MLP Dallas took place at Brookhaven Country Club, which is in Farmers Branch, a northwest suburb of Dallas. The venue looked awesome during the entire event and I didn’t hear many issues at all related to parking, bathrooms, etc.
The shadows seemed to play a smaller role than they did in MLP Atlanta, which is a good thing. With very little on the line in terms of relegation, standings for next year, or anything like that, the competition was still fierce.
Now, we'll examine some surprises and disappointments from each level of play at the event. Note: "Challenger" and "Premier" levels of play will not be a thing next year, according to a recent joint MLP/PPA Tour announcement.
Challenger Level Recap available here.
Surprises from MLP Dallas Challenger Level
The Frisco Pandas have broken the curse! Through the first four events in the 2023 calendar year in Major League Pickleball, the Frisco Pandas had never made the playoffs.
The team of Bobby Oshiro, Ryler DeHeart, Martina Frantova, and Andre Mick made it to the finals and lost in a heartbreaking Dreambreaker to the Hard Eights.
Kudos to the Pandas front office staff – it would have been very easy to blow the team up after MLP Atlanta and try something new, just to see what happened.
Instead, they said to themselves, "we have a good team, they just need time to gel." And gel they did.
With zero changes from MLP Atlanta, the Pandas trusted their players and the players rewarded that trust with a trip to the finals. The St. Louis Shock played very well and went undefeated in group play.
In Atlanta, they finished in 9th place going 1-2 in group play, and not making the playoffs. Just like the Pandas, the front office didn’t freak out, and they kept their entire original team together for MLP Dallas.
Nunnery is a stud and showed why he was the first overall Challenger Level draft pick.
The semi-finals with the Pandas was full of controversy and had two questionable referee calls that definitely swayed momentum in the direction of the Pandas.
The LA Mad Drops. In Atlanta, they went 0-3 and played terrible. During the Shuffle Draft they absolutely obliterated their team, only leaving Gabe Tardio standing from the first event in Atlanta.
Allison Harris, Cierra Gaytan-Leach, and Andreas Siljestrom, along with Tardio, made it to the semi-finals against the Hard Eights, after knocking off the BLQK Bears in the quarters.
I think this team has a chance to push the Hard Eights if they stay together for MLP San Clemente. Well done.
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Disappointments from the Challenger Level
I hate to put a disappointing team two times in a row, but the Milwaukee Mashers continue to disappoint.
DJ Young and Rianna Valdez are good enough talents when they are hot to carry a Challenger Level team.
With that in mind, they dropped Pesa Teoni in favor of Callan Dawson and dropped Christa Gecheva in favor of Riley Bohnert. In Atlanta, they went 2-1 and finished in 7th place, just one spot out of the playoffs.
After all these changes in Dallas, they finished at 1-2 and in 8th place. If I were their front office, I would stay put in the Shuffle Draft, trust the players, and ensure they practice together before MLP San Clemente. Making another large personnel change before San Clemente seems desperate to me.
The Las Vegas Night Owls, Seattle Pioneers, and the New Jersey 5s. Yes, I know they are three separate teams, but I am lumping them all into one category.
These three teams made the playoffs in Atlanta, and then finished MLP Dallas in 10th, 11th, and 12th place, with a combined record of 1-8 in group play.
I understand a slight drop off, but this seems more than that. I would expect at least two of these teams to make a Shuffle Draft pickup between now and MLP San Clemente.
The Challenger Level continues to produce some high level pickleball and through the first two events of Season 2, has been very fun to watch.
There is a lot of intrigue in Challenger with some lesser known players, the Shuffle Draft between events, and the atmosphere that MLP events produce.
Premier Level summary available here.
Surprises from the Premier Level
The Columbus Pickleball Team Sliders were a very welcome surprise.
- First, they didn’t have Maggie Brascia due to illness.
- They had to pick up an eligible Challenger Level woman to replace her and they were able to snag Megan Fudge.
- I really like this pickup both because Fudge is very good AND she brings some energy to the team, which it is lacking considerably.
- The Sliders (apparently named after the small hamburger? I don’t get it) started off Group B play poorly, losing to the DC Pickleball Team 3-1. But DC is great, so this was understandable.
Then in game two, versus the Bay Area Breakers, something amazing happened.
Collin Johns won a mixed doubles game. He played the left side, took about 70% of the court, and it almost looked like he had played mixed doubles before.
The Sliders went on to play the Aces in the quarterfinals on Saturday and lost a very closely contested match. It went to a Dreambreaker and they lost 22-24, so they were just two points away from making the semi-finals.
By the way, Johns and Fudge also won their mixed doubles game to force the Dreambreaker. These two mixed doubles wins for Johns may have just doubled his entire win number in mixed doubles in his career, and yes the pun is very much intended.
The Brooklyn Aces were my other good surprise from MLP Dallas.
- The Aces went 2-1 in pool play, then beat Columbus in the quarters.
- They had to play DC in the semi finals and to be honest, they got destroyed there. The three game scores were 16-21, 13-21, and 13-21.
- However, they have to be happy with their overall performance. In that last match against DC, Tyler Loong had one of the craziest gets on a Christian Alshon overhead I have ever seen in my life. You can watch it on Tyler’s Instagram here.
The Aces played very well and had a good MLP Dallas. I think they will carry that momentum into San Clemente and do well there as well.
Disappointments from the Premier Level
Overall, the biggest disappointment, without a doubt, had to be the vuvuzela horns throughout Championship Sunday. I would say 50% of the livestream chat on YouTube was regarding those horns.
FIFA has banned vuvuzelas at international matches, and MLP needs to follow suit. They were obnoxious after every single point.
Two straight events I have picked the Ranchers to go far. Two straight events I have been disappointed. In Atlanta, Dylan was super sick, so whatever, no big deal.
To be fair, they were definitely in the group of death this time around, but going 1-2 in group play and not making the playoffs for a second straight event has to be disappointing. I have learned my lesson - I am only picking the Ranchers in San Clemente if they are in an easier group.
Bay Area Breakers and the AZ Drive. I understand Etta Wright was out for the Breakers, but for these two playoff teams from Atlanta to finish 8th and 10th overall was just disappointing.
These two teams went a combined 2-4 and lost handily in some matches. The Premier Level is so hard because there is no shuffle draft or anything like that, and trade options are extremely limited. I expect at least one of these two teams to bounce back and make the playoffs in San Clemente.
How did my predictions hold up?
In my MLP Dallas Preview Article, I made predictions who would make it out of the group and then made a playoff bracket prediction.
Group Play: I got 3 out of the 6 playoff contenders correct. I correctly predicted that the Slice, DC, and Miami would make the playoffs. I missed on the Squeeze, Sliders, and the Aces.
Semis: I got 1 out of the 4 semi finalists correct. DC was my only correct guess in the semis. I was wrong in guessing Miami would beat DC.
To be fair, I did have DC winning the whole event, so I am happy I predicted the winner. I am unhappy with 3 out of 6 and 1 out of 4 picks in the playoffs, though.
MLP is so fun to watch. Things were so tight – literally two or three points can change whether a team makes the playoffs or not.
Erik Tice is a contributor who specifically focuses on articles related to Major League Pickleball. He started playing pickle in early 2022 and is passionate about helping the sport grow. Erik lives in Phoenix with his wife Megan and their two dogs, Mojo and Taz.