2018 Michigan Dodgeball Cup Preview

Photo Credit - Alan Holben
The 14th Annual Michigan Dodgeball Cup will take place this Sunday at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

This Sunday, Michigan State University will host one of the most significant tournaments of the season: The 14th Annual Michigan Dodgeball Cup.  In attendance this year will be 3 of the top 10 teams in the country according to the official NCDA Standings (and the most recent power rankings).

#1 Central Michigan (also #1 in the Power Rankings), #2 Grand Valley State (#2 PR), and #10 Michigan State (#8 PR) all bring a different dynamic to this tournament, as it promises to be an intriguing set of games.

Before we get into the preview, the schedule for this tournament is listed below:

10:15 a.m. – MSU vs. GVSU

11:30 a.m. – CMU vs. MSU

12:45 p.m. – GVSU vs. CMU

Now, on to the preview.  Let’s start by talking briefly about each team in attendance.


TEAM PREVIEWS

Central Michigan

Record: 18-0

NCDA Ranking: 1

Captain: Mike Riley

Assistant Captains: Grant Webber, Austin Brege.

CMU enters this year’s MDC red hot!  The Chippewas are on an impressive 18-game winning streak, with three wins over GVSU in that time frame.  It may be a bit early to start looking at the possibility of CMU making history by having an undefeated season, but if they can come away with a few convincing win at MDC, that may change my mind.  The Chippewas possess one of the best all-around players in the league in Captain Mike Riley.  But this is in no way a one-man show, as Riley has a talented and experienced supporting cast.  I’ll start with Grant Webber, one of the most talented players on the roster.  Grant has improved immensely over the past year, and is poised for a great second half to the season.  CMU also has two top tier players in Casey Bielec, a smart well-rounded player, and Bryce Belen, another player with a dangerous arm a strong catching skills.  Joe Kobus is one more veteran that needs to be mentioned in this preview.  He has a cannon of an arm, and will be a crucial part of CMU’s offense at the MDC.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people playing sports and basketball court
Central Michigan has had a year full of clutch victories. Can they continue this trend at MDC?

Grand Valley State

Record: 9-3

NCDA Ranking: 2

Captain: Brandon Meisel

Assistant Captains: Sam Stockdale, Aaron Krafft

Grand Valley enters this tournament at 9-3 on the year, ranked #2 in the country.  Most teams in the NCDA would kill to be in this position, but by Grand Valley’s standards, it is somewhat of a down-year.  Now, don’t take that out of context because this season is far from over.  In fact, GVSU has shown over the past few years that having a slow start does not have to define their season.  The Lakers have come back from similar starts to the year in each of the last two seasons to finish as MDC and National Champs.  Captain Brandon Meisel will look to do the same this year, and he certainly has the pieces to make it happen.  The Lakers have not come close to playing to their full potential this year, and when they do they wil be the hardest team to beat in the league.  Sam Stockdale is someone I consider an x-factor for GVSU the rest of the season.  This third-year player is as skilled as anyone on the court, and GVSU will need him to play at All-American levels the rest of the way.  Aaron Krafft is another top player for GVSU, and he too will be looked upon to have a stellar performance at MDC as the Lakers are missing a few top arms including Ray Franklin and Ben Tubergen.  The last two players I will mention are Alex Jonauskas and Aaron VanFleteren. There are many other Lakers who will be counted on to play great this weekend, but these two veterans will are crucial to the team’s success specifically against CMU.  If Alex and Aaron can play smart and come up with clutch catches, I could see GVSU pulling the upset.

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(From left to right) Juniors Alex Jonauskas, Brandon Meisel, and Sam Stockdale will all be counted on to make a big impact for GVSU this weekend if the Lakers are to win a 4th-straight MDC.

