2nd Annual John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza Tournament Review

The second annual John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza showed us where a lot of teams stand at this point in the season. With most teams having played a match throughout the league as of the conclusion of this weekend, I think we are finally starting to get a good picture for how each team compares to one another. While there are still a lot of lingering questions (IE – how does the majority of the East Coast stand up to the rest of the league? What does Michigan State look like? Is Towson still truly a top team in the NCDA? Are Grand Valley and Cincinnati actually that good?), we did get some real answers this weekend. Yes, Grand Valley is still a force to be reckoned with. Yes, Cincinnati is a legitimate title contender despite the loss to the aforementioned Lakers. Yes, the league is in overall good health with impressively large rookie classes for a lot of teams who hadn’t played prior to this weekend such as Ohio and Saginaw Valley.

What hasn’t been answered, however, is what each team thought about their own individual performances on the weekend. The participating Captains and Presidents minced no words when it comes to how they felt about their teams’ performances this past weekend. Here’s what they had to say:

Bowling Green State University

In our first game against Saginaw Valley, our crew put on an absolute clinic for catching. Josh White by himself easily was in the double digits with how many catches he reeled in. It was really nice to sit back and watch all of our guys play very well against a good team. We were able to turn around some points where we should have lost because of our catching alone. We didn’t really know what to expect going into this match, and I believe that they are a great team and will continue to improve going forward. I expect Saginaw Valley to be an even tougher opponent the next time our two teams play.

Our second match was against Ohio State, and despite losing in overtime, I am very proud of this team. As I said in the preview, our team will not quit when down, and with 18 minutes left in the second half, down 4-2, we showed exactly that by rallying to force OT. I loved that the team was able to learn from their mistakes, and then we were able to adjust ourselves to Ohio State’s game plan. Against one of the top teams in Ohio right now, I will absolutely take an overtime loss especially with a roster boasting 12 rookies that really do seem to be getting better every time we play.

The final match of our day was against Miami, and it was honestly frustrating. Sure, we won the match 4-1, but I think our team took the match and Miami’s roster way too lightly. Only being up 2-0 at the half and then giving up a point to start the second half forced us to put our starting lineup back in to finish strong. 4-1 is a great result and all, but the score does not indicate how that game actually went. I’m not sure if we were just tired, or simply not thinking but we single threw Anna and Elly way too much, which is something we know we can’t do when we know how well the two of them can catch.

On the bright side, we had a lot of great highlights that we are proud of at this tournament. First, we absolutely played like a cohesive team trying to win together. We moved back and forth together, and were actually able to get ball control in a lot of our games, which is something that hurt us in our first tournament. Opening rushes were better because of our rookie speed demons. Catching as a whole was amazing from this group as well.

I’ve got a name for you to remember this year, that I mentioned at the start: Josh White. Josh was easily our MVP for this tournament, so good luck getting this guy out of the game when you play us. He can catch any ball thrown at him, and has a ridiculous ability to reset himself and prepare for the next throw.

All of our rookies have been doing amazing adjusting to the competition that we face, but I believe that we ahve two early front runners for Rookie of the Year in Tyler Webb and Evan Brown. Both these guys have cannons for arms, and great hands to compliment their firepower defensively. For two rookies to be this difficult of outs already at this point in their career is absolutely amazing.

We do have a lot to work on though, and a lot of room for growth with this team. The biggest thing that comes to mind for me is tunnel vision. Court awareness is a skill that comes with time and experience, but our lack of those things showed as we aren’t always seeing the entire court, and too focused on only what is directly in front of us. We will absolutely be working on that going forward. Secondly, team throwing is another issue that we need to improve upon. We had too many attempts that both throwers weren’t on the same timing, or one ball would miss badly and the other would result in an easy catch for the target. Finally, our overall decision making offensively needs to improve, though it already has when you compare this tournament to our performance against Akron a few weeks ago. I’d love to see us improve a lot in these three areas throughout the rest of this year.

