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Four fall league pickleball champions crowned

The Pickleholics pose for a photo on the pickleball court.
The Pickleholics went unbeaten at 7-0 to win the 3.0 title.

Four U.S. Team Pickleball-Tampa Bay League champions for the fall season have little time before the spring campaign begins. Teams are forming now to start Jan. 13.

The four division winners were the Pickleholics, Space Weasels, Walking Wounded and Hillsborough Community College Drivers.

Maggie McClintock, U.S. Team Pickleball’s director of league development, also captained the Pickleholics, who tallied 1,353 points and went 7-0 record in the 3.0 division.

“I had a lot of talent that had not played in a league before,” she said. “Ten people came together and they just jelled.”

The Space Weasels pose for a photo with their pickleball paddles on the court.
The Space Weasels edged the Pickleball Addicts for the 4.0-plus title.

Johny Hummell, who nearly went unbeaten, was the top player, coming out so he could play with his father, Mike. The Lozo family — David, Donna and David Jr. — also contributed.

While many league games were played at HCC, other sites included Northdale, Dunedin, Oldsmar, Bardmoor in Seminole and McMullen Booth in Clearwater.

The Space Weasels captured the 4.0-plus title, going 6-1-1 while racking up 1,329 points, just 20 more than the runner-up Pickleball Addicts.

Jessie Gifford hits a deep shot for the Drivers.
Jessie Gifford hits a deep shot for the Drivers.

“We barely squeaked it out,” said captain Chris Whalen, mentioning a 143-143 tie with the Pickleball Addicts in the season opener. “I didn’t think it was going to be that close.”

The Space Weasels were led by Wayne Slattery, the team’s most valuable player, with Ana O’Donell as the top female player. Whalen labeled Lauren LaPerle and Lex Madias as the most improved players.

Having won the spring league, the Walking Wounded made it back-to-back titles as a 60-and-older team. They tallied 1,264 points to finish ahead of Legend of the Lakes, which totaled 1,153. The teams split two matches this season.

The Walking Wounded pose for a photo together on the pickleball courts.
The Walking Wounded battled through injuries to win a division championship.

There were no hard feelings, though. Indicative of many pickleball players and teams, the social aspect is not lost.

“We’re all friends and we all go out to lunch afterward,” captain Sue Wooten said. “This league is a lot of fun. It’s between recreational play and tournament play. We all just love playing together with our friends.”

Wooten explained why the team name is fitting: “The majority of us have an injury, but we still play.”

The team’s top players were Mike Bernaldo, Laurie Gereaux, along with the husband-and-wife duo of Pete and Donna Cabralonner.

The HCC Drivers rallied from a season-opening loss to the Oldsmar Oranges to win nine straight matches en route to the 3.5 title. The mixed team was one of six in its division.

“It was rough getting going, but we found our stride after that,” said Josh Gifford, the team’s captain.

By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos courtesy of the Pickleholics, Space Weasels, the Walking Wounded and Josh Gifford

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