Michigan State

Record: 3-8

NCDA Ranking: 10

Captain: Sandros Rivera

Assistant Captains: Rebecca Shappell, Hunter Whitehill

Michigan State has had an interesting last 12 months.  A year ago they entered MDC as one of the most likely schools to win the cup.  They went 0-3 on the day and ended up falling just short a few more times that year to in-state opponents including a heartbreaking overtime loss in the Final Four at Nationals.  Now, this season, the Spartans have had to rebuild with a roster filled with inexperienced rookies.  Despite their lack of experience, I am excited about this group.  They still have a solid combination of veterans and talented rookies so I can see them becoming a threat as we head into the spring.  Captain Sandros Rivera has led this young team to a 3-8 record so far, but he has them in position to make a run this semester.  Rebecca Shappell is another leader on this roster and certainly has played a big role in developing these young athletes to help fill out their roster.  Noe Galaviz is one of the most talented players in the league, and his arm will be counted on tremendously by MSU at MDC.  Dalin Clark is one of the veterans on the team that will need to play great for MSU to be able to keep up with the top two teams in the country this Sunday.  Daniel Kobina has been a consistent player for MSU the past few years as both a dangerous transition player and strong catcher.  He is poised to take another step forward as one of MSU top players this semester.  Hunter Whitehill is another player who will be counted on this weekend.  He is very impressive arm talent, and if he can play the best dodgeball of his young career, I see MSU making a big statement this weekend.  Lastly, rookie Payton Schuster has stood out to me as a fantastic talent since the very first tournament of the year.  I expect him to surprise some people this weekend at MDC.

Michigan State has a very young, but very talented roster this season.

PLAYER INTERVIEWS

I conducted some brief interviews with a leader on each of the teams attending the MDC.  See our conversations below:


Mike Riley (Central Michigan)

Mike Riley has led Central Michigan to the best start in program history. They currently sit at 18-0.

Who is the most underrated player on your team?

Joe Kobus is a stud.  I don’t know why he isn’t more talked about. Tom Mudge is the hardest thrower on our team and an absolute killer.

Who is the top rookie on the roster?

Eric Nelson is without doubt the best rookie in the league. Great arm, only decent hands, but great mind for the game and stays composed

What is the team mindset heading into MDC?

We are approaching this tournament with championship mentality and a championship ready performance.


Brandon Meisel (Grand Valley State)

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Brandon Meisel (center) is in his second year as captain for Grand Valley State.

Who is the most underrated player on your team?

The most underrated player on our team is Alex Jonauskas. Alex is quick, smart, and always clutch for a catch. If teams are smart, they should keep any eye on him this weekend. He is a very talented player looking to make a big impact.

Who is the top rookie on the roster?

For new dodgeball players, either they have what it takes to be a great player, or they don’t. For our freshman Josh Hill, the kid definitely has what it takes. While still refining his dodgeball skills, Josh has quickly turned into a weapon on our team, and his powerful throw is likely to catch some people off guard this weekend. We’ll be looking to Josh to come up with some big plays for us this weekend.

What is the team mindset heading into MDC?

Our mindset for MDC is the same as always: play smart, be disciplined, and win the tournament. The trophy has found a home in my apartment for the last few years, and we’ll definitely be looking to take it back there, come Sunday night.


Rebecca Shappell (Michigan State)

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people playing sports and basketball court
Rebecca Shappell is a leader on this young MSU team that has shown a lot of promise the past few months.

Who is the most underrated player on your team?

Daniel Kobina. This guy has quickly developed into one of the best players on our team, and if you don’t know his name by now, you should. This guy is shaping up to be one of the better players in the Michigan Region.  Dennis Sullivan. As a freshman, he’s been showing a lot of leadership and knowledge on the court. Dennis is easily our best blocker but he is also a solid and dependable all-around player. He’s certainly picked up on the game quickly and I’m excited to see how both he and Payton (see below) develop over the years

Who is the top rookie on the roster?

Payton Schuster. look for this kid to be throwing some heat. His passion for the game is absolutely unmatched and he’s a solid workhorse for us.

What is the team mindset heading into MDC?

In general, our true team test will be seeing how we can handle ourselves against big Michigan teams under pressure. Our biggest opponent this year has been ourselves, and previously the pressure of an intense situation got to us and our youth.  After these past few weeks of hard practice I’ve definitely seen solid improvement from the team as a whole; on their discipline and composure as well as their on-court knowledge.


GAME BY GAME PREDICTIONS

10:15 a.m. – GVSU vs. MSU

Starting the day off will be a match between #2 Grand Valley State, and #10 Michigan State.  One interesting note about this game is that it will be the first meeting between the Spartans and Lakers since the classic Final Four game at Nationals where GVSU came back from a late 2-0 deficit.  Will MSU be able to avenge that loss with a major upset, or will the Lakers hold ground and set up a huge matchup against CMU?  Below are some comments from each of the three players I interviewed:

CMU’s Mike Riley: MSU is an incredibly young team as they basically had to refill their entire roster. The biggest problem with young teams is obviously lack of experience, but more specifically, lack of organization. When you lack organization you become unable to focus the strengths of the raw young talent and it becomes chaos without strategy. When paired against the Lakers I believe MSU will face very similar a problems in terms of the gap in organization. However, just like in my previous prediction, it wouldn’t surprise me if the chaos MSU thrives in ends up taking a point from GV

GVSU’s Brandon Meisel: MSU is young, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a formidable opponent. They are going to have a lot of young players looking to make a name for themselves, but at the end of the day I think our experience as a team will pull out the victory for us.

