The Orlando Squeeze made a bold move back in July. Something that no one saw coming. They traded out of the third spot in the draft.
They traded out of the automatic pick to land the second-best men's player in the world, Riley Newman. A spot most teams would be dying to get into.
With their newly acquired fifth pick, the Squeeze placed their bet on Anna Bright.
The trade was with the DC Pickleball Team and as luck would have it, the Squeeze and DC met in the finals in Atlanta.
On Sunday the final 4 teams of MLP faced off in Atlanta. Let's start with the semifinals.
Semifinal - Orlando vs Arizona
Bright and early this morning, the Squeeze started the match against the AZ Drive. The match actually got moved to the earlier time slot because the Miami Pickleball Club was on the court so late finishing their quarterfinal on Saturday.
The Squeeze split games with the Drive trading points back and forth. The Squeeze won in women's, the Drive won in men's, back and forth all the way to a tiebreak Dreambreaker.
Andrei Daescu and Zane Navratil shut down the efforts of two high-level singles players, Julian Arnold and Dekel Bar. The Squeeze rolled in the Dreambreaker 21-10.
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Semifinal - Miami vs DC
Miami's nightlife energy propelled them to a win in the quarterfinals. In the light of the day, however, Miami could not find the same magic. The Kawamotos set the tone and smothered Miami from the start.
Christian Alshon and Riley Newman closed out a tight men's match be Alshon and Jackie Kawamoto put the finishing touches on the match in mixed. The DC club won in a dominant 3-0 fashion.
DC entered the finals with a 65% advantage according to DUPR. They looked unbeatable in the semifinal and had one of the top players in the world looking for blood.
Again, DC stormed in a took control of the match. The Kawamotos cooled the fire of Anna Bright and Rachel Rohrabacher. This put DC right where they wanted to be.
They could count on Riley Newman to win his two games and close out the match. He and Alshon made good in men's. They cleaned up 21-12.
The Squeeze rolled out their A team, Daescu and Bright to try to stay alive. DC matched with their B team leaving Riley for game 4.
Alshon and Jackie Kawamoto were inches away from ending the match themselves and upsetting the A team. They had Championship Point on their paddle. Bright and Daescu however eeeked out the win to keep the team alive.
The Squeeze sent out Zane Navratil and their rookie Rohrabacher to take on Newman. Rohrabacher wasn't intimidated by the DC stud. She came out firing and landed an ATP to start the match.
Newman and Kawamoto tried to isolate Rohrabacher again and again but the rookie was up for the test in dink rallies and firefights. She and Navratil held on to a lead throughout the game.
The pressure rested on Newman's shoulders. You could see the tension building as Newman started barking back and forth with James Ignatowich (Anna Bright's special friend) in the crowd.
The Squeeze managed to close the match on a toe toe-to-toe hands battle between Rohrabacher and Newman. The win pushed the match to a final Dreambreaker.
The momentum, the crowd, and the luck were all on the side of the Squeeze. They couldn’t miss a shot in the tiebreaker and earned the young franchise their first MLP title. The cherry on top? Bright was crowned MVP.
- Rohrabacher more than earned her stripes in Atlanta. She looks like a steal in the fourth round for Orlando. The best part, she's only going to get better between now and November.
- Julian Arnold lived up to his seventh overall draft pick. He finished first in point differential throughout the weekend.
- Hurricane Tyra Black exceeded expectations. She played great alongside substitute Allison Harris and helped Miami reach the semifinals.
- Group B was stacked. Will things look different in November where we can assume the top 3 won't land in the same group?
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