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Clemson pickleball posts tournament win, secures bid to nationals

Clemson Pickleball // Provided
The team poses with its $2,500 reward after defeating Virginia to secure Clemson’s second consecutive tournament championship.

The Clemson pickleball club secured its second regional championship in two years and earned a bid for the 2024 collegiate national championship at the DUPR collegiate pickleball regional tournament in Virginia late last month. With the win, the team is now just the second school to win more than one DUPR collegiate pickleball regional tournament.

The Tigers — the reigning tournament champions –— defeated the No. 2 seed North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers back to back in the respective semifinal and final rounds.

In the tournament, collegiate pickleball programs go head-to-head; the winner is the first to secure three wins of five possible matches, including women’s doubles, men’s doubles, two mixed doubles events, and, if required, a singles event called a “dreambreaker,” which serves as a tiebreaker.

In the semifinals, North Carolina and Clemson split the first four games at two a side to force a dreambreaker. Levi Leard scored some huge points for the Tigers, and Kyle Compton built momentum with a flick volley.

At one point, Fiorella Bozzetto dove into the surrounding fence as she chased down a ball. She later added that the play fueled her up and inspired a fight in the team. In the end, a crosscourt volley and a fist pump from senior Selie Feldman sealed the nail-biter semifinal for the Tigers.

Clemson’s celebrations were short-lived, however, as its first-ever matchup against Virginia awaited in the finals. The female duo of Feldman and Bozzetto were the first team to thrust into action, and they swiftly took care of business.

“I think I blacked out in the first women’s match. I don’t remember a single point,” Feldman said about her win in the finals.

Following Feldman and Bozzetto’s win, the Tigers secured another duo win — courtesy of Leard and Compton — to put the Tigers up 2-0. In the final matchup featuring a mixed duo, Leard and Feldman refused to crack under pressure, sealing Clemson’s 3-1 victory over Virginia with a 22-20 win to declare Clemson victorious.

The Tigers showed they are a force to be reckoned with on the pickleball court, but their victory was nothing if not a team effort; the team believes everyone did their part and stepped up when it mattered most. Along with tremendous pride, the team received $2,500 in scholarship money and a ticket to the 2024 collegiate national tournament, which will take place in Texas in November.

“Our expectation this season was to earn a bid to Nationals,” Feldman told The Tiger. “With our latest win in Virginia, we have completed our goal of obtaining a bid. We have one more tournament in April in Georgia this semester. While our goal is always to win, we have less pressure given we have already obtained our bid to Nationals. Therefore, our goal for our upcoming tournament is to sharpen our skills, continue to build team chemistry, and develop other Clemson Pickleball tournament players through gaining experience as we prepare for Nationals in the fall.”

Recent power rankings placed Clemson as high as No. 16 in the nation, and the team’s performance at regionals showed precisely why.

“(Our) biggest source of motivation this season has been rebounding from an underwhelming performance at the DUPR Collegiate National Championship in 2023 and responding by competing and winning DUPR Super Regional tournaments to qualify and compete for the national championship in 2024,” Feldman said. “Going forward, our team’s motivation will be to dominate the collegiate pickleball circuit and declare Clemson Pickleball as a premier program in the United States.”

Pickleball is undoubtedly growing, especially in the Clemson area. In partnership with the University, the city of Clemson recently announced its intention to construct eight new pickleball courts at Nettles Park. Clemson provided $250,000 to the city for the courts, as previously reported by The Tiger.

“Collegiate pickleball growth has skyrocketed in the past two years,” Feldman added. “(Our) current most crucial goal is to push for Clemson to build pickleball courts on (the) University’s main campus, similar to other universities around the nation … (We) hope (our) recent success will also grow Clemson’s pickleball presence so that students can learn and develop in the game for the longevity of Clemson pickleball and the sport itself.”

The Clemson pickleball club will return to the court for the DUPR collegiate Georgia Super Regional Tournament — the club’s final tournament appearance of the semester — on April 6 and 7 in Georgia.

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About the Contributors
Kelly Kaelblein
Kelly Kaelblein, Asst. Sports Editor
Ethan Silipo, Senior Reporter
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