MSU’s Rebecca Shappell: We have yet to play GV this year, and after how Nationals ended against them last year, our veterans are definitely hungry for a win. It will be a tough match, but again, if we can maintain possession and composure I feel like it will be an intense game. I’m interested to see how this matchup will go, but again, go green!

PREDICTIONS:

Kevin Bailey: 4-1 GVSU

Felix Perrone: 4-2 GVSU

Colby Briceland: 4-2 GVSU

Dylan Fettig: 4 – 1 GVSU

Jacob Leski: 5-0 GVSU 

Mike Riley: 4-0 GVSU

Brandon Meisel: 4-0 GVSU

Rebecca Shappell: 3-2 MSU

Zigmas Maloni (Statistical Analysis): GVSU (53.986) v MSU (44.591+1) for .061 [or 1.939 as a #2/270 upset]


11:30 a.m. – CMU vs. MSU

The second match of the day will be between #10 Michigan State and #1 Central Michigan.  This game will feature the largest gap in “level of experience” as MSU’s young team will be up against a tough test with CMU’s experienced roster.  Central should take care of business in this one, but here’s an interesting note for if they don’t:  According to the Gonzalez Ratings, an MSU victory over CMU would be the biggest upset in league history.  I don’t expect MSU will be afraid of their opponents in this game, and I don’t see CMU taking the Spartans lightly.

CMU’s Mike Riley:  The same problems I outlined earlier about the youth of MSU applies here as well. Against a well-oiled team like CMU, i believe that will become glaring and the points will rack up. All that being said, MSU’s chaotic style is a wildcard and they’ve used that to take a point on us before, so we won’t be underestimating them.

GVSU’s Brandon Meisel: Although MSU’s young roster may have a lot of raw talent, having game time experience is next to none. With that said, CMU’s starting roster is almost completely filled with players having at-least one year under their belt, some upwards of 6 years. CMU takes it.

MSU’s Rebecca Shappell: This team is clearly the team to beat this year. They do not seem weak on a single aspect of their game and always know what to do.  However, I feel like if we can keep our composure, play smart and execute plays that we could give them a hard time. Overall, I’m obviously going with the Spartans here.

PREDICTIONS:

Kevin Bailey: 4-1 CMU

Felix Perrone: 3-0 CMU

Colby Briceland: 4-1 CMU

Dylan Fettig: 5-0 CMU

Jacob Leski: 4-0 CMU  

Mike Riley: 5-0 CMU

Brandon Meisel: 5-0 CMU

Rebecca Shappell: 3-2 MSU

Zigmas Maloni (Statistical Analysis): CMU (56.240) v MSU (44.531+1) for .010 [or 2.000 as a #1/270 upset]


12:45 p.m. – CMU vs. GVSU

The last official match of the day is arguably the most highly anticipated.  Okay, there isn’t really an argument for any other game being more anticipated than this one.  It’s your classic #1 vs. #2 matchup.  Central Michigan has held the upper-hand so far this season, and I have gone 0-3 in predicting these matchups all year, picking GV in each of the three.  This time around I’m taking CMU.  I don’t plan on picking GVSU in this matchup going forward until they can prove to me they are able to beat the Chippewas.  I can’t wait to see what each team looks like in this game.  As you know, the MDC is no ordinary tournament, so it will be interesting to see how each team responds with this game holding added significance.  Don’t be surprised to see this one go down to the wire.

CMU’s Mike Riley: The classic battle between the top 2 teams in the country for the last few years. MDC is previewed as mini-Nationals exactly for this reason. The power struggle between our teams has always been close and now finally I believe we’ve moved well out in front. CMU are notoriously slow starters so I expect they will take a point on us in the first half. But that’s where their success ends. I believe our strategy, roster depth, and passion to win will overpower the Lakers for the 4th time this year.

GVSU’s Brandon Meisel: Taking on guys with 1/3 of your age in dodgeball experience may be tough to overcome, but the young guys on our roster are more than ready to take on the challenge. Their readiness, coupled with our older guys’ skills and discipline, will take a stand against this undefeated team.

