Hard Eights make it a pair of victories

Hard Eights make it a pair of victories

Another five wins in another five matches.

Another undefeated run and another Major League Pickleball title.

The So Cal Hard Eights had been so good for both of MLP’s two events this season, they hadn’t even dedicated any practice time this week to singles play.

After all, they hadn’t gone to a Dream Breaker in any of the four matches this tournament in Dallas, so when Saturday’s final against Frisco ended up in the MLP’s version of overtime, there was definitely some concern.

“I need a couple of drinks,” said Todd Fought. “This one was stressful.”

Stressful because So Cal hasn’t experienced much discomfort at all. The Hard Eights moved to 10-0 in two MLP events and outlasted the surprise Frisco Pandas in Dallas, taking the Challenger Level portion of the tournament.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s extremely nerve wracking,” said Yana Newell. “Rally scoring makes it tough. Attitude and confidence at the end of the day matters so much. If you believe in yourself you’re going to succeed. Every point counts. You can’t go for too much, because that one point might be the differential. That might be the difference.”

The difference is pretty clear at the Challenger Level. There’s So Cal, and then there’s everyone else. 

CJ Klinger was named MVP - again - going 10-1 during the weekend. He was the top performer of all 48 players. Meanwhile, Fought and Ewa Radikowska went 8-3 and Newell went 6-5. 

But they needed a Dream Breaker to finish off the Pandas Saturday. Frisco came into the tournament after going winless in Atlanta. They finished second in Group A, going 2-1 and snuck into the knockout round as the sixth and final seed. From there, they beat the fourth-seeded New York Hustlers and then topped the top-seeded St. Louis Shock - a team they had lost to early in the group play.

Frisco’s Ryler DeHeart and Martina Frantova topped Fought and Newell 21-13 in the first mixed doubles match putting the Hard Eights a game from losing. However, Radikowska and Clinger earned a 21-14 victory against Andre Mick and Bobbi Oshiro, forcing the tiebreaker.

We have not practiced singles at all,” Newell admitted. “We had done so well that we hadn’t needed the Dream Breaker. We got so excited before the finals, we didn’t even drill singles. But our team is packed with good singles players and it worked out.”

It did. The Hard Eights earned the 21-16 Dream Breaker victory and celebrated another title.

“We came in a little overconfident,” Fought said. “They played really well. All credit to them.”