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2019 Midwest Area Schedule

07/27: KC Open Pro (9WS)
07/28: KC Open Gold (9WS)
08/16: US GC Classic
08/17: US GC Classic
08/17: Shield Championship-Tulsa (GC)
08/19: Shield Championship-Tulsa (GC)

02/01: 2020 MCA Annual General Meeting

BOLD = MCA Tournaments

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Cleveland Rocks

Matt Smith on his way to a 20-10 win over Greg Clouse in the Pro Final.

CLEVELAND, MO -- The Cleveland Open certainly rocked the MCA Nine Wicket Series this past weekend as all four of the points' races saw new leaders at the top of the standings after this weekend's action at the Cleveland Croquet Club. The fun started in the Pro Division, as former USCA Nine Wicket National Champion Matt Smith came into the event with the idea of ending Matt Griffith's participated tournament win streak of six. Smith had a couple of MCA events under his belt, but the Cleveland Open is the first one where he planned to participate in the knockout round.


The balls rolled out on Saturday morning for the 10 players in the Goodwin World Media Pro Division with a three-round random draw. After a couple of first round wins for each, Smith and Griffith faced off in round two with Smith winning 32-11. At 2-0, Smith then got a chance to face off against another top veteran in Billy Bob Breeden, who was also 2-0 after taking down Ron Millican 17-14 and Greg Clouse 19-14. Smith kept the pedal to the metal and took a 32-6 win over Breeden to snag the top seed in the knockout. Unfortunately, the knockout had Smith, Griffith and Breeden all on the top half of the bracket.

Looking at the setup for the bottom half, Greg Clouse had another rough start in the morning as he finished with a 1-2 record. However, as the #7 seed, he found quickly found his rhythm. He started with a 21-17 win over #2 Jason Johnson, then really heated up with a 26-7 win over Greg Adams to once again find his way to his third straight and seventh overall MCA Nine Wicket Series finals appearance.

In the top half action, Griffith and Breeden had a showdown in the first round on the challenging north court. Griffith survived 25-24, so the big rematch with Smith was on for the semifinal. It was a little closer this time around, but Smith got a 22-16 win to end Griffith’s tournament streak. However, by avoiding the pegout, Griffith ended Smith’s pegout streak that he had going at three games. One more and he would have tied Griffith’s record of four.

That set up the final with Clouse and Smith. Smith got the first break and went around all the way to peg with his first ball with about 32 minutes left in the game. The game then got a little more “interactive” as both players started to wilt in the heat and the paced slowed down. Clouse was unable to get the opponent pegout and Smith kept control and left little opportunity for Clouse in last turns. He took his first title 20-10.

So with all of the carnage on the courts, the Goodwin World Media Pro Points Race took on a brand new look at the end of the day. Greg Clouse emerged as the new leader with 222 points. Former leader Griffith wasn’t far behind as he now has 216 points. Ron Millican played all four of his games on the hellish north court, but did well enough to stay in the mix with 176 points. And not far behind, Smith’s big day put him into fourth with 160 points. If he makes all of the remaining events and keeps up the pace, he can certainly close the gap and challenge for the overall GWM Pro Points title and the $200 prize. The chase for the Breeden Cup just got interesting.

From the GWM Pro Division perspective, there was concern about how often the top two players have seemed to intersect in the semifinal as opposed to the final. 

"We realize now there is a flaw in the seeding of our random draw format," said Dylan Goodwin, MCA President. "Too often, we are seeing the stronger players as four-five seeds because the draw gets tougher as you win and conversely easier as you lose. That means easier points for the bottom half. We are going to look at a method to factor in the season standings to create a more balanced playoff."

Gold Division Finalists Adams (L) and Benz (R). Click to Zoom.BENZ IS BACK
Four players took to the brand new south court on Saturday morning to battle for the Gold Division title. Steve Jackson came in as the favorite after his win at the Lee’s Summit opener. Jackson started strong as he took on young Gabe Airrington from the "Millican Academy of Croquet" and snagged a 17-12 win to start the day. Airrington actually plays Silver but stepped up to help fill out the division and get a warm-up for Sunday.

2014 Silver Division champion Nate Benz returned after a one-year hiatus from the MCA and was experiencing his first foray into Gold Division play. He took a game one win and that gave us a Jackson-Benz matchup in round two. This would be a re-match of the Silver Championship Final played at the 2014 Kansas City Open in Parkville, Missouri. Benz won that one 10-8. But on this day, Jackson powered through and took an 18-11 win over Benz to get to 2-0 on the day.

