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Major League Pickleball – ICT Version

Posted on December 15, 2021 by under Community, Hobbies.    

I had the opportunity to participate in another team pickleball event recently. This time it was at Chicken N Pickle. This one was a little different than the Nahola team tournament that we did last month because it was patterned after Major League Pickleball (MLP) complete with a draft and everything.

We had 32 players participate — 16 men and 16 women — and broke out into 8 teams of 4 — 2 men and 2 women. They drew 8 guys randomly and made them team captains and then the captains drafted their team members via a snake draft (to make it more fair — so the captain who gets first pick doesn’t get to pick first every time). I was hoping to livestream the draft just like they did for the real MLP but Michael Harris (the man in charge) decided that it should be a private draft to avoid hurt feelings. I guess people get butt hurt when they are picked last. I can’t really relate because I have such thick skin but some people are very sensitive about this stuff. I told Michael that I don’t mind getting picked last. I’m just happy that I get to play. I mean, there are dozens of pickleball players who probably would have loved to have been invited to play in the first ever ICT MLP but it was a hand-picked select group so the fact that you’re one of the 32 lucky ones who get to join the fun means you’re already winning. But I often see things differently than most.

So they had a somewhat secret draft (it’s not really that private because they did it during the men’s league at CNP on a Wednesday night) and here’s how it turned out:

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The captains drew for their pick order and our team captain Daniel Nguyen was lucky enough to get the first pick. Amazingly, he didn’t pick Steve Vetter who I think everyone pretty much assumed would be the #1 draft pick. I was going to tease Daniel and ask him how much Zach Nguyen (who got to pick second) paid him to not pick Steve. LOL.

Anyway, Matthew Rochat is actually an excellent first pick. He will forever be known as the #1 draft pick of the first ever ICT MLP event — a HUGE honor.

Later that night, Daniel messaged me on Facebook to ask for my number and I immediately knew I was on his team. When I found out who the rest of our teammates would be, I was stoked. Fong Witte was our other female team member and she is rock solid and I really enjoy playing with her. I was so excited! Specially after seeing the other team rosters, I thought our team looked pretty darn good. I already had visions of winning the whole thing.

Here are the teams:

Team 1: In It 2 Nguyen It
— Daniel Nguyen (captain)
— Matthew Rochat
— Fong Witte
— Ching Brubaker

Team 2: Tickle My Pickle (don’t ask)
— Zach Nguyen (captain)
— Steve Vetter
— Jody Vinson
— Deana Holman

Team 3: We’d Like to Speak to Your Manager
— Ian Carr (captain)
— Michael Harris
— Krista Crawford
— Karen Fox

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Team 4: Watchous Win
— Klee Watchous (captain)
— Scott Wolford
— Karen Taylor
— Lesli Toubassi

Team 5: 3 Dinks and a Fireball
— Donnie Lesperance (captain)
— Bobby Weisbrodt
— Tiffany Lesperance
— Missina Sharp

Team 6: The Porn-stachers
— Kyle Starkel (captain)
— Jeff Bally
— Amy Jaramillo
— Rachel McMahon

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Team 7: Old Man and His Posse
— Han You (captain)
— Tim Hereen
— Jen Reifschneider
— MariAnn Hereen

Team 8: 20/20
— Rick McKinney (captain)
— Adam Korfhage
— Jenny Cole
— Jen Tiano

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Daniel didn’t really want to come up with a team name and, since I pictured our awesome team winning it all, I suggested we be #InIt2WinIt which later evolved into “In It 2 Nguyen It” after Daniel’s last name. Other team name ideas included Team Electrum (since Matthew, Daniel and I all play with Electrum paddles but we couldn’t do that because Fong plays with a Franklin) and Asian Sensations (which would have worked except for Matthew isn’t Asian). Someone on the Facebook suggested we could have been Matthew and the Asian Sensations, which is actually pretty clever and has a nice ring to it.

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We actually did really well in our pool. The teams were randomly divided into two groups and we ended up in the same group as Tickle My Pickle, 3 Dinks and a Fireball, and 20/20. The match format is as follows:
— women’s doubles
— men’s doubles
— two rounds of mixed doubles
— optional team singles tie breaker (if needed)

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The games are all one game to 15, win by 1 (normal scoring) — except for the singles round which is also one game to 15 but with rally scoring. A team can avoid the singles round by winning 3 out of the 4 games. But if it’s 2 and 2, then you go into a singles tie breaker. During pool play, we still played out the second mixed doubles games even if one team already won the first 3 games so that the remaining players could still get their game in; however, during the single elimination bracket play portion, we were running out of time of if one team sweeps the first 3 games then the other team just gets knocked out.

We came out on fire and won all four games — women’s doubles, men’s doubles, and both rounds of mixed doubles — for our first match of the day against Tickle My Pickle. I think it’s because Steve, who is not a morning person, wasn’t quite awake yet. Amazingly enough though, he was at CNP warming up a few minutes before 7 AM, which is completely unheard of — Steve usually doesn’t play any earlier than 9 or 10 AM. No singles for us that round!

