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Major League Pickleball

Winners, Losers, Top Plays and Everything You Might Have Missed From MLP Washington, D.C.

by Erik Tice on

This past weekend at the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation, Major League Pickleball took over the East Campus.

Some new players took big strides while some veterans were disappointing with their performances.

Here's everything you might have missed from the second event on the MLP calendar:

Top Five Plays from the Weekend

Jay Devilliers with the casual behind the back speedup reset winner in a mixed doubles match against the D.C. Pickleball Team:

Not one, BUT TWO SportsCenter Top 10 Plays this weekend:

Ben Johns with the unbelievable track down of a lob/reset to the back corner against the NY Hustlers:

A crazy point between the NY Hustlers and the St. Louis Shock:

Hurricane Tyra Black with the … "Did she even play tennis?" forehand flop-shot winner:

Biggest Premier Level Winners

NY Hustlers – The Hustlers were BAD in MLP Atlanta. They finished in last place in the Premier Level, playing four matches and only earning three points for an average of .75 points per match.

Fastforward to MLP Washington D.C., and the Hustlers seemed to have heard the skeptics and turned their mojo around. The Hustlers won three matches in regulation in D.C. and another three in Dreambreakers, earning themselves 15 points. So they went from 0.75 points per match in Atlanta, to 2.5 points per match in D.C.

Here is the craziest part of the whole story: Jack Sock, the sixth-overall drafted star, was rated as the eighth-worst player in the Premier Level at MLP Washington D.C. 

Imagine how good NY can be by the end of the year if Jack continues to improve his doubles game? Sock continues to miss easy forehand dinks in doubles and if he can clean some of that up, the Hustlers are VERY dangerous.

The Hustlers were led by Lea Jansen and Jackie Kawamoto, who won 5 out of 6 women’s doubles matches. CJ and Jackie also won 4 of 6 matches in mixed doubles. 

The Hustlers are now averaging 1.8 points per match over the course of the season and looking like real contenders.

Quang Duong and the Texas Ranchers – Well done and kudos to Ryan Dawidjan! Christian Alshon wasn’t able to go for MLP D.C., forcing the Texas Ranchers’ GM into making a tough decision on who to pick up for the event. He went with a very unproven doubles player in Quang Duong and it paid off.

In my preview of the event, I said he would be a big step down in mixed doubles and definitely a step down in men’s. Was he as good as Christian Alshon? Absolutely not. Was he a REALLY GOOD fill in sub in the Premier Level? YES.

Duong went 4-6 in doubles on the weekend, helping the Ranchers to seven points in their five matches. I thought a realistic number of points for the Ranchers would be four or five. Instead, they averaged 1.4 points per match.

I would expect Duong to get picked up on Thursday in the first round of waivers in the Challenger Level.

MLP Teams Who Could be Making Moves - and the Players They Could be After
Some rosters could look a little different after MLP Washington D.C., when the first waiver period takes place. We look at which teams could make moves and which players could potentially be involved.

Not shocking to anyone, Tina Pisnik led the way for the Ranchers, winning 70 percent of her matches while playing mixed doubles with Duong. The Ranchers are a really good team – averaging 1.44 points per match – and are in the playoff hunt while not at full strength.

Dallas Flash – The Flash entered MLP D.C. in fourth place in terms of points per match following MLP Atlanta. In Atlanta, they earned seven points in four matches, for a 1.8 points-per-match average. They followed that up in D.C. with nine points in four matches, for an average of 2.25 per match.

The pun is very much intended here – the Dallas Flash is definitely not the flashiest team out there. JW, Jorja, Augie and Tyra are not the most vocal players in MLP. They very rarely make emotional outbursts and don't make a ton of highlight-reel plays. They do one thing very well, though – win.

When all four players on your team are in the top-seven rated players for an event, I think that anyone would count that as a win. They won three of their four matches, only losing to the NY Hustlers. 

Not only did they win three matches in regulation, they STOMPED their competition in their three wins:

  • Friday: Beat Carolina Pickleball Club, 3-1, only losing the last mixed doubles match by two when the outcome didn’t really matter
  • Sunday: Beat the Utah Black Diamonds, 4-0
  • Sunday: Beat the Texas Ranchers, 4-0

The Flash seem to be firing on all cylinders and will be bringing the momentum of two back-to-back 4-0 wins with them to the Mid-Season Tournament in July.

Note: The Saturday night match between the Dallas Flash and D.C. Pickleball Team was postponed and moved to a different event due to timing and lighting issues.

Biggest Challenger Level Winners

Kaitlyn Kerr and the Las Vegas Night Owls - When the Challenger Level Draft results were announced, I liked the ladies on the Night Owls, I liked the Anderson Scarpa pick and I was skeptical of the Mo Alhouni pick.

And now I am a converted man. Mo Alhouni is GREAT for MLP – he brings a ton of energy and is a very good Challenger Level player.

The Night Owls went 5-0 in D.C., earning themselves 11 points in their opening match. The Night Owls are averaging 2.2 points per match now, well on their way to making the playoffs to get promoted to Premier Level next year.

The ladies really carried the team throughout the weekend, winning four of their five gender doubles matches, only losing the fifth, 25-27, to the Florida Smash. If the Night Owls can figure out how to win a few more mixed doubles matches per event, they are going to be dangerous.

Every MLP team wants to bring energy and their players, owners, GMs, coaches, etc., all do that in different ways. Kaitlyn Kerr is the real deal. She drafted the team and was on the sidelines the entire tournament. You could hear her positive encouragement throughout the event and it seemed to really help the team be a cohesive unit.

