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Archive for "Pickleball"

Dink-in the New Year

Posted on January 12, 2022 by under Pickleball.    

The Dink-in the New Year pickleball tournament at Vetta Racquet Sports Sunset was a great experience overall. I wanted to push myself so I signed up for 3.5 singles, 3.5 women’s doubles, and 4.0 mixed doubles.

I found out a couple of days before the tournament that they combined 3.5 singles with 4.0 singles because there was only two of us (me and my friend Tiffany Lesperance) who signed up for 3.5 division. It made me wish I had signed up for 3.0 singles instead but I didn’t email the tournament director to switch divisions. I figured I wanted to challenge myself so I might as well just tough it out.

I wasn’t as concerned about my doubles because, even though I’m only a 3.2 in women’s doubles, I’m pretty comfortable playing at the 3.5 level and Tiffany has been playing 3.5 and 4.0 so she had a lot of experience at these levels. In mixed, I got a great partner with Devon Fuller. He has medaled in 4.0 mixed multiple times and he actually has experience playing in the higher levels. It was really just singles I was worried about because I would be playing against higher level ladies and I wouldn’t have a partner to bail me out.

We started with singles on Friday. This tournament is bigger than the ICT tournaments but still kind of on the small side (less than 300 players) so there weren’t any age groups, only skill groups. For women’s singles, they had a 2.5 division, 3.0 division, and then 3.5/4.0 division.

Besides being in the highest division, Tiffany and I ended up on the same side of the bracket so even though we didn’t have to play each other in the first round, we would end up facing off in the second round if we both lost or if we both won. The only way for us to not meet up so soon would be for one of us to win and one of us to lose. We ended up both losing and playing each other for our second match.

My first match was against an older but super experienced pickleball player, Janice Bolton. She’s a teaching pro at one of the Vetta Racquest Sports locations so it was really tough. I actually ran into her in the restroom earlier that morning and told her that had I known they were combining 3.5 with 4.0, I would have signed up for 3.0 singles instead — not knowing she would be my first round match. Our match went 3 games and lasted an hour and ten minutes. I really wish I could have gotten it on video because we had some amazing rallies, which doesn’t generally happen in singles. She was chasing shots down that I thought were winners and sending them back extremely well each time.

I lost that match but, at the end of it, Janice told me that I should not be playing in 3.0 singles, which I took as a compliment. I’m not good enough for 4.0 but I’m better than 3.0 so maybe 3.5 singles is where I’m supposed to be.

Tiffany was a bit cranky about them combining 3.5 with 4.0 and also how we were positioned in the bracket so she didn’t even try in our consolation bracket match. My next match was against Rachel Mossman who ended up winning the gold not just in our singles division but also in 5.0 women’s doubles and 5.0 mixed doubles.

I knew I probably wouldn’t medal in singles considering I was playing against higher skilled ladies but I kind of wished I didn’t have to play against Rachel so soon because I wanted more match experience and more singles games under my belt. Playing her (and losing to her) so soon in the bracket meant I was out.

Anyway, since Tiffany and I were both out, we ended up watching and cheering for her husband Donnie who was schooling guys who are more than half his age in his bracket. Watching him was hilarious because, not only was the oldest player in his division (by a significant stretch) but, after each match, he would put his old man glasses to fill out the score sheet. I got such a kick out of it. When he won the championship match, I told him he should walk up to the podium with a cane and really make the young guys feel bad. LOL.

Here are some videos of Donnie’s singles matches.

This is a video of Donnie’s championship match against Bobby Song.

The next day was gender doubles day. Tiffany and I went from playing against each other to playing together. Donnie played with his friend from Missouri, Mark Steiner. Tiffany and I missed making the podium but Donnie and Mark won silver in 4.0 men’s doubles.

Tiffany and I missed the winner bracket final by 2 points when we lost 10-12 in game three against the gold medal team. Then in the consolation bracket we lost to a team we beat pretty comfortably in the first round. That match was brutal. We could not get in a groove and we were down 2-12. I think we didn’t have any points at all during the side switch. Anyway, we started coming back and ended up losing 13-15. We just needed one more hold. Ultimately, it was too big a deficit to overcome. Anyway, the girls were super nice and they went on to win the bronze.

Sunday was mixed doubles day. Devon and I were in the same division as Tiffany and Donnie. Again, we were on the same side of the bracket so if we both won and we both lost then we would have had to play each other. We never ended up facing off because Tiffany and Donnie lost their second match. They were making their way back and winning their matches in the consolation bracket. I was kind of hopeful for an all Kansas championship and also because if we were all playing in the championship then Tiffany, Donnie, and I would all finish at the same time and no one would be waiting on anyone.

Tiffany and Donnie ended up losing to the team that won silver and finished in fourth place. Devon and I went undefeated in our bracket and finished in first place. Here’s the video of our winner bracket final against AJ Thum and Cully Higgins. AJ and Cully finished in third.

Here’s the video from our championship match against Dustin Imgarten and Monika Ray. I think everyone was just ready to be finished and go home. LOL.

Brian took a short video of the medal presentation. I’ve played 4.0 mixed a few times (mostly in our local ICT tournaments and once in the Oklahoma PC Smash) but this was my first ever 4.0 level gold medal. I am super grateful to Devon for taking a chance on me and being my partner for this tournament.

Here’s our official podium picture.

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Devon was really funny. I asked to get a picture of the two of us while we were still playing in our bracket and he said, with a lot of confidence, “Don’t worry. You will get your picture.” I had to wait until the very end but it was totally worth it.

I had such a great time playing the tournament and hanging out with Tiffany and Donnie that weekend. I also made a bunch of new friends and even got an offer for free open play at Vetta from Janice. So much fun! I can’t wait until the next tournament! GNG.

