With the return of dodgeball comes the return of what I can only assume will become a time honored tradition for Ohio University, and that is hosting the annual John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza in the fall semester. Not only will this year’s iteration feature eight talented dodgeball teams, but we will also witness the retirement of the great John Betters’ jersey as well as the ceremonial first throw – a welcomed new addition to the tournament.
Silliness aside, Ohio University will be host to some of the hardest hitting, most impactful matchups the NCDA has to offer since before the pandemic started in March of 2020. The teams in attendance will be Bowling Green State University, the University of Cincinnati, Grand Valley State University, James Madison University, Miami University, hosts Ohio University, [the] Ohio State University, and Saginaw Valley State University.
There are a lot of intriguing storylines to consider and questions that need answers as we head into Saturday’s tournament. To shine some light on some of those, we’ve asked the leaders of each team to provide some insight into who some players to look out for are, what they think about their respective matchups, and what they need to do to have a successful day Saturday. Without further adieu, here is what each team had to say:
Bowling Green State University
This weekend we are going to be at full strength, as in Akron we were missing a few returners that will make their first appearance of the season at Ohio. Captain Joey Irwin and senior Josh White are going to be great players to see on the court Saturday. Key rookies for us this weekend are Evan Brown, Riley Brady, and Nathan Mercier. These guys came into Akron in their first matches ever and were on fire. They’re going to be key components to our success.
We’re excited to play against Ohio State. We know that this is a team that is near the top in Ohio and in the nation, and we are ready to see how we match up with that competition. Saginaw Valley is a nervy game for us, we have no idea what to expect from them but we’re happy to be able to play a Michigan team as those matches typically result in a lot of excitement and experience gained for our team.
This tournament, we hope to show the nation that we aren’t a team to sleep on. We are young, we are hungry, and we are competitive. Our team will never give up even down bad in a game, and we won’t stop until time expires. We know we have the firepower and the energy to come into this tournament and be a difficult team to beat. We feel like some teams may sleep on us because of our inexperience, but this tournament we want to show that we are a legit contender this season, and for many more to come.
– Gabe Carrington, Bowling Green Captain
University of Cincinnati
There are a number of players to look out for on the Cincinnati roster, but to keep it short and sweet, if Brannon McGinn and Ryan Engelman step up big for us, the rest of our team will have a great day behind them and I really don’t see anyone we play being able to stop us.
The matchup we look most forward to is against James Madison. They’re one of the stronger teams at this tournament, and have historically had a ton of athletes with cannons for arms. JMU may prove to be our most difficult match of the day as well, though we haven’t seen Grand Valley or Ohio play a single match yet this season. None the less, this tournament will be a great barometer for us, to show the league where we really stand. We think we’re more than deserving of our #1 power ranking selection, and we intend to prove it this Saturday.
As for our expectations, we plan to go 3-0 just like everyone else probably thinks they will go. If we play like we played at the Buckeye Opener against Akron and Ohio State earlier this semester, we’ll be in good shape. Our style and pace of play is very difficult to slow down and with the amount of veteran players our roster boasts, I think it will take a great performance from any of the teams we face to be able to beat us. Simply put, we plan to make a statement Saturday. Akron and Ohio State weren’t flukes, they were simply a coming out party.
– Jacob Weber, Cincinnati President
Grand Valley State University
The Grand Valley Dodgeball Team is stoked to play in this upcoming tournament at Ohio. In fact, we are honestly more than just stoked to play, we are coming to prove the entire league wrong and show that we are still the top dogs in the league. Sure, the Ohio region may look pretty good right now, but the Michigan region has yet to play a single match, and has historically been the better region by a mile. Grand Valley will look to prove that nothing has changed, pandemic or not.
We’ve got a number of players everyone should look out for: Our entire roster. However, we will highlight a few in particular. Our team has six returning players: Tyler Peach is playing his first tournament as our Captain, but I have no doubt that he will not just lead the team, but also coach the younger players and help them learn from their mistakes.
Second, Nick Hehl, our 2nd year Assistant Captain has improved so much not just as a player since COVID, but he has also taken massive strides as a leader. People know not to solo throw at him so if they do, they’ve already made a grave mistake. Look for him to make some key catches and reset the shot clock efficiently.
