A Recap of MLP Daytona: Fun in the Sun

MLP Daytona day1 mobile
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

What a weekend in the beautiful Sunshine state as once again Major League Pickleball continues to deliver for its fans. We saw several major storylines unfold over the four action packed days so let’s dive into what stood out the most.

Do Dreambreakers Matter?

One of the storylines after draft night was if drafting singles players should be an integral part of a team’s strategy. We saw multiple teams neglect the need for players with strong singles resumes, opting to go with the best available talent or the best doubles fit on the board. On the other hand we saw others draft more versatile players who could do both, knowing that if it went to a tiebreaker they would be in the driver's seat to capture a victory. In Daytona 20 of 36 group play matches in both the premier and challenger leagues went to dreambreakers. In other words over 50% of the matches played were knotted at 2-2 and went to singles tiebreakers. To say having capable singles pieces is important would be an understatement. The only surprising upset was the Hard 8s defeating the 5s in Friday’s group play action, as four of their players don’t regularly participate in singles. However, they lost the next two dreambreakers they played in and missed out on the playoffs because of it. When the first half of the season concludes in June best believe GMs of both leagues will be putting more of an emphasis on dreambreakers than they did previously.

 The Shuffle Draft

The challenger league had a shuffle draft on March 4th that allowed teams to add players that were not previously drafted in favor of players already on their roster. When the results were revealed to the public it became clear that multiple teams were unhappy with their current positions in the standings. 7 of 12 challenger teams made moves to shake up their rosters. 4 of the 6 teams that left Mesa in the bottom half of standings were able to reverse course and secure a playoff spot in Daytona. The Dallas PB Club and the Miami PB Club made the biggest leaps, earning the 2nd and 3rd seeds in the playoff bracket. They finished 10th and 11th after the first event in Arizona. The additions of Daniel del Rosa/Jill Braverman (Dallas) & Brendon Long (Miami) were significant as they were not only upgrades in talent but also seemed to give their respective squads an emotional on-court lift as well, something we know can be key to MLP success. Expect teams like the DC PB Club & the AZ Drive to continue to tinker with their rosters (they are the only two teams yet to make the playoffs in two events) before the full redraft happens after the third event in San Clemente.

Key Injuries

We saw the impact of missing players in Mesa, as both Riley Newman (Hard 8s) and Maggie Brascia (BLQK) were both absent for their respective teams. As a result BLQK finished 7th and the Hard 8s 9th. On Friday we got news that Thomas Wilson of the LA Mad Drops would be missing due to a wrist injury. His replacement was Atlanta Bouncers first round pick Hunter Johnson. On Saturday, Tyson McGuffin of the New York Hustlers was a late scratch with an injury and his replacement was Brendon Long of the Miami PB Club. The question was would the Mad Drops and the Hustlers suffer the same fate as the Hard 8s and team BLQK? Although they were unable to repeat the same type of success, both teams made the playoffs, finishing 4th and 5th in the standings at the conclusion of the weekend. It begs the question of how wide the talent gap is between the bottom of the premier league and the top of the challenger league? We'll have to wait and see if the redraft favors more challenger league players near the end of the draft or if teams decide to stick with players already participating in premier.

How Valuable is Ben?

With two MLP events in the books Ben Johns’ record is 15–1 in doubles matches and he currently leads all players with a player point differential of 55.53%. He was also able to capture the title in Daytona as his team avoided playing in the vaunted dreambreaker in the knockstage. Given that Ben is guaranteed to give any team he plays on 2 wins you have to imagine he is a shoe in to be the #1 pick in the redraft. In a format where a team only needs 2 wins to force a tiebreaker and 3 wins to win the match, having someone like Ben leading the way is the biggest advantage there is in MLP. 

