MLP Daytona Group B Preview

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Are you wondering who the favorite is in MLP Daytona Group B? Let's break it all down!

As the pickleball world gets set to descend back on to the Sunshine State for MLP Daytona, we figured it would be a good time to get everybody up to speed on what to look out for.

Related: MLP Daytona Group A Preview

Here's the current state of Group B, including a recap of MLP Mesa and some predictions of how we see it all playing out in Daytona!

MLP Daytona Group A

Mesa Recap

New York Hustlers 3-3 (Finals Loss to LA Mad Drops 1-3)

New Jersey 5s 3-1 5th Place (QF Loss to NY Hustlers 2-3)

So Cal Hard 8s 1-2 9th Place (missed playoff)

Las Vegas Night Owls 1-2 11th Place (missed playoff)

Group Overview:

When this group was announced it was nicknamed by many as the group of death. Not only does it include the NY Hustlers and New Jersey 5s, two powerhouse playoff teams that played in one of the best MLP matches we have seen to date, but also the So Cal Hard 8s who were without their superstar first round pick Riley Newman in Mesa. Some of the biggest names in pickleball (Tyson Mcguffin, Anna Bright, Anna Leigh Waters, Riley Newman) will face off in what will be the most entertaining group to watch in Daytona. Will whoever makes it out of this group have enough energy to make a run at the MLP title? We’ll have to wait and see but for now let’s break down their stats in Mesa and make some predictions on who comes out on top.

Las Vegas Night Owls

las vegas night owls

Round 1: Vivienne David (9th pick)

Round 2: Dekel Bar (16th pick)

Round 3: Lauren Stratman(26th pick)

Round 4: Kyle Yates (47th pick)

We kick off Group B with the Las Vegas Night Owls who finished 1-2 in Mesa and enter Daytona in 11th place based on overall team point differential. One of the main storylines after the draft was why they decided to build their team around Vivienne David and Dekel Bar who were mixed doubles partners in 2022 and didn’t end their partnership on the best of terms. It didn’t seem to affect them too much as Bar/David left Mesa with a 2-1 record in mixed doubles losing only to the duo of Ben Johns/Etta Wright. This is a balanced team on paper with a lot of experience and they’ll have to lean on that if they want to escape this group and earn their first playoff berth of 2023.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

47.27% (11th): The Night Owls finished 2nd to last in team point differential just ahead of the Frisco Clean Cause

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. Vivienne David: 42nd (46.69%)
  2. Dekel Bar: 33rd (47.98%)
  3. Lauren Stratman: 31st (48.00%)
  4. Kyle Yates: 38th: (47.37%)

Mesa Team Match Results (6-7)

  1. NY Hustlers 3-2
  2. ATX 2-3
  3. Seattle Pioneers 1-3

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1. Vivienne David 3-3
  2. Dekel Bar 3-3
  3. Lauren Stratman 2-4
  4. Kyle Yates 2-4


The Las Vegas Night Owls’ draft strategy was to alternate girl guy picks and build a balanced roster with lineup flexibility. All four players are far from pickleball newcomers, having all turned pro before 2021. However the lack of youth leaves them with a low ceiling, high floor roster and in a group with so much up and coming talent the Owls have a tough road to navigate in order to secure a playoff berth. Fourth round selection Kyle Yates is one of pickleball’s pioneers, having played his first professional tournament in 2014 but he is no longer playing much of a pro schedule so we aren’t sure how his level will hold up across two days against the world’s best. This is a middle of the road team that isn’t going to beat themselves but it’s going to take more than that to advance out of the group of death.

Wild Card: 

Vivienne David: David was selected 9th overall and finished 42nd out of 48 players in player point differential. That’s simply not going to cut it from a first round pick. David’s performance in Daytona will be the reason why the Owls succeed or head home with another disappointing result.

