With the 2019-20 season still several months away, let’s take an early look at the way-too-early power rankings. This coming season looks to be a special one, with so many teams in the hunt for a national title!
1. Michigan State
2019 Finish: #5 in Power Rankings, T-3 at Nationals
2020 is the Spartans’ year! Youth and inexperience will no longer plague Michigan State in 2020, as they will be not only one of the most talented teams in the country, but one of the most experienced.
Starting at the top, Junior Captain Payton Schuster is poised to have an MVP caliber season in 2020, after finishing as an All-American in 2019 as just a sophomore. Schuster is far from the only weapon on this roster though. Fellow juniors Dennis Sullivan, Max Antilla, and Brent Weakland will all be veteran leaders next year. Each of which can be counted on to hold his own if he is the last man standing. On top of that, MSU had a loaded rookie class in 2018-19, so they will bring back a talented, battle-tested sophomore class that will have a major impact on the team’s success. Jack Hilt and Jacob Georges were two of the top rookies in the country last year, and will only be better in 2019-20. Hunter Broski, Evan Bara, Jake Lico, and Ben Traub all made some plays last year for the Spartans, but each will have breakout seasons during their second year on the roster.
To cap it all off, yes this team is loaded with talent, but more importantly, they are hungry. Michigan State has never won a National Title, and hasn’t won the MDC in something like 15 years! After being hit by graduation losses harder than just about anyone in 2017, the Spartan roster that has been assembled over the past few seasons is now in a place to compete for championships and earn the respect of the entire league. Look for MSU to gain momentum throughout the fall, and be an extremely difficult opponent to face by the winter semester. After the last few years of MSU showing signs of greatness, but not having enough skill or experience quite yet, we have officially entered Michigan State’s title window. The Spartans have what it takes to win it all in 2020.
2. Grand Valley State
2019 Finish: #2 in Power Rankings, 2nd at Nationals
After 6 consecutive championships, GVSU finally relinquished the throne last season, falling to Towson in the National Title Game. Entering the 2019-20 season, the Lakers will surely be looking to avenge that defeat and start a new title streak.
When examining the Grand Valley roster, it is pretty clear they have a lot to replace. In fact, it’s safe to say that the 2019-20 season is in some ways the start of a new ‘era’ of GV Dodgeball due to the graduation of the main headliners from the past 3 seasons. Junior Josh Hill will take over as the captain in 2019-20. He was a star freshman in 2017-18, but sat out most of last season recovering from shoulder surgery. Hill will have plenty of pieces to work with in his first year at the helm of the most storied program in college dodgeball. 1st Team All-American Ben Smart will be back in 2019-20. As will all-around star Alex Jonauskas. Those two players along with Nolan Stanko will be looked upon to lead the offensive output for the Lakers, especially early in the year. Sophomore Nick Hehl was a top rookie a year ago, and is the next GVSU player positioned to make a huge leap as a sophomore.
Overall, GVSU does have more to replace than most teams near the top of this list, but those who have followed the NCDA for a while will understand, the Grand Valley machine won’t simply stop running just because of one big graduating class. The Lakers have their work cut out for them in 2019-20, but the talent, experience, and winning culture is there for this team to remain elite.
2019 Finish: #6 in Power Rankings, T-5 at Nationals
Is it possible that Towson’s 2019 National Title will be looked back upon as the game that opened the floodgates for non-Michigan teams to win it all? If that’s the case, our best bet for a non-Michigan school to win the championship in 2020 is Miami University, a team returning all but two starters from a year ago.
Captain Tom Morand was an MVP front-runner in 2018-19, and will enter the 2019-20 season as a favorite for that honor. His amazing catching, and sinker throw make him one of the most productive players on the court in any game. Kevin Corotis and Dom Tyburski are two more strong arms to keep an eye on for Miami this year. Both made names for themselves in 2018-19, but they will be counted on even more in 2020 for the RedHawks. Keep an eye on Drew Maxwell and Ethan Oilar as well. Both players have worked their way up to the top of the Miami roster, and are poised for breakout years. Along with those players above, there is certainly one more that needs to be mentioned.