Overall, I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and I can’t wait for what this team can and will accomplish this season.

– Gabe Carrington, Bowling Green Captain

University of Cincinnati

The first match of the day for the Bearcats was against Grand Valley. We started off way too slow for the strategy and level of pace that we like to play and it really showed. A few of our better players looked like deer in the headlights during the first half, and it resulted in us going down 2-0 at halftime. We played timid, threw a ton of catches, and it cost us. I will say that despite this performance, we didn’t get our doors blown off in either of these points, and ultimately a few plays that went Grand Valley’s way were the difference.

The second half was a different story however, we opened up by taking three consecutive points in dominating fashion against the Lakers. I don’t think they knew what hit them once we started playing our typical pace in transition and kept Ben Smart off the court. They tied it up to force overtime in a situation that had three players, including Captain Tyler Peach, going 3v1 against Matthew Rosinski where Matt was able to hit the first two players out, before ultimately being caught by Peach. So if you give this last point some perspective, it was one dropped catch away from a 4-2 final score in our favor. Obviously that did not happen, and after a bit of a back and forth start to overtime, we ultimately were beaten fairly convincingly in the end. When we play Grand Valley again down the road, we won’t be so timid to start and dig ourselves into an early deficit. We firmly believe we are the best team in the nation, and this loss will only fuel us to become that much better.

Our other two matches against Ohio and James Madison were blowouts, 6-2 and 6-1 respectively, against what prior to COVID were considered two powerhouse programs. Ohio is definitely rebuilding, but have definitely found some foundational pieces to rebuild into a contender in a year or two, while James Madison is still a team full of athletes but play with a disappointing lack of any strategy whatsoever. It was like after we went to the half up 2-0, they came out ready to go home because the only point they took on us was when we took four of our top players out.

That being said, there is a ton for us to improve upon. First and foremost, as was apparent against Grand Valley, we cannot come out flat to start the day. If we play another tournament and open against a good team, a similar start will make it difficult to dig out of the hole like it was Saturday. Secondly, need to be stronger and more accurate in our team throws for sure. Grand Valley made a lot of catches that they shouldn’t have if we were remotely accurate with our team throw attempts. In that same vein, we need better throw selection, even in transition. We threw too many easy catches to the Lakers, particularly in the first half and last point and overtime that took any momentum we may have been building away from us. Lastly, just our overall team cohesion and doing the small things for each other like blocking for throwers backing up in transition will go a long way toward allowing us to truly contend for a National Championship this season. Speaking of Nationals, make no mistake – it’s National title or bust for the Bearcats this year.

– Jacob Weber, Cincinnati President

Grand Valley State University

GV had high standards going into the Ohio tournament last weekend. We met our expectation to go 3-0 on the day on top of suffering some crucial injuries and an incomplete lineup.

The first match against UC was closer than we would have liked but it it was our first game of the year and lacked a full lineup. GV came out strong and immediately had freshman step up to help win key points. UC fired back second half but GV clutched a dominant overtime point.

Second match against JMU we came out fired up and took four points in the first. We played great transition and everyone was a factor on the court. Second half, GV tried to save arms and had some freshman pick up the slack from injured returners. Overall we felt dominant on the court.

Third match against OU was a slower match. Being the first tournament, people were tired but we still played to our strengths. Freshman led this game to save a lot of arms. Being the third game, we were much more comfortable playing and it was clear by the end of the day that GV was a threat to other teams.

It was clear throughout the day that Ben Smart and Nick Hehl were dominant on the court. They were the main throwers next to Tom Williamson and Alec Gonzalez who were consistently picking people off in each game. Tyler Peach was not a threat for throwing due to a broken finger and dislocated toe endured in the first point of the day, but clutched with double digit catches on the day. Seven of those being against the number 1 ranked UC. Matt Budai and Ryan Paddock also shined with multiple catches on the day and some clutch blocking. Some conditioning will need to be done at practice and a focus on fast transition play will be made. GV is still a dominant force and every team should be nervous knowing we’re only getting better.