MSU’s Rebecca Shappell: This will most likely be the first and last time I’ll ever say this but fire up Chips! This game will definitely be intense as both of these teams always have a strong showing at MDC, but I’m expecting the Chips to come out on top in this one. They seem to be the all-around team, however I wouldn’t be surprised if GV were to tie it up at some point. In the end, CMU will pull away for the W

PREDICTIONS:

Kevin Bailey: 3-2 CMU

Felix Perrone: 4-3 CMU

Colby Briceland: 3-2 (OT) GVSU

Dylan Fettig: 3-2 (OT) GVSU

Jacob Leski: 4-2 CMU 

Mike Riley: 4-1 CMU

Brandon Meisel: 3-2 GVSU

Rebecca Shappell: 4-2 CMU

Zigmas Malloni (Statistical Analysis): CMU (56.250) v GVSU (54.046) for .780 [or 1.220 as a #137/270 upset]


VIEWERSHIP INFORMATION

Tune in this Sunday at 10 a.m. EST for the Michigan Dodgeball Cup!

This year’s Michigan Dodgeball Cup will be broadcast (with commentary) online through the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association Facebook Page.  NCDA Content Team members Brett Hadwin and Kevin Bailey will once again conduct a live pregame show prior to the tournament at around 10:00 a.m. EST.  This will include player interviews and predictions on the day’s events.   Each game at the tourney will be broadcast on Facebook Live with full-game commentary by various NCDA alumni.

You can also follow the progress of the tournament on Instagram as we will be updating the NCDA Instagram Story throughout the day.  The first game’s opening rush will be at 10:15 a.m. EST.


ALUMNI PARTICIPATION

This year’s Michigan Dodgeball Cup will feature a few alumni matches once the official tournament is complete.  There will be two alumni teams in attendance, and each will have the opportunity to play two current NCDA teams prior to a full alumni match to end the day.  The entire day’s schedule can be referenced below:

10:15 a.m. – MSU vs. GVSU

11:30 a.m. – CMU vs. MSU

12:45 p.m. – GVSU vs. CMU

2:00 p.m. – Alumni 1 vs. GVSU | Alumni 2 vs. MSU

3:15 p.m. – Alumni 1 vs. CMU | Alumni 2 vs. GVSU

4:30 p.m. – Alumni 1 vs. Alumni 2


HISTORY OF THE MDC

For 13 consecutive seasons, the Michigan Dodgeball Cup has taken place on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.  This tournament carries a bit more weight than the average tournament, as bragging rights are on the line for schools in the Great Lakes State.

This tournament is often considered a preview for what will take place a few short months later at Nationals.  While this tournament is huge, and the winner of MDC is always considered the favorite to win Nationals, if you take a closer look at the past, you may be surprised by some of the results.

The winner of the Michigan Dodgeball Cup has also won the NCDA National Title in that season 8 different times.  This means that on 4 separate occasions, a Michigan school that failed to win MDC still went on to take home the NCDA National Title!

Another great example of a team performing better at Nationals as opposed to MDC would be Michigan State.  From 2013-2017, MSU Dodgeball had an awful 3-13 record at the Michigan Dodgeball Cup. Despite this underwhelming record, the Spartans managed to make it to 4 Final Fours and 1 National Title Game during that 5-year span!  That is good news for MSU this year, as they are not favored in either of their games this Sunday…

Check out how many Michigan Dodgeball Cup Titles each school has won:

Number of MDC Titles
Grand Valley State 9
Saginaw Valley State 2
Central Michigan 1
Michigan State 1

And below is a list of previous winners of the MDC by year:

Winner Year
MSU 2005
GVSU 2006
GVSU 2007
GVSU 2008
GVSU 2009
CMU 2010
GVSU 2011
SVSU 2012
GVSU 2013
SVSU 2014
GVSU 2015
GVSU 2016
GVSU 2017

I also did some digging into our records, and here are the all-time MDC win/loss totals for each school that has ever attended the Michigan Dodgeball Cup:

GVSU 32-4
SVSU 18-11
CMU 13-16
MSU  9-25
DCC  2-8
OUMI  0-4
LCC  0-4
SHU  0-4

A new chapter in the story of the Michigan Dodgeball Cup will be written this Sunday on the main court at IM West.  One team will leave with the coveted Michigan Dodgeball Cup, and have the privileged of etching their name into the history books as Champions of the most prestigious regular season event in College Dodgeball.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Sunday!


 

Author: Kevin Bailey

Current NCDA Chief of Content. Former Captain for Grand Valley State University (#4).

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