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The pickleball world got the matchup it was asking for. In the Major League Pickleball San Clemente Final, Ben Johns and the Seattle Pioneers went head-to-head with Anna Leigh Waters and the New Jersey 5s.
The top two picks in the draft and undeniable top men's and women's players were on a crash course starting from the group stage. The Pioneers went undefeated through Group C.
The 5's narrowly missed receiving a bye when they lost in a Dreambreaker to the ATX Pickleballers in group play. They rolled through the LA Mad Drops in the quarterfinals then had a thriller against the Milwaukee Mashers in the semis.
Things got heated between the 5s’ Hayden 'Big H' Patriquin and the Mashers’ Matt Wright in men's doubles.
It spilled over into mixed doubles where Lucy Kovalova blew Big H a kiss after he sailed a ball long.
Two points later, a Patriquin celebration crossed into NC-17 range with some explicit language.
Big H received a Blue Card - but it didn’t matter - he and ALW walked away with the dub.
The match proceeded to a Dreambreaker filled with emphatic celebrations and displays of swagger ultimately ending in a 5s victory 21-16.
In the final, both the GOAT and the baby GOAT lived up to their status, each winning their respective games to force a 2-2 tie. This meant another Dreambreaker, the first in MLP finals history.
Johns and the Pioneers came out red hot and forged their way to a 12-3 lead, a substantial gap in rally scoring. ALW and The 5s made things interesting in the 2nd rotation, closing the gap to 19-13.
Enter the eventual MVP Ben Johns who, fittingly, closed out the match with a massive forehand.
The Pioneers are now 2X champions and will play the LA Mad Drops in the Super Final tonight on ESPN 2 at 9:00pm ET.
In the Challenger Level, the Dallas Pickleball Club claimed their first MLP title over the Chicago Slice. Jill Braverman came out of retirement to join MLP and brought home MVP honors in San Clemente.