Down 3-6 Needing Nine Matches to Clinch, the Indy Drivers Incredibly Pull Off Seven Straight Wins To Bring NPL Championship Trophy Home To Indianapolis Post-Win
GLENDALE, ARIZONA. – OCTOBER 23, 2023 – The National Pickleball League™ (NPL™), the first and only professional pickleball league for Champions Pros aged 50+, has wrapped up a historic inaugural season.
The Indy Drivers captured the league’s first NPL Championship in dramatic fashion as they reeled off seven of eight matches to defeat regular-season winner Austin Ignite and victoriously lift the NPL Championship Cup at Chicken N Pickle (chickennpickle.com) in Glendale, Ariz., during Championship weekend from Oct 13-15th.
The Drivers’ mixed doubles team of Kim Jagd and Tao Thongvanh provided the nail-biting clinching finish after being down 2-7 in the third set and coming back to win the match and win the team championship for Indy.
“I just knew our win was going to be huge, and there were two other matches going on,” said Jagd, a former UCLA National Champion in volleyball. “But when the whole team poured onto the court, I knew it was over and we had clinched the title!”
Added Thongvanh: “I put 100 percent trust into my partner until the very last point. It was a thrilling win.”
Championship Weekend in Arizona saw all six NPL teams converge on Glendale with top-seeded Austin and No. 2 Oklahoma City Punishers earning byes into the semifinals. No. 3 Indy advanced to the finals with an opening win over the Boca Raton Picklers, and an upset against OKC. Boca Raton, seeded sixth, also left their mark on the league's debut season by winning the bronze medal. They triumphed in a closely contested match against the Denver Iconics (9-7) and Naples JBB United (9-8), ultimately sealing their victory with a thrilling NPL Teambreaker that concluded 15-8.
A total of $100,000 in prize money was handed out to the players during the three-day extravaganza.
“The Championship Weekend was an amazing and thrilling experience for all that were fortunate enough to witness it,” said Michael “Hammer Mike” Chen, former corporate CEO and co-founder of NPL. “The Championship match between the No. 1 Austin Ignite and the No. 3 Indy Drivers was a battle for the ages! I can’t wait to see what 2024 will bring, as the future is bright for NPL and all the Champions Pros (Age 50+).”
Former ATP tennis professional Rick Witsken, one of the league’s co-founders, said the victory was extra sweet as he is an Indianapolis native and his student, Phil Cohn, bought the Drivers franchise and selected Witsken No. 1 overall in the first NPL Draft in April.
“I was certain after the draft that we had the deepest team in the league,” said Witsken, who was one of the weekend’s standout players along with Nathalie Bagby. “One word to describe the Indy Drivers is ‘resilient.’ We were down 3-6 in match wins trying to get to nine first and somehow we were able to win the next seven matches. You could feel the momentum turn on a dime.”
One of the biggest momentum shifters on the day was a highlight-reel diving save by the Drivers’ Rich Lopez on match point to get Indy that much closer to the title.
(For video of Lopez’s amazing match-winning point, click HERE.).
All NPL matches in 2023 were played at Chicken N Pickle’s entertainment facilities across the country and were professionally broadcast on the league's livestream channel (https://www.youtube.com/@nationalpickleballleague/streams), allowing fans to witness the skills and strategy of esteemed athletes, including Hall of Famers Jen Dawson and Scott Moore, alongside top professionals like Beth Bellamy, Mary Helen Atkins, Natalie Shaw, Anna Shirley, Jaime Oncins, Rick Witsken, Jose Derisi, and John Sperling.
The NPL's resounding success in its inaugural season has set the stage for expansion in 2024, with plans to increase the number of teams to ten or more. The league will also take its thrilling matches to new cities, further spreading the excitement of pickleball across the nation.
About NPL Pickleball: The National Pickleball League was founded in 2022 by
Champions Pro players Rick Witsken, Beth Bellamy, and Michael "Hammer Mike" Chen. NPL Pickleball is a nationwide team competition for Champions Division (age 50+) professional pickleball players and made up of six teams in metropolitan cities Indianapolis, Austin, Boca Raton, Naples, Denver and Oklahoma City. National Pickleball League™ is owned by National Pickleball League, LLC. The NPL is dedicated to expanding the reach of pickleball, fostering community engagement, physical and mental health, and elevating the sport to new heights. Interested team owners and sponsors of NPL Pickleball can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit the league’s website at www.nplpickleball.com.
For Media Inquiries:
Steve Pratt; (310) 408.4555; email@example.com