Miami picked up a huge transfer acquisition this offseason, as former BGSU star Reid Manger will be playing for the RedHawks in 2019-20. He is a top-notch catcher and a great strategic mind. His experience leading BGSU to their first ever Final Four in 2018 will certainly come in handy on this Miami squad. Overall, it seems like the pieces are in place for Miami to make another jump up the rankings. They have the top-end talent, the depth, the experience. 2020 could be a banner year for the RedHawks.
2019 Finish: #1 in Power Rankings, National Champions
It would be easy to count Towson out of next season’s title run after the departure of so many stars. Losing arguably the best thrower this past season in Jordan Watt and fellow All-Americans in David Guare and Colin Sporer would be enough to do most teams in, but there is still a lot to like with this program. Towson’s most important group next season will be their rising Junior class which features Colin Moerman, Christian Cariello, and Alex Hussey. Assuming they’re able to get a freshmen class that’s as equally talented as that group, it’s not unrealistic to see this team finish atop the East Coast in back to back seasons.
Over the past half decade we witnessed Towson’s dodgeball club rise from an East Coast afterthought to a national champion. This program has made so many strides, especially over the past few seasons, it’s hard to see them take anything more than a small step back. Chances are, this team will be like so many GVSU teams of the past, and reload their talent after a title run. Expect this team to still be near the top of the rankings all year.
5. Central Michigan
2019 Finish: #3 in Power Rankings, T-3 at Nationals
Few teams had as impressive of a 2018-19 (compared to preseason expectations) as Central Michigan. Tasked with replacing nearly all of their playmakers from the year previous, CMU went through some growing pains in the fall, but by the end of the 2018-19 season they were once again a well-oiled machine. Just like MSU, CMU had an outstanding rookie class in 2018-19 that will be leaned upon heavily as sophomores.
Replacing All-Americans Austin Brege and Casey Bielec will be difficult, but the fantastic depth on the team entering 2019-20 is enough to expect this team to remain in the top 5. Eric Nelson will be a headliner in 2019-20, along with Kyle Garner. Outside of those two, there is a slew of second year players who are ready to break out. The Michigan Region will once again be difficult to navigate in 2020, but don’t be surprised when CMU is once again in the title conversation come MDC/Nationals.
6. James Madison
2019 Finish: #4 in Power Rankings, did not attend Nationals
Going into next season there’s a lot of question marks surrounding James Madison. Like Towson, they lose a ton of talented players. This includes McCarthy, McDaniel, McGurl, McFlora, McTalcott, and McWhitten (ok scratch the last 3 “Mc’s” but still a lot of them). On the bright side, they return talented players like All-American Evan Eschenburg and rising Junior Jonathan Smith.
The Dukes have proven over the course of their history that they tend to ‘reload’ more than ‘recover’ whenever they lose talented players and we expect them to do it again. It’s not unreasonable to see some growing pains in the early stages, but this should be dashed away quickly with a couple events. Last season, they stepped up and traveled more than their previous two seasons which we believe was a big help in their success. It’s reasonable to expect the team do the same during 2020. The bottom line, next year’s JMU team probably won’t be as successful as last year’s, but they will still be a tough team to beat.
2019 Finish: #11 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
Ohio’s impressive rise to national relevance is set to continue in 2019-20. After an up and down 2018-19 season that saw the Bobcats show flashes of greatness, this year could be the year they put it all together and make a deep run at Nationals. The headliner for Ohio is 2nd-year player Jake Larsen, the 2019 rookie of the year.
Along with Larsen are a handful of other strong performers including Josh Warnecke, Zach Howman, Jacob Fleck, Dusty Moell, and Kyle Smart. The Bobcats are loaded with more experience on their roster than ever before, and the results this season will prove that. Ohio will enter the season as the #2 team in their region, but if they can continue to improve at a rapid pace, maybe they won’t be stuck under Miami’s shadow all year. This is easily the highest preseason ranking Ohio has ever had. It is hard to believe that just 4 years ago they were the worst team in the country, with an 0-29 record.
