the Sunshine State vs. the Golden State, and the Orlando Squeeze ladies brought the heat against the Bay Area Breakers, winning the first game 21-18. Zane Navratil’s no-no finger wag riled up Rafa Hewett who didn’t let much slide past him on the court after that, giving the Breakers the Men’s Doubles win. Orlando held on tight to a lead that began to evaporate towards the end of the first Mixed Doubles game, but kept a little juice in their paddles to calm the waves for a 22-20 win. The Squeeze rode that energy through to the end, as Navratil/Rohrabacher ended with a dominant 21-10 finish and match win.
Columbus vs. Miami
Over on Grandstand Court, Miami Pickleball Club and the Columbus Sliders began with a Women’s Doubles thriller. Tina Pisnik (filling in for Meghan Dizon) and Maggie Brascia of Columbus trailed 12-20 before slashing that deficit to tie things up at 20. It then took six game-point opportunities for Miami’s Allison Harris and Hurricane Tyra Black to quiet the Pisnik/Brascia comeback, ending their Women’s Doubles game 22-20. Using that atmospheric energy, Tyson McGuffin and Federico Staksrud led throughout the Men’s Doubles game. A combo of McGuffin speed-ups followed by Staksrud’s easy putaways had the Miami fans lovin’ the 21-16 finish. Down 0-2 in the match, Brascia/JW Johnson put on a mixed doubles masterclass and got Columbus on the board with a dominating 21-6 game against McGuffin/Harris. Ultimately, Staksrud/Black put a bow on the match for Miami, taking the fourth game, 21-12. A highlight came when Hurricane Tyra Black spun Collin Johns with her no-look backhand shot down the middle, which gave MPC an early 9-6 advantage.
Dallas vs. Utah
Dallas Pickleball Club came out swinging against the Utah Black Diamonds over on Court 3 as all team members played like their playoff bid depended on this match win…because it did! Kyle Yates was brought up from Challenger (NY Hustlers) to replace AJ Koller in this match for Utah, but he and Thomas Wilson fell short to DPC’s Jay Devilliers and James Ignatowich, 22-20. Allyce Jones and Callie Jo Smith played phenomenally, taking the Women’s Doubles match point with a decisive 21-12 finish over the powerful pair of Anna Leigh Waters and Irina Tereschenko. Devilliers/Smith brought their best stuff against Waters/Yates to capture the first Mixed Doubles game, 21-17, and sealed the match win for Dallas, 3 games to 1.
Arizona vs. Brooklyn
Brooklyn fans took their seats around Grandstand Court chanting “A-C-E-S” as Andrea Koop and Catherine Parenteau took on Vivienne David and Vivian Glozman of the AZ Drive. Brooklyn used a heavy dose of Parenteau guidance coupled with Koop’s put-aways to secure the Women’s Doubles point, 21-11. Dekel Bar and Julian Arnold offset that game by driving Arizona to a Men’s Doubles victory, 21-17. Arnold engaged in some friendly banter with Aces’ fans, making it clear that the Drive could hold their own with one of his signature “Andiamo” chest-beating moves after defending an Erne attempt from Tyler Loong. Brooklyn took the first Mixed Doubles point as Gabriel Tardio and Koop stormed out to an early 11-2 lead to knock out Arizona’s Bar/Glozman, 21-11. Arnold’s forehand flick body bag on Parenteau made the fourth game 20-15, which fired up the Aces to go on a 3-0 run, but the Drive couplet of Arnold/David put that momentum in reverse as they fought and won against Loong/Parenteau, 21-18. During the Dreambreaker, Parenteau led the charge for Brooklyn as she went 7-1 in her head-to-head match-up with David to help the Aces win a rip-roaring DB and ultimately, the match!
Chicago vs. D.C.
Rounding out Round 3 action on Championship Court, the Chicago Slice took on D.C. Pickleball Club for another match that ended with a Dreambreaker. After trading wins in the first three games, Ben Johns and Jessie Irvine took care of business to send the piping hot Slice and DCPC to a Dreambreaker. The Slice boxed it up with a decisive fifth game, and match win. Despite inking their first loss of the tournament, D.C. earned a bye and will make an appearance in Sunday’s Challenger Level Semifinals.