Two of the four players would advance, so Jackson just needed a win in the final round to secure his birth. A loss would likely create three-way tie. Unfortunately, the schedule called for the game to be played on the pockmarked north court where Jodi Adams was able to pull off the upset with a 28-23 win. The three-way tie was on and sure enough Jackson ended up as the odd-man out.

With the final set for the North court, Adams opted to keep it there as she felt the conditions evened the playing field. However, the high-flying Benz found his way around the court and claimed the title with a 30-22 win.

As with the GWM Pro Division, the race changed leaders as Jackson did enough to claim the top spot at 140 points. Adams now follows in second place with 124.

Host Bill Berg (L) with Bronze Winner Patrick Fagan (R)HEAT WAVE FOR BRONZE
The Bronze Division took the courts at 2:00 p.m. during what seemed to be peak heat levels. It was a small group with just three players and they played a quick three-game round robin. Previously, the group had been playing six-ball croquet, so this was the first time bronze played true nine-wicket head-to-head singles. As a developmental division though, they did play on a 50-minute clock and did not utilize the advanced MCA rules for carry-over deadness. As is standard, in-game coaching was provided.

Gwyneth Bowen took on Patrick Fagan in round one with Fagan cruising to a 13-4 win. He then continued with a 24-12 win over Shari Cullinan to secure the Bronze title. The final game would be for the second place medal and Bowen was able to get the win over Cullinan with a 14-12 win.

With Pro, Gold and Bronze playing on Saturday, the Silver Division had the spotlight on Sunday for what was a great day of croquet action. The Silver set a new standard with nine players in action across three blocks of three. The Millican Academy of Croquet (MAC) fielded four players and as the day played out three of those players would make the final four.

But the storyline for the division would be how would such a balanced competitive field play out. Justin Marciniak was a strong contender as he came in with a 4-0 record based on his Silver win at the opener in Lee’s Summit. Of course, Trevor Adams was also looking strong at 3-1 and the overall leader of the division with 61 points. Darin Watson factored in as well after a 2-2 day at Lee's Summit and to also come in with 61 points.

Gabe Airrington. Click to ZoomDespite the seeding working according to points, Watson actually ended up with the tough draw though as Group B had Brevin Millican and newcomer from the MAC, Bryce Millican. As everyone knows, MAC players come into the events ready to play. Brevin took the division and Bryce was able to advance from the block by virtue of a 21-20 win over Watson.

The other groups played out more as expected as both had one player each making the leap from Bronze to Silver. Gabe Airrington ended up taking Group A and the top seed overall in the event. Trevor Adams also advanced at 1-1.

Justin Marciniak took a 16-11 victory over Di Berg to win Group C, but ended up as the third seed with the two seed going to Brevin Millican based on wicket points. That meant he would face off again against Berg and he stayed on course with a 14-12 win. He then took a hard-fought 12-7 victory over Brevin to secure his eighth-straight win of the year and a berth in the final.

The other half of the bracket featured a couple of nail-biters. In the four-five game, Bryce Millican edged Trevor Adams 22-21 to advance. Bryce then took on Airrington but fell 26-25. Not bad for a first event.

The Silver Final then got underway at about 2:00 p.m. accompanied by the most oppressive heat of the day. Marciniak and Airrington powered through, with Marciniak getting the first opportunity when Airrington left a pioneer at the three wicket. With the heat perhaps taking its toll, Marciniak over-rolled the set up and failed to get the break going. He then fell into partner deadness and Airrington carefully and quickly collected hoops in bundles of two, utilizing available opponent balls to accelerate around the court. Marciniak missed both clearing opportunities, but got clean the old fashioned way in time to make a threat.

However, with Airrington partnered up on court at the 11PW, Marciniak declined to make the cross-court attack from five. Marciniak kept his balls on the court and Airrington also passed on the attack at five. With red now dead, Marciniak again passed on the attack and ended up partner dead. That sealed it for Airrington and he went on to claim his second Silver title with a 28-15 win.

When asked about the potential attacks, Marciniak who had played three straight hours in the afternoon heat said, "I just wasn't feeling it."

The upside is that Marciniak's run propelled him to the top of another points race that looks it could provide good drama all the way to the championship in September. Marcinak now stands at 133 points with Brevin Millican in striking distance at 121 points. Former leader Adams, is right in the mix as well at 118. In fact, seven players in all are probably still in good shape to challenge.

Overall, the Cleveland Croquet Club and crew of Bill and Di Berg along with Nate Benz did a great job hosting the event and looks like the Cleveland Open will be a fixture going forward for the MCA Nine Wicket Series.

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