8. Saginaw Valley State
2019 Finish: #7 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
SVSU is historically one of the most successful programs in college dodgeball. While that may be true, it is not a given that they will be a top tier team every year. Last season was an example of just that. The Cardinals were a solid team, with great top-end talent and leadership, but they didn’t quite have the depth to hang with some of the other elite teams in the league. Pan the camera to the 2019-20 season, and the same issue may remain. SVSU loses a few stars, but they also return a couple All-American level players (read: Ryan Anguilm and Jake Bruce).
The questions aren’t surrounding the production of those stars, but rather how much the back end of this roster can produce. During Saginaw’s heyday, they were as deep as any team in the country, and their lower level players were nearly impossible to get out. If SVSU can recruit well, and develop their younger players into strong role players, this team could again challenge for a Final Four spot, but for now they are positioned at #8 on this list.
9. Virginia Commonwealth
2019 Finish: #10 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
It’s kind of hard to describe the Rams’ season last year. For all intents and purposes it was expected to be a down year, which in some respects it was. However, VCU had their highest winning percentage in program history, they still finished roughly 3rd in the East Coast, stayed in the top 10 nationally, and finished 3-1 at Nationals while playing arguably one of the toughest Saturday schedules on the weekend. The last part being done with only 10 people.
This upcoming season needs to be VCU’s year. They officially only lose one player in Will Karns, while the rest of the East Coast will see fairly significant losses. On top of that, they return former assistant captain Lakota Smith who is returning to the team for his final season after spending one year in the National Guard. Rising Junior Ike Fleckenstein is the new Captain and President of the team and is expected to make many advances for the program this upcoming year. Where VCU faltered last year was in their lack of tournament appearances, but it’s very likely we will see that number increase next year which will only improve the team’s success.
10. Bowling Green State
2019 Finish: #8 in Power Rankings, T-5 at Nationals
Bowling Green State will enter the 2019-20 season as a top 10 team, but they once again start a season with a lot to prove. After finishing 2017-18 at #3 in the rankings, many doubted BGSU would be a contender at all last year, but they proved the doubters wrong and made it to the quarterfinals at Nationals 2019. Entering this season, BGSU loses some big names to graduation, including Reid Manger (now in graduate school at Miami), and Max Kowalski. Look for Owen Sill to now be the main name on this team. He has been spectacular, especially last season, so don’t be surprised to see his name on the 2020 All-American list.
2019 Finish: #12 in Power Rankings, T-5 at Nationals
This upcoming season will be a tough test for the ‘Terps. There’s a lot to be excited about coming off of a quarterfinals appearance at Nationals 2019, but the rebuilding phase starts now for Maryland. This offseason they lose six seniors, which includes some key pieces in Nathan Stock and Bobby Burton. Not all is doom and gloom though for this team. They will still be returning two great players in Shawn Sullivan and Zach Fernald, the latter of whom has been having an excellent Summer playing with DMV Grizzlies in Elite. Additionally, they have an underrated Freshman in Max Xuan coming back who will likely be one of the team’s top offensive threats for the 2020 season. Nationals 2019 was a good turning point for the Maryland program which had never previously made the quarterfinals, and while not as talented as some of their teams in the past, they found ways to win games through effective teamwork, a strategy that will work regardless of who fills the void of their retiring veterans.
12. Penn State
2019 Finish: #14 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
It feels like a broken record, but Penn State is another East Coast school that will have to replace some serious production. With the departures of five Seniors, most notably Jake Nasiadka and Ben Pazuchanics, they will need to look at the remaining core of players for next season. One thing we shouldn’t be concerned about though is the team’s ability to recruit. Penn State has had a fairly large club for years now and that never seems to change. Brett Miller and Jarod Baker will be the likely catalysts for this team next season. A bright spot for Penn State this past season was the increased workload they gave themselves by playing a program high 19 games during the 2019 season. This coming just one year after their previous high in the 2018 season with 17 games. The current group of athletes have been battle tested more so than most Penn State teams of the past which will only serve them well in the 2020 season.