Someone else to look out for – not just at this tournament, but for the entire season – is Tom Williamson. People may not know his name yet, but everyone will know it soon. This kid throws straight gasoline out on the court. I cannot wait to see the faces of those he absolutely obliterates this weekend. Other returners are Alec Gonazlez, Owen Israles, and Ben Smart, our other Assistant Captain. To be honest, I’d love to talk all day about our entire roster and how talented everyone is from top to bottom, and how good we’ve become without playing a match in almost two years, but everyone will be able to see for themselves just how hard we’ve been working in the meantime.
The team’s expectation is to win all three matches against Cincinnati, Ohio, and James Madison. Sure, when you look at our schedule, it may seem daunting and I’m sure a lot of people are picking us to drop a match or two. With that said, the league has no idea what we have in store for them yet. Our first match is against Cincinnati, coached by Wes Peters. Sure he’s a decent coach, but Wes’s record against Grand Valley is pretty crap and the whole league knows that so if I were a Cincinnati Bearcat, I’d be very worried about playing us. They may have five players that are alright but they don’t even compare to the players we have.
Our second match is against James Madison, and I can’t wait to play this game because I love to play against a team of athletes. Sure, JMU is good and always has been a powerhouse of the east coast, but Grand Valley has what it takes to beat them and we’re gonna show it. Lastly, we finish the day against Ohio. This is the one I’m most excited for because Ohio was so good throughout the entirety of the 2019/20 season, until COVID-19 hit and shut everything down. We would have really loved to have played them that year. Now we finally get a chance to play them, but for them it’s not the same team which is really sad, but the exciting part is that we will get to play against one of our alumni (Alex Jonauskas). I’ve only played opposite Alex during practice and not an actual match until now, so it will feel weird but exciting all the same.
What we need to do to succeed is very simple: Just play GV Dodgeball. There’s no question that if we’re able to stick to our game plan & play our game, we won’t have a problem all day at this tournament. Yeah, our arms will be tired by the end of the tournament, but that’s common when you play your heart out every match like Grand Valley does. Expect us to go 3-0 this weekend and reclaim our #1 spot in the nation. Hope you all stay tuned to watch Grand Valley play Grand Valley dodgeball Saturday.
– Ben Smart, Grand Valley Assistant Captain
James Madison University
For the Dukes, we’ve got a number of great players that we will be showcasing this weekend, and that teams need to look out for. First is Captain Drew Funk. He brings a strong arm, and has put together another strong, talented, and athletic team for the Dukes this year. Michael Cone is a player with a very accurate, fast throw that you don’t want to be on the receiving end of.
Evan Eschenberg is excited to be returning to the dodgeball court. Evan is in grad school at James Madison this season, and will surely have a great presence of leadership and bring a lot of calm to our team in times of adversity out on the court.
Finally, don’t throw at Andrew Luzik or Nick Spear, as it’s an automatic catch for them. Try them at your own risk!
We are very excited for every matchup because they are all ranked above us and we want to prove why we deserve to be back on top. It’s going to be different because we’ve never seen Ohio State or Cincinnati ranked this high before this season so we definitely come into those matchups with new, interesting expectations. As for Grand Valley, last time we played we were able to keep it very close, but we think this time we will have the upper hand. Roll Dukes!
– Drew Funk, James Madison Captain
Sean Meseu and Mason Kniskern will be playing in their first tournament and will be players to keep your eye on this year. As third year returners, their knowledge of the game and throwing abilities will make them eladers for Miami. And, like always, watch out for the Miami catchers. Anna Moellenbeck, Elly Schipfer, and Katie Mei are forces on the court who can’t be underestimated.
I’m most excited to see the UC vs GVSU matchip. I’ve loved watching the UC program grow since my freshman year. I’m sure this will be the match to watch for the weekend as two of the projected best teams go head to head.
We’re excited to be matched up against Ohio and Saginaw, two teams we have yet to face this season. Against teams like Ohio and Saginaw, we’ll need to capitalize on the fact that we are a catching team. Our final game is against Bowling Green. I’m excited to take them on again, this time with a full roster. With more returners joining us this tournament, we’ll have the energy to take them on.