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Missouri Pickleball Club

Posted on January 10, 2022 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

When we arrived in Missouri on Thursday, all the courts at the tournament site were completely booked so there was no open play to be had there. Thankfully, my friend Christie Pink, who lives in St. Louis, is a member of the Missouri Pickleball Club. MPC touts itself as the largest indoor pickleball facility in the nation. I think that’s true right now but might not be the case because pickleball facilities are sprouting up all over the place.

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We ended up paying $22 each to play for two hours. It’s not cheap but it would have been even more expensive had we not come in as Christie’s guests. It made me feel like they were keeping non-members out just by making it super expensive to play there. I think the guy told me that if we were to book courts ourselves, it would be $40 per hour plus a $10 hourly guest fee. Members can get the courts for $24 per hour and their guests only have to pay $5 per hour for the guest fee. So for us, it was $12 for the two hours of court time plus $10 for the guest fee (instead of $40 per person). It’s like Chicken N Pickle weekend rates without the awesome CNP food and drinks and fun ambiance. And they charge guest fees on top of that, which at least you don’t have at CNP.

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The facility itself was clean and well lit and the courts were spaced just right. Other than being expensive, the facility was great overall and we were with a great group of people. So the company was well worth the visit.

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This is my friend Christie with Brian Garner behind her and Donnie and Tiffany Lesperance in the red shirt. Christie is so fun. I am so grateful for her bringing everyone together and setting up this play for us. We wouldn’t have gotten to play on Thursday night otherwise.

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I wish they would open a place like this in Wichita (because there’s not enough places to play indoors with a good playing surface in the winter time) — just not as expensive. LOL. Anyway, pickleball always makes me work up an appetite. We ended up having Burger King for dinner late that night after we finished playing because there’s a BK right outside our hotel. It worked out for me because I actually like BK. Until next time, GNG.

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Holiday Break

Posted on January 8, 2022 by under Hobbies, Pickleball.    

We had some great weather over the Christmas holiday. We had highs in the 70s! It was awesome! I pretty much played all day on Christmas Eve. First at Edgemoor Park with Jimmy Cho and crew and then later at Seneca Park with a bunch of other fellow pickleball addicts.

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Jimmy Cho

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Lonnie Lollar

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I took advantage of vacation time between Christmas and New Year, and even made it to Mulvane to play some pickleball with mom and dad.

Others I got to play with during the break include Mason McCanless, Tom Pham, and Karen Fox. Mason arranged play for us at Edgemoor Park on a cold morning when we were the only people playing — five courts empty except for ours.

Here are some clips from our games that day at Edgemoor.

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The next day I got to play with Jimmy Cho, Karen Fox, and Matt Nola. Matt and I are trying to get more games in together because we plan to play together in the US Open this year. That is, if we can make it through the lottery process.

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I need to switch back to playing with an Electrum paddle, though.

Here are some of the fun points we had. This next video contains highlights from our 22-minute game. Would you believe all of these rallies happened in one game only? That was a crazy, fun game!

You can watch the full game on YouTube here. It’s so great to have Jimmy back. I can’t wait to play with him some more. GNG.

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Open Play with the Pros

Posted on January 5, 2022 by under Events, Pickleball.    

Jack Sock came to Wichita last month. I took a vacation day so I could attend the “Open Play with the Pros” event at Chicken N Pickle featuring Jack Sock (world famous tennis pro), Lauren Stratman (the #1 female pickleball player on the APP Tour), Dylan Frazier (young, up and coming pickleball pro), and Jack Oxler (director of pickleball and resident pro at Kansas City Chicken N Pickle location).

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I originally signed up for the 10 AM session only but my Oklahoma friends Grant Bond and Alvaro Terron Gonzalez (pictured above with me and my friend Karen Fox) said they were coming and were signed up for the 1 PM session so then I signed up to attend the afternoon as well.

They actually ended up driving up on Thursday night and staying with Patrick Smith so they played a lot that weekend. My friend Donnie Lesperance, who works at Chicken N Pickle, texted me on Thursday to let me know that “my guys” were there. I didn’t come out that night but, when Karen texted me the next morning with a pic of her and Alvaro, I skedaddled over.

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I was going to be there for the 10 am open play session anyway so I basically just went an hour or so early. It worked out great because I got to watch Grant (Pat 2.0) play with Pat and Alvaro (Jay 2.0 aka “the Spanish Sensation”) play with Jocelyn “Jay” Devilliers. It was like seeing double. It was pretty much like an exhibition match for an audience of one.

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Here are some pics from that day. The above pic features Jen Reifschneider (aka Chef Jen or Lefty Jen), Lesli Toubassi (who gets mistaken for me sometimes so I consider her like a sister), and Lauren Stratman.

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This pic has Tami Racine and Ron Owens with me and Lauren.

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Of course, I look like a midget next to Jack Sock. LOL.

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It was fun watching them play a couple of games in between the two sessions.

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Hanging out with Alvaro.

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Lauren and Karen.

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With my buddy Matt Nola who hopefully will be playing with me at the Minto US Open Pickleball Championships in April.

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With Jack Oxler, plus Jody Vinson and Lonnie Lollar below.

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The guys were smart and stayed together so they had some super fun competitive games. Pictured below are Ev Kim (playing with Jack Sock) and Grant and Alvaro (who are playing together on the far end).

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With Dylan Frazier. He is the nicest guy ever! One night he was waiting for Jay at Chicken N Pickle and agreed to hit with me and we got two others to play with us and we actually got a few points in before Jay arrived.

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Here’s a pic of me and Dylan with Zach Nguyen and Matt Nola.

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I will leave you with a fun video montage that I made of some of the pics and video clips I took that day. Enjoy!

Until next time, GNG.

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