2019 Finish: #9 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
It’s the beginning of a new era for the Akron Zips. The main nucleus of the team over the past few years is now gone (Briceland, Pfeifer, Lyons, Stack, etc). What remains is a team with much better depth than in years past, plus a few stars in the making. Jacob Weber was a freshman phenom in 2018-19, known best for his clutch OT performance at WAR III, where he recorded multiple catches and hits in overtime to give Akron a win over Ohio. Clay Egelston is another rookie from a year ago who is positioned to develop into a key contributor. Bottom line, Akron has a lot of big shoes to fill, but the team has some pieces in place to make this rebuild project less painful than it otherwise would have been. Akron should still be a top 15 team in 2019-20.
14. Wisconsin Platteville
2019 Finish: #13 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
Few teams had as surprising a Nationals performance as Wisconsin Platteville in 2019. UWP was off the radar essentially the entire 2018-19 season, written off as just another Midway Conference team with not enough talent or depth to compete with the top schools from the Michigan/Ohio/East Coast regions. Nationals 2019 served as a wake-up call for the rest of the NCDA that the Pioneers are still legit. Thanks to a loaded rookie class that held most of the spots on the starting lineup last year for UWP, this team is positioned to be even better in 2019-20. If they can manage to travel to a few big tournaments in the fall, this still young team will gain valuable experience and once again be in position to make a run at Nationals 2020.
15. Kent State
2019 Finish: #15 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
2018-19 was a bumpy ride for the Kent State program. The school that for years was the best in the Ohio Region, took a big step back last season. Dealing with attrition is not always a smooth ride, and Kent found that out the hard way last year having to replace so many stars from previous seasons. But there is a bright side to all of that: increased game experience for some new faces. Kent had to rely on plenty of different faces last year and that experience should benefit them in 2020. While they will start the year about where they finished last, it is still safe to say this team has the talent to move up the rankings if they can improve their depth. They are a middle of the pack Ohio Region team right now, but there is room for growth for the Golden Flashes.
16. North Georgia
2019 Finish: #16 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
The Nighthawks only lose two Seniors this offseason but it’s arguably two of their best players in Thomas Clements and Bailey Hankins. Those two have put together an impressive resume during their time together, but I still expect a lot out of UNG next season. The most notable returner for the team is Royce Hogg. He served as a Captain for the team last season and will likely fill that role once again. He will also have a solid supporting cast around with him. Rising Seniors Jordan Dacus and Luke Cheney have been solid role players on this team in the past and will have a chance in the spotlight next season to further show their talent. They also had two solid Sophomores this past season in Jake Jarrett and Vince Bartolomei. With this core, it’s likely we see UNG win another South title.
17. Ohio State
2019 Finish: #19 in Power Rankings, T-17 at Nationals
Ohio State is one of the most storied programs in college dodgeball. The Buckeyes boast 2 NCDA National Titles, and have made the Final Four on 6 separate occasions. With that said, the most recent Final Four trip for OSU was 2016, and since then they haven’t come close to being a contender in their own region. One probably wonders when this team will get back to it’s winning ways. 2019-20 looks like it could be a step in the right direction. Ben Johnson and Dylan Greer both are a year older and more experience (both in the NCDA and Elite). Those two are certainly not the only talented players on the roster. Look for second year player Evan Luikart to become a household name in the NCDA in 2020. He has the skillset to be a major impact performer. It’s been said before, but Ohio State’s success will be determined by how well they can recruit and develop some young players this year. If the back half of their roster can get filled out with some skilled players, this team could make some noise.
2019 Finish: #17 in Power Rankings, T-9 at Nationals
On paper, Kentucky should see an upswing next season. They lose an important piece in Evan Kachelhoffer, but return everyone else. The most notable returners are definitely Daniel LaJeunesse Jr. and Matthew Hart. At Nationals 2019, the Wildcats had a good showing, finishing 3-2 with only 12 rostered players and a very young core. Going into next season we will need to see that young core develop further in order to reclaim their spot as the best team in the South region.