What Goes up Must Come Down

As we alluded to earlier there is some current challenger league talent that will definitely be making their move up to the premier league when the season hits the halfway point. The question is not only who goes up but also who comes down? After two events and taking into account MLP performance and current form we believe Pablo Tellez is a lock on the male side. Pablo has won two titles with the Bay Area Breakers. He has not only finished top 10 in player point differential twice but also plays the right side (a much more coveted position in premier given that the top premier league players mostly play the left).  Also Pablo is more than a formidable singles player and we know by now how much dreambreakers matter. On the female side Ewa Radikowska and Emily Ackerman were the only two players to land in the top ten in player point differential in both Mesa and Daytona. They may hear their names called amongst the top 48 players when the second draft takes place.

Daytona Team Winners

  1. Seattle Pioneers: They were able to build off their semi final appearance in Mesa and capture the title in Daytona.
  1. California BLQK: With the return of Maggie Brascia we saw a much more balanced doubles lineup to couple with their top notch singles lineup. They fell just short in the finals to the Pioneers.
  1. LA Mad Drops: Even with Thomas Wilson missing in action the Mad Drops were able to make a run to the semifinals. Hunter Johnson was a surprising bright spot finishing 14th in player point differential. Given the Wilson news this was a great result for the Mad Drops..
  1. Bay Area Breakers: They repeat as Challenger league champions. We may see 2 or 3 of their players end up in the premier league when the redraft takes place.
  1. Dallas PB Club: Dallas was the most active team during the shuffle draft and earned the most improved award. They went from 10th to 2nd on the back of new addition Daniel del la Rosa.

Daytona Player Winners

  1. Hayden Patriquin: Patriquin makes the biggest leap in the player point differential rankings going from 39th to 2nd from Mesa to Daytona. He was fantastic all week winning handles battles and keeping opponents off balance.
  1. Meghan Dizon: The tournament MVP does not partner with Ben Johns so she has to carry more of the load than Wright and Loong. She played both the right and left side well and was one of the main reasons why Seattle won the title
  1. Dylan Frazier: He continues to get better and better. Not only can he play singles with the best of them he can also play the left in mixed and is the best ride side male doubles player in pickleball right now.
  1. Pablo Tellez: Tellez has now won two titles with the Bay Area Breakers, landing in the top 10 in player point differential in both events. He should hear his name called in the premier league draft next go around.
  1. Hunter Johnson: Johnson went from an 0-3 performance in the challenger league to helping the Mad Drops reach the semifinals in premier. No one’s draft stock moved up quite as much as his over the weekend as he proved he can hang with the game’s best.

Live Standings Overview

mlp standings
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

For those who are unaware, at the conclusion of the six MLP events this year the top twelve teams across both leagues will play all of 2024 in the premier league. As it stands now here is a look at the leaderboard. Note: teams with the same scores are placed in the correct order as there are tiebreakers to decide the higher ranked team. You can read more about the three different tiebreakers on the MLP website.

Day 2

Day 2 at MLP Daytona delivered in a major way for pickleball fans all over the world. Here’s a quick recap of Friday’s premier league action in case you missed it.

Group A Day 2 Results

BLQK 2-0: We highlighted how potent this singles lineup was as they won two dreambreakers behind Frazier, Staksrud and Brascia. As long as they stay close with the Mashers they’ll earn a playoff berth.

Pioneers 1-1: The Pioneers stumbled vs team BLQK. Johns took his first doubles loss of the MLP season which forced a dreambreaker where it was Johns that didn’t have any answers for Frazier. 

Mashers 1-1: The Mashers hold serve losing to the Pioneers 0-4 and sweeping the Clean Cause 4-0. Smith/Kovalova still haven’t quite found their MLP rhythm.They’ll have to at least beat BLQK 3-1 to have a chance at advancing. They ironically sent BLQK home in Mesa on overall team point differential.

Clean Cause 0-2: A very flawed roster fails to get its first win falling to 0-5 in MLP. They get what should be an angry Seattle Pioneers next. Make it 0-6 for the Cause.