Our next match was against 3 Dinks and Fireball. Fong and I lost to Tiffany and Missina but Daniel and Matthew won against Donnie and Bobbie. Before you play, there is a coin toss and the winner of the coin toss decides if they will release their mixed line up first or their singles line up (and the other team would do the opposite). Donnie decided they would release their mixed first, which meant our team was on the hook for releasing our singles line up first. We weren’t really all that concerned because we didn’t have to go into a singles tie breaker for our first match — but maybe we should have been, LOL. Their team had Bobby and Missina playing first. Since I usually struggle when playing against Donnie and Tiffany, we decided to have me and Matthew go first.

We really should have won but we had a ridiculous amount of unforced errors that game. I blame the fact that their team soundtrack was playing in the background. Here’s a video if you want to watch the massacre. It was brutal.

At this point, we were down 2-1 and we really need Fong and Daniel to win in order to force the singles tie breaker game. Luckily, Fong and Daniel came through, which kept us alive. The downside is that we had to release our singles player order first, which meant the other team got to dictate the match ups. They ended up winning the singles and taking the match.

Our final round robin match was against 20/20. That’s Rick, Jen T, Adam, and Jenny. Because there were only 3 round robin pool play matches, it made the seeding very interesting. A lot hung in the balance of that match. If we lost, our win-loss record would be tied with 3 Dinks and a Fireball but, since they beat us head-to-head, we would end up as #4 seed within our pool. However, if we won, then we would be tied with Tickle My Pickle who we beat head-to-head so then we would be the #1 seed. So wild.

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Much like the match against 3 Dinks and a Fireball, out team lost women’s, won men’s, lost the first mixed doubles match up (me and Matthew), and won the second one (Fong and Daniel came through for us — again) to force the singles tie breaker. We kept our same order for singles — Matthew, Daniel, Fong and me — our strategy being to put our strongest singles players first because, with the rotation every four points, the weaker players may not get to play a second time (which would be a good thing).

Our team won singles and earned #1 seed for our pool. However, since the seeding was so random and out-of-whack anyway, it didn’t really mean anything other than determine who would play first in the single elimination bracket. Being #1 seed in Pool B meant we were playing the #4 seed of Pool A. But being number #4 seed didn’t really mean your team isn’t as strong because we could have easily been #4 in our pool depending on the outcome of that last match against 20/20.

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Our ranking put us against Old Man and His Posse in the first round. This was actually the worse we’d ever played all day. We lost both our gender doubles games and now it came down to winning both of the mixed doubles matches, with the added pressure of the second mixed doubles game not being able to play if our first mixed doubles team loses because we were running out of time to finish the tournament (so Michael decided to start eliminating unnecessary games to save time). That said, since Fong and Daniel had been doing much better than me and Matthew, our team decided to have them go first. They had to play Jen and Han. While that game was going on, Matthew noticed that there was an open court, so he negotiated with Michael to let us play our mixed game as well. Since both games would be going on at the same time, it wouldn’t really prolong the match and this meant that Matthew and I could still get one extra game in no matter the outcome of Fong and Daniel’s game.

Matthew and I started with a huge deficit against Tim and MariAnn right off the bat. However, we made a good run after the side switch and came back to win it. All I could think of was that I could not let my teammates down. We desperately needed the singles tie breaker.

Funny thing is, though Matthew and I started after our other teammates had already played several points, we actually finished before Fong and Daniel. It was such a close game, which could have gone either way. In the end, Jen and Han prevailed which meant their team won 3-1 and therefore we did not get that singles tie breaker that we needed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. LOL.

I think Brian was relieved because it gave us plenty of time to make our nail appointment, which we had already rescheduled after the Nahola team tournament ran long. Had my team done really well and made it to the championship, we would have had to miss our nail appointment — again. It all worked out for the best.

The tournament went on until about 5 PM so it ran two hours longer than scheduled. Michael had originally planned for us to play from 7 AM to 3 PM that day. In the end, the two teams that made it to the championship round were both #4 seeds in their respective pools which only affirms what I already knew — it’s pretty much a crap shoot. I mean, all of teams consisted of some really good players so it came down to the match ups and who played the cleanest games.

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Old Man and His Posse (Han, Tim, MariAnn, and Jen) ended up winning the championship and own the bragging rights to being the first ever ICT MLP champions. The players who stuck around until the very end took this fun group picture. I wish we could have taken a group picture with all 32 players at the beginning because many of us had already left and our teams were eliminated from the tournament one at a time.

I had high hopes for my team at the start of the tournament but I am by no means upset about not winning. Win or lose, I’m happy either way as long as I get to play. I had an absolute blast playing in our first ever local MLP event and the team singles, which we tried so hard to avoid for every match, actually turned out to be my favorite of all the games. It was such a fun day and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Here’s a highlight video I made of that day:

Brian got a few games on the GoPro (before we ran out of space) and I have those up on YouTube here. Follow the link if you want to watch them.

Until next time. GNG.

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