19. Cleveland State
2019 Finish: #18 in Power Rankings, T-17 at Nationals
CSU was a team many doubted heading into the 2018-19 season, but they proved the doubters wrong with their continuously impressive play against teams that on paper should have overmatched them. We won’t make the mistake of underrating them again, which is why we have them slotted to make it to the Round of 16 this year at Nationals. Joe Walsh was the headliner for CSU last year and will be again in 2020. He along with their ever-improving depth are reason enough to keep this team in the top 16. If CSU manages to schedule plenty of matches, they will likely continue on the same trajectory up the rankings.
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, did not attend Nationals
I don’t hesitate to say next year might be the most important year in UVA’s history. They are returning their most dedicated players, many of which will be filling in leadership roles for the team. This includes All-East selections Zane Durbin and Jeremy Shaw, along with first team All-Rookie selection Jake Korman. Additionally, Cole Carlisle and Ryan Kelly will be entering their Senior seasons (or ‘4th years’ as they say in Charlottesville), and will be relied upon heavily. The “underdog” of the group is potentially Matthew Luksik. While not standing out as much as fellow rookie Korman, we have seen countless numbers of players in the NCDA make the “Sophomore Leap” and Luksik has the potential to do just that. All of this, factored in with what is expected to be a relatively weaker East Coast this season, and the Cavaliers have potential to run the table. For now though, we need to sit back and see if they can put it all together.
21. West Virginia
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, did not attend Nationals
West Virginia will be entering into their third season in the NCDA and there’s a lot to like with the Mountaineers. The team returns virtually their entire roster while most of the remaining East Coast schools see big drops, they played in 16 games last season while getting some upset wins over Cleveland State, and this season they have a great shot at reaching Nationals. There’s a strong case for Cory Nasiadka to become an All-American next season, and with more playing time the rest of the league will come to realize it as well.
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, T-17 at Nationals
Year two for Cincinnati comes with increased expectations. The Bearcats were inexperienced, and low on numbers in 2018-19, but the 2019-20 version of this team should be much more prepared to compete. In the consistently improving Ohio Region, wins will not be easy to come by for Cincy, but with players like Brannon McGinn and Brett Liming on the roster, the leadership and top end talent is there. Don’t be surprised if Cincinnati struggles a bit in the fall, but puts together some solid tournaments in the winter once their rookie class gains a bit of in-game experience. This team showed they were quick learners a year ago, so a year two emergence is not out of the question.
23. Georgia Southern
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, T-17 at Nationals
Georgia Southern continues to chug along, slowly but surely improving their program. GSU used to be the easiest win in the country, but they are closing the gap, both on a national level, and within their own backyard where their games with UNG are getting more and more competitive. Look out for a few lesser know players to make names for themselves this year for GSU, including Matt Faulkinberry and Josh Manning. Faulkeinberry is a clutch player in only his second year, while Manning will be a star as long as injuries don’t get in his way like last season.
24. Northwestern State
2019 Finish: #20 in Power Rankings, T-17 at Nationals
The resurgence of Northwestern State over the past few seasons has been one of the more encouraging storylines to follow in the NCDA. This group has benefited quite a bit from new schools being added in the South (UNG and GSU). If NSU is able to schedule plenty of regular season tournaments again this year, they will continue to improve and inch closer to being a contender for a top 16 finish at Nationals.
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, T-17 at Nationals
DePaul University comes in at #25 on this list after a season where they finished as the 19 seed but failed to advance to the Round of 16. This team from Chicago as always will have a handful of impressive players but lack the depth to truly be a contender. This year, Joel Luciano and Christian Prato will be looked upon to lead a team that has very little depth beyond them. A big recruiting class is crucial if this team wants to succeed moving forward. With that said, we think they have what it takes to surpass Nebraska and be the #2 team in the Midway Conference in 2020.