Todd 'Freaking' Fought and the Atlanta Bouncers – If I got a way-too-early Challenger Level MVP vote, I would cast it for Todd Fought. The Bouncers left MLP Atlanta finished tied for fifth in points per match at 1.25. 

They played much better in D.C., earning 10 points in four matches for an average of 2.5 points per match. 

Overall on the weekend, Fought scored 200 doubles points and only gave up 133. That means he won 60 percent of his doubles points while going 8-0 on the weekend. Fought’s average scoreline in all of his doubles matches in D.C. was better than 25-17 – unheard of.

In addition to Todd stepping up and being the best player in D.C., Angie Walker played much better as well. She won three mixed doubles games with Jaume and played well again in Dreambreakers. Prior to D.C., I predicted Atlanta may drop Walker on Thursday, but I am rescinding that statement now - Walker belongs on the Bouncers. And if Walker and Erokhina can start figuring out how to win some women’s doubles games, this team is going to be unstoppable.

Biggest Premier Level Losers

Utah Black Diamonds

The Black Diamonds got off to a slow start. This event was not set up well for them for three reasons:

  • This was their first event playing together – they were one of the teams that skipped MLP Atlanta
  • Jay Devilliers was coming off a bad ankle injury and we weren’t sure how he would fare
  • Utah played four matches against four of the best teams in MLP - Texas Ranchers, D.C. Pickleball Team, NY Hustlers, and Dallas Flash

With all of that being true – the Black Diamonds had a rough weekend. Out of the 16 games they played, the Black Diamonds won three games (3-13) for a winning percentage of 19 percent. 

When all four players are in the bottom five in terms of player rankings from an event, you know there was a problem. Not only did Utah lose all four matches, it didn’t even make it to a Dreambreaker in any of them, earning zero points on the weekend.

Utah has an up-and-comer in Alix Truong, who has a higher ceiling than most women at her level. But she is going to go through growing pains in MLP. 

Carolina Pickleball Club – The Seattle Pioneers rebranded earlier in the week to become the Carolina Pickleball Club prior to MLP Washington D.C. That may have been the most exciting part of the weekend for Carolina. 

When you have Ben Johns on your team you are looking to win, and win BIG. Instead, Carolina only got five points in five matches, averaging a point a match. 

Here is the problem: When you rely on Ben Johns to get you two game wins, you also have to hope that the women’s doubles team can get some wins or the other guy can get some wins. That is not the case right now for Carolina.

They cannot rely on Collin Johns to win mixed doubles matches. So they really needed the women to hold up and win some matches and they did not do that. The veteran team of Jessie Irvine and Andrea Koop went 0-5 in their women’s doubles matches.

In addition to the doubles problems, this is NOT a good Dreambreaker team, losing three of their four Dreambreakers in D.C. In their Dreambreaker against the Shock in their last match, Koop looked dejected and her teammates didn’t even make eye contact with her.

This team needs a shake up really badly and I expect them to make a move with at least one of the women on the team.

Biggest Challenger Level Losers

Florida Smash – Travis Rettenmaier is really having problems this year in MLP. In Atlanta he was extremely sick, but powered through his issues. 

In D.C., Rettenmaier was the second-to-last ranked player in the event, winning 2 of his 8 matches while only winning 45 percent of his points. The Smash can’t be contenders with their best player playing poorly. 

Yes, the Smash have an excuse, as Yates Johnson filled in for the injured Pat Smith, but they were hoping for much better results in D.C. Earning a total of five points in four matches is not going to get the Smash into playoff contention for promotion in 2025. 

So far this year, the Smash have earned nine points in seven matches for a 1.29 point-per-match average. The Smash is going to have to average at least 1.5 points per match moving forward in order to be a contender for the playoffs.

California Black Bears – The Black Bears were another victim of injury in D.C., with DJ Young developing a wrist injury prior to the event. The Black Bears picked up Spencer Smith as Young’s replacement.

The D.C. event did not go well for the Black Bears – so much so that the highest-rated player at the event for the Black Bears was Smith, the replacement. The Black Bears earned four points in seven matches for an average of 0.57 points per match.

Here is the crux of the problem for the Black Bears: Emily Cederquist (formerly Ackerman) and Rafa Hewett did not play well. As veterans of MLP, and without their captain (DJ Young), the Black Bears expected these two to step up, and they just didn’t do it.

The Black Bears made this video for their players before the D.C. event and you can tell it meant a lot to them:

Cederquist went 5-9 in her matches and so did Hewett, for a 35 percent match win percentage. They only won two of their seven mixed doubles matches, but at least it was the last two. Hopefully the Black Bears will take some momentum from the 4-0 win over the Chicago Slice going into the Mid-Season Tournament.

Chicago Slice – Speaking of the Slice, they were all over the place this weekend in D.C., and not in a good way. They played three matches, losing their first two in a Dreambreaker, and then getting blanked, 4-0, by the California Black Bears. The Slice only earned two points from their three matches in D.C.

Kelsey Grambeau had a tough outing, going 0-6 and winning only 41 percent of her points. She lost all three gender doubles games and all three mixed doubles with Jack Munro.

Munro, the Slice’s first round draft pick, went 2-4 overall in his doubles matches, only winning 46 percent of his points. Allison Harris also had nearly identical numbers to Munro. You cannot win many matches with your first- and second-round picks playing with those numbers.

The good news for the Slice is this was their first event and they only had to play three matches. Although the outcome wasn’t optimal, there is room for improvement.

Complete Results From MLP Washington, D.C.

Premier


Top Premier Players


Bottom Premier Players


Challenger

Top Challenger Players

Bottom Challenger Players

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Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

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