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Shangri-la Tournament Recap

Posted on October 5, 2023 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

I played in the Shangri-la tournament last year with my friend from Topeka, Devon Fuller, and we made a decent run in 4.5 mixed and so earlier this year when the tournament was first announced we agreed to run it back. Shortly after talking about it, I found out that Colby Fugit was also playing mixed but didn’t have a women’s doubles partner so we decided to team up.

I didn’t actually end up playing with Devon because his work schedule changed. He originally had Sundays and Mondays off which would have been perfect because mixed doubles was scheduled for Sunday but then about a week or two before the tournament he reached out to me about potentially not being able to play. He told me that he would find a suitable replacement. I joked that it needed to be some of equal or greater skill – LOL. But then, after having had the misfortune of playing with blind dates two consecutive tournaments in a row, I decided rather than having Devon find his replacement and risking having to play with another blind date, I would take matters into my own hands.

I originally reached out to Ian Carr who was signed up to play men’s doubles with Ryan Kellenbarger on Saturday but not playing mixed and got him to agree to being Devon’s back up but then, the week of the tournament, he and Ryan withdrew and ended up playing in the Springfield tournament instead so, when it actually came down to Devon not being able to play, I actually didn’t have an alternate partner. The other person I thought of was Jordan Sparks, who was signed up to play men’s with Fernando Martinez but not playing mixed but he couldn’t play because he had work the next day. So I reached out to Kumar Krishnan and explained my predicament. Thankfully, he knew of another guy who was playing men’s but not playing mixed, Levi Kerr. I remembered Levi because Devon and I played against him and his sister last year so I wasn’t going in completely blind. I thought he was quite good and I was grateful that he was willing to play with me. But, truth be told, I would have been perfectly fine not playing in mixed either because it’s just kind of a nice, chill place to hang out and enjoy watching others play. I told Kumar and Cody (Kent) that, had I not been able to play mixed on Sunday, I would have been perfectly happy just volunteering and shadowing Cody because then I could use the opportunity to learn more about the software.


I played 3.5 women’s with Molly Sager last year which was fun but this year was even more fun because Colby and I played 4.0 and she’s a lefty! And y’all know how much I looooove playing with lefties. I mean, I do not enjoy playing on the left side (which is the side I end up playing most of the time when I’m playing with a lefty partner) but I need the practice so I relish these opportunities.


Last year Molly and I earned silver in 3.5 women’s and this year Colby and I got silver in 4.0 women’s. Even though we earned the same medal/place, I was pleased with the results because it was the next division up from the one I played last year. Another thing that made this tournament significant is that Colby and I ended up defeating Genevieve Eskridge and Nikki Baker, which is the team that Kendra Wicks and I lost to in Tulsa Pickleball Classic a few weeks before. Honestly, a lot of these matches could go either way but I’m glad that our team won this time. I consider it progress and I’ll take it.


Colby and I got matching dresses and matching shoes and just had a jolly good time. All the ladies were super nice and were wonderful all the way around. I had an absolute blast! The team that won was Tiffany Milner and Stephanie Watling and they were both super nice. Tiffany was head and shoulders better than everyone we played against that day but she was so ridiculously nice. She’s the kind of person you don’t mind losing to ’cause she is a graceful and kind winner. Besides her amazing pickleball prowess (which obviously comes from her extensive tennis background), I was most impressed with her overall attitude. Many of the really good pickleball players are not really that personable or kind. I feel like it’s a lot like the “hot crazy matrix” where a woman’s level of crazy is directly correlated with her level of hotness. The theory being the hotter they are, they crazier they tend to be. Similarly, I feel like the more skilled a pickleball player is, the more likely they are to be jerks on the court – LOL. Much to my (pleasant) surprise, Tiffany was totally not like that. She is amazing at pickleball and also very, very nice. She is, therefore, a unicorn and that’s what I was the most impressed with.

The next day was mixed doubles day and this is where I had to play with a brand new partner I had never played with before. Kind of a blind date (because it was our first time playing together) but not really a blind date because we actually met at the same tournament last year. I didn’t get a picture with him because I didn’t know him very well and I didn’t want him to think me a weirdo. I got very few pics on mixed doubles day but I did get a few pictures of Brian working at the desk with Kumar and Cody. He is such a good, supportive hubby.


In this next photo are Mike Ward and Deana Holman (our first opponents that day) and Kyle Rinck who ended up earning gold with Colby Fugit.


Levi and I played a couple of practice games but those games were clearly not enough to prepare us for the well-oiled team that is Mike and Deana. They pretty much murdered us. We worked out some kinks and we actually did surprisingly well against Colby and Kyle. We were up 10-2 shortly after the end change and Colby admitted to me later that day that she actually thought they would lose that match. They ended up coming back and we lost 14-16 but I was impressed we did so well overall. I only wish we could have closed out the match while we were up.

Our next match was against Caleb Williams (he played men’s doubles with Levi the day before so I believe they are friends) and Jessica Lachata. I’m not sure how that pairing came about but I think they were blind dates also. They were the team that we played a couple of warm up games against that morning right before our first match. That was probably our most relaxed match of the day because it was against Levi’s friend. Our next match after that was against Jonathan Hill and Kali Wilson. We did surprisingly well against them too (if you don’t consider me getting the yips during the game). I literally lost my serve and I counted at least six missed serves during our game.

I know we played really well because, despite my yips, we managed to earn 12 points. We lost 12-15 but can you imagine what the scoreline would have been had I actually made my serves? Because all those points were won strictly off Levi’s serves. Looking back, I honestly feel like Jonathan and Kali got lucky that my serve decided to take a vacation when it did because we might have won that one.

Our last match was against Genevieve Eskridge and Eric Bunch, another duo that has a lot of tournament playing experience together. It was a bloody massacre. Not only were they playing well but, at this point, I was so rattled by the fact that I couldn’t serve that it permeated the rest of my game. In the previous match with Jonathan and Kali, I was actually still playing really and it was only my serve that was off. Well, in the next match, everything took a nosedive. None of my other shots were working, at all. So everything was off and I couldn’t make ANY shots to save my life. I felt so bad for my partner because I was so awful and there was nothing he could do to help me.

The most ironic part of this whole experience is, I was teaching my coworker Faith Taylor how to play pickleball the weekend before and I stressed to her how important it is to make your serves. Besides learning how to dink and play at the NVZ, I told her you have to make your serves because if you can’t serve then you can’t score, and if you can’t score then you can’t win and then lo and behold, a week later I am in this exact situation of not being able to make my serves. My serves are super consistent and reliable (with the exception of that one day at Edgemoor Rec Center because I hadn’t played inside on wood floors in years — I couldn’t make my serves then either — but that was rec play and it didn’t really matter), I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. All I could do was laugh at my predicament because if I didn’t laugh I would have cried. It was very, very frustrating.

Anyway, other than the yips, tournament was a blast. I even had a lot of fun playing with Levi. Kumar was originally concerned about pairing us up because he said Levi is quiet and he didn’t think we would mesh well personality-wise but he was laughing at my jokes and he was super easy to play with. He was patient with me when I was struggling and I appreciated having him on the same side of the net as me. All things considered, it was yet again a wonderful weekend. It’s hard not to have a great time at Shangri-la, though. I mean, I’m already looking forward to doing it all again next year. Until then, GNG.

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