New York Hustlers

new york hustlers

Round 1: Anna Bright (4th pick)

Round 2: Tyson Mcguffin (21st pick)

Round 3: Rafa Hewett (28th pick)

Round 4: Lacy Schneemann (45th pick)

The NY Hustlers got off to a slow start in Mesa, finishing Friday’s action 0-2 after blowing a 2-0 lead to the Las Vegas Night Owls in the first round. Luckily this group came together to beat the ATX Pickleballers 3-1 and advanced on overall team point differential, earning the 5th seed in the playoff bracket. They rode their good fortune all the way to the finals before running into the red hot Los Angeles Mad Drops. Their 4th round selection Lacy Schneemann was one of the breakout stars of the tournament helping the Hustlers advance in both dreambreakers over the New Jersey 5s and the Seattle Pioneers. Given the depth in this group the Hustlers will have to get off to a quicker start this go around or they put themselves in danger of being left on the outside looking in.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

49.39% (8th): The Hustlers finished 8th out of 12 teams in overall team point differential but had the second highest point differential in their group so they advanced over the ATX Pickleballers and the Las Vegas Night Owls.

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. Anna Bright: 10th (52.70%)
  2. Tyson Mcguffin: 24th (49.19%)
  3. Rafa Hewett: 36th (47.60%)
  4. Lacy Schneemann 18th (50.00%)

Mesa Team Match Results (6-7)

  1. LV Night Owls 2-3
  2. Seattle Pioneers 1-3
  3. ATX 3-1

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1. Anna Bright 4-3
  2. Tyson Mcguffin 4-3
  3. Rafa Hewett 2-5
  4. Lacy Schneemann 2-5


Julian Arnold may have been the MVP of MLP Mesa but Lacy Schneemann was a close second and as the last female selected in the premier league draft she looks to be the steal of all steals. She has since backed up her MLP performance with an improbable run to the women’s doubles final at the Red Clay Hot Sauce Florida Open with Jade Kawamoto. This roster is full of big names and even bigger personalities but we still aren’t sure about the on court fit. Bright plays a very uptempo aggressive style in doubles that doesn’t quite mesh with the more calculated risk averse style that Tyson Mcguffin likes to play. Also given that Rafa Hewett is a lefty, Mcguffin will have to assume the left side role in men’s doubles where he is much less comfortable at this point in his career. Team expectations will be to walk away with the title in Daytona but there is a lot of work to be done in this group first before they can set their sights on the trophy.

Wild Card: 

Rafa Hewett: Hewett is the ultimate MLP wild card. His game seems to elevate to levels we aren’t used to seeing from him throughout the calendar year. It’s hard to quantify but the guy just lives for big moments. His ultra aggressive style of play is more of a blessing than a curse in the rally scoring MLP format and if he comes out hot like we saw in Mesa he can once again help push this team all the way to finals.

So Cal Hard Eights

So Cal Hard 8s

Round 1: Riley Newman (6th pick)

Round 2: AJ Koller (19th pick)

Round 3: Mary Brascia (30th pick)

Round 4: Lindsey Newman (43rd pick)

The So Cal Hard 8s left Mesa with a 1-2 record and sit in 9th place with two events left in the MLP season. Not a bad performance considering they were without first round pick Riley Newman (who had other business commitments and was unable to attend). Given there are only three MLP events before the teams in premier and challenger flip flop, one of the major storylines on draft night is where Newman would be selected, as his status for the first event was well known. The Hard 8s didn’t seem to care as they selected Newman 6th overall (the third male off the board). The 8s now have some work to do and it won’t be easy as they will face a slew of dangerous opponents.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

48.46% (9th): The Hard 8s finished 9th in overall team point differential finishing slightly ahead of the ATX Pickleballers.

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. Riley Newman: N/A
  2. AJ Koller: 19th (50.00%)
  3. Mary Brascia: 43rd (46.67%)
  4. Lindsey Newman: 41st (46.94%)
  5. Stefan Auvergne: 17th (50.26%)

Mesa Team Match Results (3-7)

  1. Florida Smash 0-3
  2. LA Mad Drops 0-3
  3. Frisco Clean Cause 3-1

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1.  Riley Newman N/A
  2.  AJ Koller 2-3
  3. Mary Brascia  1-4
  4. Lindsey Newman 1-4
  5. Stefan Auvergne 2-3


With the return of Riley Newman, there is a lot to like about how this roster was constructed. The Hard 8s went against the grain and decided to go male/male with their first two picks putting themselves in a position to have one of the weaker women’s doubles teams on paper. However this team should thrive in both mixed and men’s doubles. We expect the Newman’s to team up together and that partnership has had a lot of success over the years.. Also, AJ and Riley form one of the strongest men's doubles teams in the premier league, outside of maybe Ben Johns and Tyler Loong. Although replacement pick Stefan Auvergne performed well in Newman’s absence (ranking 17th overall in player point differential) Riley’s on court presence and aggressive style of play will allow his teammates to play more of the setup role they are accustomed to. 

