Major League Pickleball is back with its second Challenger Level Shuffle Draft of 2023’s Season 1. In preparation for MLP San Clemente, Challenger Level teams had the opportunity to change things up a bit and bring in some new talent.
The draft consisted of a singular round where teams were given the opportunity to place a player on waivers in order to pick up a player from the pool of eligible DUPR-ranked players. Here’s a list of the draft picks in order, starting with the first overall pick by the AZ Drive:
- AZ Drive – Wes Burrows placed on waivers, picked up John Cincola
- D.C. Pickleball Team – Amanda Hendry placed on waivers, picked up Judit Castillo Gargallo
- Columbus P.C. – Christine Trifunovic placed on waivers, picked up Rianna Valdes
- Orlando Squeeze – No Changes
- Brooklyn Aces – Corrine Carr placed on waivers, picked up Martina Frantova
- Miami Pickleball Club – Jeff Warnick placed on waivers, picked up Wesley Burrows
- Texas Ranchers – Genie Erokhina placed on waivers, picked up Tina Pisnik
- Atlanta Bouncers – Ben Newell placed on waivers, picked up Phillip Locklear
- Dallas Pickleball Club – No Changes
- Utah Black Diamonds – No Changes
- Chicago Slice – No Changes
- Bay Area Breakers – Rachel Summers placed on waivers, picked up Vivian Glozman
Our Top 3 New MLP Players
Judit Castillo Gargallo – D.C. Pickleball Team
Everyone’s been talking about Judit Castillo’s big win at the recent APP Sacramento Open. Not only was it her first professional gold medal finish on the APP Tour, but she earned it by fighting through the qualifiers to earn a spot in the playoff bracket.
While relatively new to the pickleball scene, Castillo’s been playing racquet sports her whole life. She earned 54 career wins in tennis while playing at Northwestern State, so let’s hope that her tennis successes continue to translate to pickleball in the MLP.
John Cincola – AZ Drive
John Cincola was the first overall draft pick by the AZ Drive, and for good reason. Not only was Cincola at the top of the draft pool with the highest DUPR ratings, but he’s also been tearing it up in the other pro leagues.
Cincola recently earned a silver medal in men’s split doubles at the US Open alongside Altaf Merchant. He also earned a 4th place finish in men’s doubles with Brendon Long at PPA Austin. There’s a lot of potential for Cincola; he’ll absolutely be a vital part of the Drive’s arsenal at San Clemente.
Tina Pisnik – Texas Ranchers
Tina Pisnik is a textbook example of tennis star goes pro pickleballer. She had an impressive tennis career, even achieving the status of 29th best WTA women’s singles player in the world back in 2004.
Now, Pisnik is devoted to training others to improve their pickleball and tennis game through her Smash Tennis coaching business. She’s also been tearing it up in the PPA and earned a 4th place finish in women’s doubles at the US Open alongside Tammy Emmrich.
Trades During the Draft
In addition to the exciting Challenger Level draft results, Premier Level teams still have a trade window open to make adjustments before MLP San Clemente. We saw a couple of big trade moves happen at both levels during yesterday’s draft that are worth noting.
At the Challenger Level, Christine Trifunovic was traded from the Atlanta Bouncers to Columbus P.C. for Milan Rane. Rane wasn’t able to perform to her best potential with Columbus who have struggled to gain footing this season so far.
Now with the Bouncers, Milan will be playing alongside Brooke Buckner who has been instrumental to the team’s success in women’s doubles. Rane is also an incredible women’s doubles player, having recently won a bronze medal at the Minto US Open Pickleball Championships. The Bouncers made some big moves this draft, also picking up Phillip Locklear, so it’ll be interesting to see if these changes put them ahead in the Challenger Level.
For the Premier Level, we saw DJ Young get traded from the Milwaukee Mashers to Frisco Clean Cause for Matt Wright. Both teams are looking to make their way into the top half of the league standings, and maybe this trade is just what they need to turn the season around!
Young and Wright are both solid players in their own right. Wright is known as one of the most prolific men’s doubles players in pickleball, winning many tournaments alongside his doubles partner Riley Newman. Young has been a big part of the Mashers’ limited success, playing a vital role in both men’s and mixed doubles. We’ll have to see how the on-court chemistry changes for both the Mashers and Clean Cause moving forward.
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