– Anna Moellenbeck, Miami Captain
Ohio University Dodgeball has seen a lot of new faces come in since our 2019-2020 season which ended with us winning the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. The first name your team needs to watch out for is our lethal catcher CHarlie Andruss. He is currently a rookie with no tournament experience, but in practice he can catch anyone and brings a positivity to our team like no other. Additionally, we have Captain Max Stoeckle. He’s got the biggest arm on the team, and is a very passionate, vocal leader on the court. Max is looking to be our leading thrower for this season.
We would be remiss if we did not give a massive shout out to one of our most esteemed alumni, a man who was instrumental in leading our 23-0 start to the year last season, John Betters. He kept our club going when there was a risk we would not be able to participate and has inspired leadership into the guys who remain on the team, and feel it is only right that in order to truly honor him, we retire his jersey, to forever hang in the rafters of the Charles J. Ping Recreation Center.
We are incredibly excited for all three matches scheduled, but particularly to play against rival Miami. We know that they have been a powerhouse for the last few seasons, and we consider them our biggest rival so it is a must win match for us. We really do have our work cut out for us this season, however, with difficult matches against Cincinnati, Grand Valley, and Miami. Once we see how we fair against some of the top dogs, we will have a pretty good idea of where we stand and what realistic goals we will set for ourselves this season. However, for now and for this weekend, we want to have fun and run the best tournament of the semester.
– Max Anthony, Ohio Captain
Ohio State University
With some players that were expected to come back for Ohio State not returning, we have to rely on our newcomers to make big plays for us. We expect the following rookies to have a huge impact on the success of our team.
Ethan Lehmkuhl has shown from day one he has a great arm, and his throw becomes better each day he practices. Watch for him to take throws for OSU in critical moments and get crucial eliminations.
Elijah Thomas joined during the Covid-19 pandemic so this will only be his second tournament, but he has the dodgeball IQ of a multi-year veteran. His accurate throws and great catching ability will be an important part to our success this weekend.
Derrek Kemper is another rookie who has shown tremendous talent early on. He’s studied the rule book and watched plenty of film, therefore he will look very experienced for someone playing in just their second tournament. His aggressiveness, arm talent and blocking ability helps him make crazy plays in the neutral zone to get eliminations and ball control.
The matchup I am most excited to see is Grand Valley vs. Cincinnati. Having faced UC during our home tournament it was easy to see the great talent and chemistry that team has, so it will be interesting to see how they compare with Grand Valley. We also have not seen GVSU play this year so there are some questions about how their team will fare.
Another matchup I am interested to see is Ohio vs Miami. Both teams were some of the best in the league during my first year, but both teams have had a lot of players graduate since. I am curious how these teams perform as we will most likely face them a few times this year in tournaments and ODC.
In this tournament we will face JMU, BGSU and SVSU. After our first tournament we realized that we have a lot to work on, but we also saw great improvement from our first point vs Akron to our final point against UC. We know the experience from that tournament and all the practices have helped all of our players understand the strategy and chemistry that is needed. We know we have the talent to beat any team in the NCDA and we believe with our added experience from the tournament and practice we will go 3-0 on the day and show the league this great team that exists in central Ohio.
– Ryan Ginsberg, Ohio State Captain
Saginaw Valley State University
Coming off a year and a half away from the dodgeball court due to COVID, we have quite a few fresh faces on our team that will catch opposing teams by surprise. That being said, we do have a strong top six full of experienced and skilled veterans. Lead by Captain Bryce Stevens, Assistant Captains Tristan Baller and Kyle Krupp, as well as Joe Barber, Chris Rucker, and Tyler Adams, we should be able to compete with every team we face this weekend. Our top rookie this year so far is Cole Machiela. His throwing and catching combo is very exciting, and he will absolutely turn some heads with how quickly he is developing.
As a team, we are most looking forward to playing Ohio State. In years past they have been a strong competitor and we look forward to facing steep competition once again against them. Our goal for this tournament is to of course win all three matches, and if we can work together as a complete unit and put together everything we’ve worked on in practice we have a pretty good chance to win out.
– Bryce Stevens, Saginaw Valley Captain
Content Team Match Predictions
It wouldn’t be a tournament preview article without predictions for how each match will go from old, washed up alumni, and so we close out this twelve match affair with just that.