3 Province teams win Arizona Pickleball Players League state titles

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The Province Hot Shots: (from left) -- Kasha Balcerak, coach Connie Erickson, Petra Whitney, Diane Benveniste, Pam Marzano, coach Sandy Miller, Laurie Amkin, head coach Peggy Torno, Roberta Haight, Carolyn Kunz, Diana Cole.

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, and Maricopa is no exception.

Three teams from the city, all representing the Province 55-plus community, recently earned Arizona Pickleball Players League state titles during the tournament at Dave White Park in Casa Grande.

The Red Hot Picklers: Front row (from left) — Dawn LaBarge, Karen Schuman. Second row — Lea Anne Randell, Janine Meckelborg, Katie McGlassion, Tracy McKinney, head coach Wendy Austin, Jeanne Seger, Helen Hillman, Susan Fitzgerald. Back row (obscured) — Coaches Al Erickson and Ken Wallace. Not pictured — Anna Baumiller.

The large crowds over two days included many from Maricopa, who traveled to support the local squads.

The Province Hot Shots, competing in the women’s 2.5 division, won their regional title, 28-17, before prevailing, 23-20, in the state-championship match. They had dominated opponents during an undefeated regular season. In nine league matches, they scored at least 32 points of a possible 36.

The Red Hot Picklers, in women’s 3.0, were close-match specialists. An 8-1 regular season was capped by a 23-20 victory in their final regular-season contest to earn the league title. The team advanced through the regional, 25-21, and then saved the best for last with one-point nailbiter wins – 23-22 in the state semifinals and 24-23 for the championship.

Province Gold: (from left) — Ron Arpin, Jerry McKinney, Jim Welch, Bob Brauch, Jay Johnson, Rod Anderson, Kevin Combs, Scott Headley, Martin Ravenstein. Not pictured: Tom Lohse.

On the men’s side, Province Gold won its 3.0 regular-season league crown with an 8-1 record. Its only setback came in the final match of the season after it had clinched the league title and a state-tourney berth. The men left no doubt, earning their championship with 30-15 and 28-15 victories.

The state-winning teams combined to win 32 of 34 matches throughout the season, which began in early January.

During the season, 371 teams with nearly 4,000 players competed in the Arizona Pickleball Players League.