Group B Day 2 Results

NY Hustlers 1-1: The Hustlers swept the Night Owls, coming from behind in three of their four doubles matches. Their rematch with the 5s lived up to the hype, only this time the 5s got revenge and won the dreambreaker 21-18. The Bright/Mcguffin pairing is still a question mark that continues to go unanswered. 

The 5s 1-1: The 5s stayed true to form, playing their 5th and 6th dreambreakers of the MLP season. Jansen and Ignatowich didn’t bring their best so leaving 1-1 wasn’t the worst possible outcome. The MVP of the day was Hayden Patriquin. He finished 1st overall in player point differential.

So Cal Hard 8s 1-1: Arguably the worst dreambreaker roster in the group beats the best in the 5s. However, they weren’t so lucky against the Night Owls losing in a dreambreaker 21-15. They get the Hustlers for a spot in the playoff bracket.

LV Night Owls 1-1: Down 0-1 and with a loss already under their belts the Night Owls were able to find their top gear on the back of veteran Kyle Yates. It will be win or go home against the New Jersey 5s.

Group C Day 2 Results

St Louis Shock 2-0: Jardim/Jones continued their dominance and are now 4-0 as an MLP team. Jay Devilliers was the x-factor as he brought a level of aggression and consistency we haven’t seen from him this year. 

LA Mad Drops 1-1: Thomas Wilson was a late scratch due to a wrist injury. His replacement was Hunter Johnson from the challenger league who stepped up in a big way, finishing 11th in player point differential.They split dreambreakers and will have to beat the Shock to keep their title hopes alive.

ATX Pickleballers 1-1: We saw a more spirited effort out of JW Johnson, as he commanded more of the middle of the court. The Kawamotos were solid but the youngster Tardio was streaky in the big moments.

Florida Smash 0-2: Irvine & Johnson’s recent form in women’s doubles carried over. 0-4 in gender doubles put the Smash in early holes that they were unable to climb out of. They’ll need to get off to a fast start vs ATX or their fate is sealed.

Day 1

Wow... what a wild MLP Daytona day 1! We can’t wait to see what is in store over the next few days but before we jump to Friday’s action we have to recap what we saw on Thursday. The Challenger league players really brought the heat so let’s break it all down.

Group A

Mesa Recap

Bay Area Breakers 5-0 1st (Won MLP Mesa)

Orlando Squeeze 2-2 5th (Lost QF 2-3 to Atlanta)

Arizona Drive 1-2 9th (Missed Playoff)

Dallas PB Club 10th (Missed Playoff)

Notable Moves

Dallas PB: Dropped Chuck Taylor for Daniel De La Rosa. Traded Megan  Fudge to Columbus for Jill Braverman

AZ Drive: Andreas Siljestrom injured, Pesa Teoni in as his replacement. Dropped Sarah Burr for Heather Nobler.

Thursday Results

Bay Area Breakers 3-0 #1 seed

Dallas PB 2-1 #2 seed 

Orlando Squeeze 1-2

Arizona 0-3


Bay Area Breakers: The Breakers go 3-0 in group play in defense of their title. After going up 2-0 in gender doubles against the Orlando Squeeze they let off the gas pedal and found themselves at 2-2 after mixed and in a dreambreaker. With Pablo Tellez and Christian Alshon both being expert singles players they are easily able to close them out winning 21-13. It was smooth sailing from there as they beat the AZ Drive 3-1 and the Dallas PB Club 3-2. Both Tellez and Alshon may find themselves in the premier league sooner rather than later. Add in the fact that both their female players Ewa Radzikowska and Rachel Summers are very consistent this is the team to beat in the Challenger league. If this team has any weakness, it’s mixed—they finished 2-4 on the day but it might not matter with how good their gender doubles and singles lineups are.

Dallas PB: The Dallas PB Club was clearly not very happy with their 10th place finish in Mesa as they were the most active team during the Challenger league shuffle draft, trading Meagan Fudge for Jill Braverman and adding Daniel de la Rosa in favor of Chuck Taylor. Those moves paid early dividends as they beat the AZ Drive and Orlando Squeeze before falling to the champion Bay Area Breakers. The offensive ability De La Rosa brings jumps off the screen and is an upgrade over the more conservative conventional style that Chuck Taylor likes to play. Nice response by Dallas to make it to the knockout round.