CHALLENGER LEVEL FINAL
Las Vegas vs. SoCal
With both the SoCal Hard Eights and the Las Vegas Night Owls entering the final as undefeated teams, the initial Women’s Doubles match was an equally tight back-and-forth at first. Eventually the boomerang defense of Ackerman/Barr proved too much for Newell/Radikowska’s fiery offense as Vegas took the first game 21-13. Flying into Men’s Doubles with that confidence, the Night Owls came out with an early lead until SoCal proved they would be HARD to beat, chipping away at the Vegas lead and walking into the third game with a 21-16 win under their paddles. In the first Mixed Doubles game, the teams traded points until the ladies took it upon themselves to fight for control of the match, dinking to each other followed by firefights galore. Vegas set the bar high and powered their way to a 21-16 win. Determined to end up on top, SoCal showed mental toughness and took the second Mixed Doubles game, 23-21, forcing a fifth game. After a 21-15 Dreambreaker battle, the Hard Eights emerged as the MLP Atlanta Challenger Level Champions. 17 year-old Carson “CJ” Klinger was named MVP after his skills proved essential to SoCal’s MLP Atlanta success.
PREMIER LEVEL QUARTERFINALS
Arizona (#5) vs. Bay Area (#4)
The Arizona Drive met up with the Bay Area Breakers on Championship Court with their tournament lives on the line. Arriving full of energy, Arnold and Bar took the Men’s Doubles game for the Drive, 21-18. The lady Breakers dug deep and came up over the top of Arizona with a harrowing 24-22 finish. With the match even at 1-1, the pendulum swung in either direction for the Mixed Doubles games. In the first, AZ’s Glozman/Bar faced the Bay Area’s Jansen/Hewett in a tit-for-tat fight that benefited the Breakers. The game was characterized by Hewett’s overhead slams, Jansen’s volleys, and stealth bombs over the net for both sides. The fourth game had it all – a Garnett body bag on David, emphatic “ANDIAMO” declarations from Arnold, and zingers from both sides of the net. After Garnett called a timeout when the Breakers were down 15-19, he and Wright clawed their way back to tie it up at 20. David/Arnold kicked it into high gear and sealed a Dreambreaker with an overtime score of 25-23. The Dreambreaker match-ups were fairly even as it was 11-9 Arizona at the changeover. A couple mistakes from Bay Area’s Hewett made it 14-9 Arizona, and it was just too much to come back from as the Drive took the match 3-2. When asked about his prediction for their Semifinal bid tomorrow, Arnold said the Drive plan to “squeeze” Orlando.
Miami (#6) vs. Chicago (#3)
Under the lights was the perfect setting for this epic showdown on Championship Court. Hurricane Tyra Black’s backhand volley tied the Women’s Doubles game at 10, which was met by a slick ATP from Irvine on the next rally. Harris proved Miami chose the right alternate after her reset and lob game set up Black for a killer forehand drop shot to tie the game at 18. The teamwork from these two was enough to narrowly overpower Chicago’s Irvine/Schneeman, 23-21. Echoing the electricity for Men’s Doubles, Miami’s Staksrud/McGuffin took turns firing up fans with dizzying firefights and a Federico Erne. Chicago’s Lange responded with a filthy forehand roll to give Chicago an 18-14 advantage, and despite Miami’s ability to creep back into a 22-21 lead, the Slice won crucial rallies down the stretch to take the second game. After Ben Johns converted a flying Bert early on and Harris got her jab in with a down-the-line shot at Johns, the Slice took the first Mixed Doubles game over McGuffin/Harris, 23-21. MPC’s Black/Staksrud answered the call, winning the last three rallies of their battle with Chicago’s Schneemann/Lange to send the last match of the day to a Dreambreaker. Boosted by chants of “Vamos, Vamos Federico!”, Staksrud took 7 of 8 points in his Dreambreaker matchup against Lange to lead Miami to a 21-14 victory, landing a seat in Sunday’s Semifinal against D.C.