Augie Ge and JW Johnson at work for the Dallas Flash earlier this season.
Augie Ge and JW Johnson at work for the Dallas Flash earlier this season. Major League Pickleball

Looking ahead to the MLP Premier Mid-Season Tournament

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Next up on the MLP schedule is the Mid-Season Tournament, from Grand Rapids, Michigan. All 12 Premier teams will be in action, beginning Thursday with the format being a standard bracket. Eight teams will play in round one, with four teams getting a bye into round two.

Let’s go over each matchup, and try to predict some winners.
Match one: Columbus v Orlando. These two teams have not played yet this MLP season. Both have somewhat underperformed. Riley Newman/Connor Garnett(Col) will face Federico Staksrud/Tyson McGuffin(Orl) in men’s doubles. Meghan Dizon/Brooke Buckner(Col) will face Vivienne David/Parris Todd(Orl) in women’s doubles. The men’s match is very even. In women’s doubles, Orlando is handicapped by the fact both of their women are better on the right than left, but for Columbus, Dizon just has not played well all year. Advantage to Orlando if it goes to a Dreambreaker, so I have to give the edge on this one to Orlando.
Match two: Utah v DC. These teams met at MLP Atlanta, with DC winning 3-1. DC sends out James Ignatowich/Dekel Bar v Tyler Loong/Jay Devilliers. In women’s doubles, DC has Rachel Rohrabacher/Vivian Glozman v. Callie Smith/Alix Truong. DC has swapped out Allyce Jones for Glozman. Glozman gives them more power and a better Dreambreaker. Devilliers has been battling an ankle injury all year. Smith and Truong have played poorly so far in MLP. DC is a big favorite to move on.
Match three: AZ v. LA. AZ has Andrei Daescu/Dylan Frazier while LA has Thomas Wilson/Hunter Johnson. However, Daescu is still under a suspension, so he is out for AZ. But, Wilson is also out for LA. Daescu's substitute will be AJ Koller. Meanwhile, Blaine Hovenier will sub in for Wilson. In women’s doubles, AZ has Lacy Schneemann/Kaitlyn Christian who will play Jade Kawamoto and Emily Cederquist (subbing in for Catherine Parenteau). The absence of Daescu, AZ’s first round pick, is huge, but so is LA missing Parenteau and Wilson. Neither team will be anywhere near their best. Predicting this one is a crapshoot, but I have to go with AZ as they are only down one player and LA is down two.
Match four: Carolina v. Texas. This is the most interesting match of the four first round matches. Carolina beat Texas in a Dreambreaker at MLP DC. Carolina has Ben and Collin Johns in men’s doubles against Christian Alshon and waiver pickup Quang Duong. In women’s doubles, Carolina has Andrea Koop/Jessie Irvine v. Etta Wright/Tina Pisnik for Texas. The Texas women are far superior to the Carolina women, but Carolina has Ben Johns. Carolina’s obvious strategy is to try to win men’s doubles and Ben’s mixed match and get to a Dreambreaker (or get an upset for a third point). I did not like Texas’ waiver move of dropping Pablo Tellez for Quang Duong. Duong played well as a fill-in for Alshon in DC; but recency bias led them to drop Tellez for Duong. Tellez is unquestionably the better doubles player at this point. This does have the look of a match going to Dreambreaker. Carolina fluked a win last time in a Dreambreaker, but I don’t see it this time. I will take Texas 3-2.
Quarterfinal one: Col/Orl winner v. STL. St. Louis looked great in Atlanta, and so-so in DC. STL has Hayden Patriquin/Gabe Tardio and Anna Bright/Kate Fahey. Patriquin has been playing great at recent PPA events. You have to like the overall makeup of the STL team. I will go with STL, whoever they play.
Quarterfinal two: Utah/DC winner v. NY. This is very likely to be DC v. NY. NY features Jack Sock/CJ Klinger and Lea Jansen/Jackie Kawamoto. NY beat DC 3-2 at MLP Atlanta, in an upset. The NY team has been carried by very good play by their women, both in doubles and in Dreambreakers. DC though has the better men, and with the addition of Glozman, DC can roll out a very good singles lineup. I have been underestimating NY this MLP season, but I can’t ignore that the DC team is better on paper. I will go with DC.
Quarterfinal three: AZ/LA winner v. NJ. NJ has Zane Navratil/Will Howells and Anna Leigh Waters/Mari Humberg. The winner of the AZ/LA match will still be missing their #1 male player (and if it is LA, also their #1 woman player). Thus, I don’t think it matters much who NJ draws. NJ gets the lucky break of playing an understrength team either way. NJ should cruise into the semis.
Quarterfinal four: Carolina/Texas winner v. Dallas. Just as NJ got the good draw, playing one of two weakened teams, Dallas got the tough draw, having to face one of two quality teams. Dallas features JW Johnson/Augie Ge, and Jorja Johnson/Hurricane Tyra Black. Dallas has played well so far but not up to their potential. In every match of theirs, just a little something seems to be off. Dallas has the best team on paper, and remains my pick to win the MLP season, but it would be nice to see them fire on all cylinders.  I will take Dallas, but will be crossing my fingers.
Semifinal one: winner of Q1 v. winner of Q2. My bracket has STL playing DC.  STL won a match with DC 3-1 at MLP DC. DC looks to me like the better team on paper, but not by much. STL plays better than anyone as a team. They have the enthusiasm that seems to elevate any MLP team that has it.  I will go with STL.
Semifinal two: winner of Q3 v. winner of Q4. My bracket has this as Dallas v. NJ. The Dallas men are clearly better than the NJ men. On the women’s side, ALW gives the NJ women the edge, but Jorja Johnson/Tyra Black is not a bad women’s team at all. Dallas should be favored in men’s doubles and JW Johnson’s mixed match. If I am NJ, I try to match up ALW in mixed v. Ge/Black, trying to get to 2-2 and a Dreambreaker. But, Dallas has a very good Dreambreaker lineup, maybe the best one of any team. Of course, once it gets to Dreambreaker, anything can happen and some odd results occur. In any event, I have to keep riding my horse, so I will go with Dallas.
The final: I have it STL v Dallas. If this is the final, this is a great matchup. All of the enthusiasm will be on the STL side. Kate Fahey would be the potential weak spot in this matchup. Fahey has played well to date in MLP, although this is in part due to teams not playing good strategy against her, especially in women’s doubles. Teams so far have just allowed Fahey to dink crosscourt off the forehand, and allowed Bright to roam the middle. If Dallas has paid attention, they will hit behind Bright and force her out of the middle, opening up better attacks against Fahey. We will see! I will stick with Dallas to win it.
The MLP Mid-Season tournament should be a lot of fun to watch. It is also a good preview of the finals for later this year. Byes are really important, as every team is capable of beating every other team. Thus, the fewer matches you have to play, the better your chances.

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