Orlando Squeeze: The Squeeze were able to push the Bay Area Breakers to a dreambreaker but singles is their Achillies heel, as none of their four players play singles. The Squeeze then fell on the outer courts to the Dallas PB club 1-3 before defeating the AZ Drive 3-1 on grandstand. This roster lacks offensive firepower in a format that demands it. Rettger, Oshiro and Dawson all like to play grind it out styles of pickleball and often don’t scare opponents when they decide to initiate offense. No surprise they go 1-2 and miss the playoffs given the lack of versatility on the roster.

AZ Drive: Andreas Siljestrom was a late scratch and his replacement was the lefty out of Arizona Pesa Teoni. This was Teoni’s first appearance in MLP and he proceeded to go 0-6 in all of his matches. The Drive were clearly missing the big man Siljestrom as he finished 15th in overall player point differential in Mesa. We were surprised that Wes Burrows, who has plenty of MLP experience, didn’t give this team more of a lift but he doesn’t play much of a pro schedule anymore so the lack of high level reps was definitely noticeable. They did finish with two women’s doubles victories so the move to Nobler over Burr looks to be a positive one moving forward.

Group B

Mesa Recap

Utah Black Diamonds 4-2 2nd (Lost in Final to the Breakers)

Chicago Slice 3-1 3rd (Lost in Semifinals to Utah Black Diamonds)

DC PB Club 1-2 8th (Missed Playoff)

Miami PB Club 0-3 11th (Missed Playoff)

Notable Moves

Miami PB Club: Dropped Matt Manasse for Brendon Long

DC Pickleball: Dropped Monica Paolicetti for Amanda Hendry

Thursday Results

Utah Black Diamonds 2-1

Chicago Slice 2-1 #5 seed

DC PB 0-3

Miami PB 2-1 #3 seed


Utah Black Diamonds: We only got to see Utah on the live stream once today. On the outer courts they snuck by the Chicago Slice 3-2 in a dreambreaker. A bit of a surprise given the singles ability of both Garnett and De Heart, They then run into the Miami PB Club and lose 1-3. Each match was extremely close but the duo of Troung/Warnick was able to seal victory late.  They prevail in their last match against the DC PB Club 3-2 in a dreambreaker that wasn’t close. They didn't advance based on net match differential, a disappointing result for a team that made a run to the finals in Mesa. They have to be frustrated after going up 2-0 on DC before dropping both mixed doubles matches. Not closing it out 3-1 or 4-0 ended up being the difference.

Chicago Slice: The Slice lost a tough opening dreambreaker to the Utah Black Diamonds before playing possibly the best match we saw all day on championship court against the DC PB club. DC was up 19-15 in the final mixed match and were up 2-1 on the scoreboard. Querrey/Hendry got noticeably tight and De Heart/Ackerman were able to steal a late victory 24-22. They then proceeded to win a tight dreambreaker 22-20 on the back of youngster Connor Garnett. Garnett was matched up against Stefan Auvergne, who must have missed the scouting report on Garnett’s backhand. The Slice clinched their playoff spot by defeating Miami 3-1 in the third and final match. De Heart/Garnett go 0-3 on the day in men’s doubles and have to find chemistry quickly if they want a chance of winning it all.

DC PB: DC PB ends up at the bottom of the group going 0-3 on the day. After an opening 0-4 loss to Miami, they lost in two dreambreakers to the Slice and Black Diamonds. Querrey is definitely improving, showing better doubles instincts but is still lacking consistency in his shot selection, something that will continue to hinder DC’s chances of making a playoff push given that he was the #1 overall pick in the challenger league. The fit next to Auvergne looked awkward at times as both players like to be aggressive. They never found a rhythm going 1-2 on the day.

