NOTL pickleball player Gary Jensen moves quick to return the ball to his opponent. Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Hundreds of players competed in inaugural tourney in Niagara-on-the-Lake over the weekend.

For some pickleball players at the NOTL Classic pickleball tournament, the joy of the sport doesn’t just come from scoring a point or serving an ace.

Just ask Lia Carlyle and Melanie Chittenden, both Niagara-on-the-Lake residents and teammates in the tournament.

The two met only six months ago — but you wouldn’t know it from the way they interacted with each other. 

“I think when we first met, we just kind of clicked,” Carlyle said.

Carlyle has been playing pickleball for about a year, and Chittenden has been playing for about eight months.

The people you get to meet and play with are one of the great benefits of the sport, Carlyle said.

“The social part of it is incredible,” she said. 

Steve Ferley, one of the tournament’s organizers, agreed.

“You enjoy it on the court, but you also enjoy the social aspect around it,” he said.

When The Lake Report spoke to Carlyle and Chittenden on Saturday morning, they had won three out of four games in the round robin. 

They played a bronze medal match later on and, though it was a tight game, lost 15-13.

They were competing in the 2.5 level for the 50 to 64 age bracket. 

The 2.5 division is for intermediate players who have not played in a tournament before, Carlyle said. 

Shari Sartor and Terri Champion from Niagara-on-the-Lake also competed in the 2.5 level but were competing in the under-50 division. They won silver in the women’s doubles. 

Both started playing pickleball in the Niagara-on-the-Lake Pickleball Club after a friend told them about it. 

“Once you try it, you fall in love with it,” said Sartor. 

NOTLers Brian Russell and Gary Jensen spoke to The Lake Report on Saturday after their first game, which they won 11-1. They competed in the 2.5 level in the over-65 division. 

Russell not only likes to have fun, he likes to come out on top.

“I love to win, I always try my best,” he said. 

“If we’re up 10 nothing, we’re gonna go for 11 nothing,” he added. 

Both were introduced to pickleball by a friend. 

The tournament ran from Friday to Sunday at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil and was run by more than 100 volunteers. 

Though it was a first for NOTL, Ferley said it ran smoothly with very few hiccups. 

“The facilities are really nice,” said Emily Hinton from Squamish, B.C., who was at the tournament on Sunday supporting her partner, Aaron Vickery.

“I’ve been to quite a few tournaments, and this is a really nice setup. And, they’ve organized it super well,” she added. 

She was at the tournament with her parents, Sara and Brad McMillan from Lion’s Head, Ontario.

All three of them play for fun and enjoy how easy it is to pick up the sport. 

“We don’t play quite as seriously (as Vickery), but it’s just, we can all play together, which is such a nice thing,” said Hinton. 

Ferley said a lot goes into planning a tournament of this size, but he’d like to see it run again in the future. 

“We’ve had literally over 100 people volunteering, that’s a huge demand to put on people, but I think they’re willing to do it again,” he said.

“That’s the impression that we get.”

— With files from Evan Loree

By Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 14, 2023 at 17:02

This item reprinted with permission from   The Lake Report   Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
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