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Short season, big finish: First Major League Pickleball season comes to a close in Austin

Team BLQK threw their paddles as they won the first-ever Pritchard Cup at Dripping Springs' Dreamland on Monday. (Major League Pickleball)

After four days of pool play, Austin's first-ever homegrown major league sport finished its first season in front of a lively audience as Team BLQK made history at Dripping Springs' Dreamland Monday night.

Made up of 32 world-class pickleballers divvied into eight teams—with two male and two female pros on each team—Major League Pickleball's first season came to a climactic end as Team BLQK's Ben Johns and Irina Tereschenko edged out second-place team Chimeras' AJ Koller and Lee Whitwell in a 15-14 final mixed doubles win.

Team BLQK, which was composed of Johns, the men's No. 1 ranked pickleballer, Tereschenko and teammates Rob Nunnery and Andrea Koop, ultimately edged out the Chimeras. But it looked like a different story as the Chimeras' fans, donned in matching hats, cheered on women's doubles team members Whitwell and 14-year-old Anna Leigh Waters to the first victory of the night.

Team BLCQ lost the first round 15-10, but the men's side easily tied the match with a 15-4 round to call it even. Then came the real fun—in the first mixed doubles' match, Team BLQK took it 15-9 despite No. 1 womens' player Waters' best efforts, and they looked to hold the same control over the final round.

But with the passion of their supporters and the grit of Whitwell—who later won the fan-voted MVP award for the season—the Chimeras bounced back from a four-point deficit and tied it up 14-14 for the final set point. Still, BLQK stuck it through and embraced as they earned the first Pritchard Cup in history.

Team Chimera fans cheered as the mixed doubles' duo nearly pulled off a comeback in Monday's finals. (Claire Partain/Austonia)

MLP's first season stretched across a long weekend, with pool play on Friday-Sunday and knockout rounds on Monday morning. Both the Chimeras and Team BLQK were the only teams to end the first section of the tournament 6-1 and were rewarded accordingly with their shares of the $150,000+ cash prize.

It may be a short season, but pickleball, a decades-old sport that has recently taken root in Austin, isn't going away anytime soon. A 32-court behemoth dedicated to the sport is in the works in the Texas capital, and in May 2022, "Austin Pickle Ranch" will be host to the 2022 World Pickleball Games. Dreamland, meanwhile, features several professional pickleballers who live and train onsite, while more amateur players can enjoy dozens of pickle ball courts in and around Austin.

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