Miami: Miami pulled its way out of the bottom of the standings and made the playoffs. They opened up strong with a 4-0 over the DC pickleball club. They backed it up with an even bigger win over Mesa finalists the Utah Black Diamonds 3-1 before falling to the Chicago Slice 1-3. What a difference a few months makes. The addition of Brendon Long gave them a true #1 male on the one line which they desperately needed. Alix Truong and Regina Goldberg were solid all day but I was truly impressed with this team’s energy level. They had a lot to prove and played with a chip on their shoulder all day.

Mesa Recap

Brooklyn Aces 1-3 6th (Lost in Quarterfinals to Utah Black Diamonds)

Texas Ranchers 1-2 7th (Missed Playoff)

Columbus PB Club 0-3 12th (Missed Playoff)

Atlanta PB 4-1 4th (Lost in Semifinals to Bay Area Breakers)

Notable Moves

Texas Ranchers: Dropped Steve Deakin for Scott Doerner

Brooklyn Aces: Dropped Cierra Gayton Leach for Hurricane Tyra Black

Columbus PB: Dropped Becky Ryan for Meagan Fudge via trade w/ Dallas for Jill Braverman

Thursday Results

Brooklyn Aces 2-1

Texas Ranchers 2-1 #6 seed

Columbus PB 2-1 #4 seed

Atlanta PB 0-3


Brooklyn Aces:

The Aces luckily snuck by the Texas Ranchers on the back of Rob Nunnery who was dominant in men’s doubles. New addition Tyra Black looked solid and played with Corinne Carr (who is 7 months pregnant). Carr sealed the victory in the dreambreaker. They went on to lose to Columbus PB 1-3 and beat the Atlanta Bouncers 3-1 to finish with a 2-1 record. They lost out on a playoff berth by the slightest of margins to the Texas Ranchers (winning 50.63% of their points while the Ranchers won 50.70%). Going 1-5 in mixed doubles didn’t help their cause.

Texas Ranchers: They started off the day losing a heartbreaking dreambreaker 23-21 to the Brooklyn Aces, with veteran Lee Whitwell making two costly errors on returns late. We wondered how they would respond and they did by winning the next two dreambreakers they played against the Atlanta Bouncers and Columbus PB Club. Doerner looked like he belonged in the Challenger league so it looks like all the teams on the bottom of the standings did their homework for the shuffle draft. Wild day for the Ranchers playing three dreambreakers but props to them for coming through under pressure.

Columbus PB: What a turnaround for last place Columbus PB who really looked like a team of misfits after Mesa. The addition of Megan Fudge brought some stability to their lineup but the play of the youngster CJ Klinger is what carried them to the playoffs as he went 6-0 on the day and was a force on the right side. Milan Rane also stepped up playing the left in mixed with CJ. Nice run by Columbus today as they earn the 4 seed heading into the knockstage tomorrow.

Atlanta PB: The most disappointing team of the day was the Atlanta Bouncers who finished 0-3 on the day. They lost two dreambreakers to Columbus PB and the Texas Ranchers 21-8 and 21-10. For a roster full of singles players that includes Hunter Johnson, Ben Newell, and Brooke Buckner we aren’t entirely sure what happened. They seemed to roll over in their 3rd match against the Aces losing 1-3 with some crooked numbers in doubles. I’m sure some of their top players had aspirations of playing in the premier league but this performance certainly won’t help their case.

Top 5 Storylines:

  1. 4 of the 6 teams in the playoff bracket missed the playoffs in Mesa. 
  1. Shuffle Draft Player The additions of Megan Fudge (Columbus) Scott Doerner (Ranchers) Daniel de la Rose & Jill Braverman (Dallas) and Brendon Long (Miami PB club) all help their teams pull out of the bottom group of six and make the playoffs. The shuffle draft impact was huge.
  1. Sam Querrey is getting better but he is still far away from where he needs to be skill wise to be a #1 male in the Challenger league.
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