Wild Card: 

AJ Koller: Koller can be very streaky but when he is locked in he profiles as one of the better mixed men’s doubles players on tour, as he possesses a variety of shots that can put his opponents under pressure. His PPA results haven’t been up to his standards of late but that doesn’t always carry over to MLP. If Koller can find his top gear the Hard 8s bring a level of depth on both doubles lines that most teams don’t have.

New Jersey 5s

NJ 5s

Round 1: Anna Leigh Waters (1st pick)

Round 2: James Ignatowich (24th pick)

Round 3: Lea Jansen (25th pick)

Round 4: Hayden Patriquin (48th pick)

The New Jersey 5s left the group stage in Mesa undefeated but their road to the playoff wasn’t an easy one as they won each of their group stage matches in a dreambreaker. They eventually were knocked out by the New York Hustlers in the quarterfinals in what was one of the more dramatic dreambreakers we have seen to date. The talent on this roster jumps off the page, with 16 year old teenage phenom Anna Leigh Waters leading the charge but it’s this year’s breakout star James Ignatowich that has truly taken the pickleball world by storm . The on court fit and what lineups they decide to trot out on a match to match basis is still a work in progress but if 5s can figure out a way to make all the pieces fit they will find themselves in a position to walk away with the coveted Pritchard Cup.

Mesa Team Point Differential (Ranked out of 12 Teams)

50.18% (4th): Although they earned the 3rd seed in the playoffs, the 5s ended up 4th overall in team point differential after the group stage.

Mesa Player Point Differential Rankings (Ranked Out of 48 Players)

  1. Anna Leigh Waters: 15th (50.43%)
  2. James Ignatowich: 20th (49.58%)
  3. Lea Jansen 14th (51.19%)
  4. Hayden Patriquin: 39th (47.15%)

Mesa Team Match Results (9-6)

  1. Milwaukee Mashers 3-2
  2. California BLQK 3-2
  3. St Louis Shock 3-2

Mesa Player Match Results (Group Stage Only Includes Dreambreakers)

  1. Anna Leigh Waters 6-3
  2. James Ignatowich 6-3
  3. Lea Jansen 7-2
  4. Hayden Patriquin 5-4


GM Ryan Harwood has arguably the most talented roster of any team in the premier league this season. On the flip side his team is extremely young with three of his players being 22 or younger. The lack of big stage experience was a question mark after draft night and proved to be a factor in Mesa but both Ignatowich and Jansen have played on multiple championships Sundays since then and should be much more prepared for the moment. Let’s not forget Ignatowich was playing in 4.5 level doubles tournaments just last year and is now seen as a top five mixed doubles player in the world. Jansen has also proved that she is not only just a threat in women’s singles, medaling four times this year in women’s doubles with the St Louis Shock’s Allyce Jones. The 5s are one the favorites to make it out of Group B but given how their roster has improved over the past few months they might just be the favorites to win it all in Daytona.

Wild Card: 

James Ignatowich: We could have made a case for any of the four players being a wild card but the difference between winning a title and going home empty handed falls more on the shoulders of Big Poppa Jimmy than anybody else. Every week he steps on the court he seems to be getting better and picking him as a #1 male in round two now looks like a no brainer.


  1. The 5s 2-1: We don’t expect anyone in this group to go undefeated as there is just too much talent across the board. The 5s escape 2-1 and atop the group as Anna Leigh plays up to her full potential and James Ignatowich continues his meteoric run in 2023.
  1. The So Cal Hard 8s 2-1: This might shock some people but the Hard 8s have some very strong mixed doubles lineups they can throw at their opponents on both the 1 and 2 lines. We like their blend of experience, talent and familiarity together as they survive and sneak out of Group B.
  1. The NY Hustlers 1-2: In our first upset pick of MLP Daytona we are going with the NY Hustlers to miss the playoffs. The tandem of Bright/McGuffin isn’t as strong as it looks on paper and Mcguffin might be the weakest left side male in this group behind Newman, Ignatowich, and Bar.
  1. The LV Night Owls 1-2: The Night Owls like the Hard 8s have a lot of overall experience so they will find a way to come out with a win but they don’t own any clear matchup advantages against any of the other three teams in this group. The lack of firepower up top leaves them at 1-2 and in the 4th spot in group B.
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