Thrills, Upsets, and Roars: Highlights from the DUPR Collegiate National Championship

Kevin Brown
January 9, 2024

This past weekend, the annual DUPR Collegiate National Championship took place at Life Time Athletic Club in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, and brought together 400 athletes from over 36 universities across the country to prove which school deserved to be crowned the title of Pickleball National Champions. The three-day tournament featured big upsets, heated exchanges, and possibly the rowdiest crowd this sport has ever seen.

On the first day, schools battled each other in group play. Out of the six schools in each of the six groups, only the top two would make it out of group play into the elimination round. Each group experienced intense competition and the upsets started on day one.

Notable Upsets From Group Play:

  • In Group A #24 Virginia Tech upset #13 Kennesaw State and #12 Michigan.
  • In Group C #15 Ohio State upset #10 Grand Canyon University. Even after Ohio State’s starting male player dislocated his shoulder mid-match and they had to make an emergency substitution.
  • In Group D #16 Florida upset #4 Utah Valley and #9 Indiana.
  • In Group F #18 Maryland upset #6 Utah State.

UVA's March To Victory

Out of the 36 teams in the championship bracket, only 12 made it into the elimination bracket. Six of those teams earned a 5-0 record while only two teams, 1st seed Utah Tech and 7th seed Florida Atlantic, managed the impressive feat of not losing a single game during those five match wins.

While there was hardly a shortage of great pickleball during group play, probably the most impressive story of the weekend was the oppressive campaign led by 5th seed UVA that had them dominating throughout the playoffs, toppling top teams left and right.

During the play-in round of the elimination bracket, UVA faced off against their Commonwealth rivals, Virginia Tech. During group play, 24th seed Virginia Tech had already pulled off the upsets against 13th seed Kennesaw State and 12th seed Michigan and was looking forward to taking down UVA. However, UVA had other plans for their in-state rivals and secured their place in the quarterfinals by beating Virginia Tech 3-1.

In the quarterfinals, UVA faced off against the veteran team and 3rd seed TCU. After taking a big 2-0 lead on the Horned Frogs, the Hoos extended their run with a 3-1 win to advance to the semifinals.

Sunday morning, the UNC Tarheels defeated the extremely tough team from Florida Atlantic. Their first-ever match loss for the championship after Florida Atlantic almost forced a dreambreaker. The second semifinal match positioned the number one seed and 2022 National Championship runner-up Utah Tech Trailblazers against the red-hot UVA squad.

UVA's Thrilling Victory Over the Undefeated Trailblazers

The Trailblazers came out with a 21-11 win in women’s doubles with a women’s team that hadn’t lost all tournament. The men’s doubles game saw UVA take a 6-1 lead, forcing Utah Tech to take an early time-out. The Trailblazers clawed back to take the late lead at 18-16, forcing UVA to take their time-out. With their composure regained, UVA stormed back to win 5 straight points to end the game 21-18 and tip the momentum back in their favor. The Trailblazers never recovered and UVA took the next two mixed games at 21-18 and 21-12, handing the previously 34-0 Utah Tech team their first loss of the year, and their second-ever loss in their program’s history.

While the win gave UVA much to celebrate, their job wasn’t over as they now had to battle the defending national champions, The UNC Tarheels. Both teams traveled well and the stands were packed with fans, players, and students donning either Carolina or Jefferson Blue. Before the match even started, the stadium echoed with school chants for both UNC and UVA. The crowd was roaring and the stage was set for what ended up being the most electric collegiate match in history.

UVA's Unforgettable Journey to Claim the DUPR Collegiate National Championship Title

UVA came out on fire, handing the UNC women their first loss of the tournament and taking a 1-0 lead on UNC. The men’s doubles game had an extremely close half, with the Tarheels leading at the side change 11-7. However, UNC showed why they were the defending champions, made the necessary adjustments, and held the UVA men to just 2 points in the second half to win 21-9. UNC capitalized on the momentum and took the first mixed game against UVA 21-14. UVA showed the same grit and determination that carried them to the finals in the first place and took an early six-point lead in the first half that UNC just couldn’t recover from. UVA finished the game 21-13, forcing the first-ever dreambreaker in Collegiate National Championship finals history.

UNC started the dreambreaker with a big 4-0 start against UVA. However, UVA battled back and their women in the 3rd and 4th dreambreaker spot, allowing UVA to trail by only one during the side changeover. UNC absolutely turned it on in the second half and found their rhythm. They marched on to a 20-16 lead and a championship point. Throughout the tournament, UVA proved time and time again that even when the odds are stacked against them, you can never count them out. Twice they defended UNC’s championship point, clawing their way to their own championship point, and ultimately stunning the Tarheels and winning the dreambreaker 23-21. Multiple times throughout the tournament, the Hoos defied the odds, battled back from deficits, and without a doubt, earned their crown as the new DUPR Collegiate National Champions.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the event and a special thank you to all the teams, players, and all of our partners who helped make this event possible.

Thanks to our Partners

Visit HERE for the full Collegiate National Championship Guide, including Brackets, Standing, and more!

Media Contact: Kevin Brown, Director of Marketing at DUPR

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