– Tyler Peach, Grand Valley Captain

James Madison University

Honestly, it was a really, really tough day for us this past Saturday. Every match we played, we felt and obviously looked out of sync. We had no rhythm as a team on the court going for us, played recklessly and threw carelessly, utilized absolutely no strategy, displayed zero court awareness, and just overall felt discombobulated. It’s honestly hard to say whether we dropped more catches or threw more catches, because both numbers are probably really high. Bottom line, we didn’t come out and play as a team. To compare ourselves to an NBA team, we just looked like a bunch of guys who came to get their shots up and not give a crap about whether we won or lost the game.

Against Ohio State we went in thinking we had an easy win and were sorely mistaken. We couldn’t hit a team throw to save our lives, and they were able to pick us off one by one with well placed throws and pretty solid team strategy overall getting up and down the court.

When we played Grand Valley, we quickly found ourselves down 4-0 before we could even blink. The Lakers absolutely killed us with crosses, exploiting our lack of court awareness. We were slow in transition getting up and down the court, and they made us pay for it. Now, I will say that I’m actually really proud of the way we battled back in the second half, finishing the game with a score of 4-2, but it was obviously way too little too late when you go into the half down by four points.

Lastly, we played against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Again, a team that we wrongly underestimated coming into the day. We lost our composure early on and combining that with our previous two losses, we just weren’t really even trying to play as a team. We were only down 2-0 going into the half, but they really poured it on in the second half, winning with a score of 6-1. I think they took their last point on us in like two minutes with team throw after team throw, it was like a firing squad, and we had no answer. Again, this was a match where we were playing for ourselves, and not looking to play team dodgeball.

We obviously have a lot to improve upon. We need to play quicker in transition, protect one another and actually make our brand of dodgeball look like we’re playing a team sport, and most of all keep our cool and play composed and confidently. That will really help us keep the momentum up. Overall, our main throwers Drew Funk, Michael Cone, and Zach Tillery threw way too many stomach level catches. Andrew Luzik and Nick Spear, our best catchers, dropped a lot of balls they normally should have caught. We had a lot of our new guys on the court just standing on the back line with no support so it was like they were waiting for their turn to get hit. Evan Eschenberg was going up alone to throw, without a blocker, and he got countered so many times it made my head spin. Jack Marsh actually had a good day for us with some solid catches and crosses, but overall we need to have more confidence in ourselves, and when we bring our full, true team on the court, and play like we are actually a team to be reckoned with, we will perform much better. This weekend will not define our season. While Saturday was pretty humbling for us, we will come back stronger for it, so expect the Dukes to win a lot of matches going forward.

– Drew Funk, James Madison Captain

Miami University

Our first match of the day was against Saginaw Valley, and we lost 5-1. I would love the opportunity to play Saginaw again before the end of the year. They have a well-balanced team and some incredible cannons on their roster. I think with this semester under our belt and a more cohesive roster, we have the skill to take them on and improve upon this performance.

Match two for the RedHawks was against the host team, Ohio, and we lost 6-0. No matter the score, it’s always a blast to play them, considering they’ve always been a rival of ours. Despite COVID and a new roster, they still play Ohio dodgeball and represent the region well.

Finally, we played Bowling Green State last, and we came up short by a score of 4-1. The score doesn’t reflect it, but this is the most cohesive and the best we’ve played this season. With a 14 player roster, and it being our third game in a row, Miami brought it all against Bowling Green. I could see our players constantly making adjustments throughout this game, and working together like I hadn’t seen before. I just hope the Falcons are ready for what’s in store for them as we continue to improve!

Our players really came together as a team this weekend. They weren’t afraid to communicate throws, shot clock, or look out for one another. We had some incredible performances from rookies and vets alike this weekend. The talent is here- it’s just taking some time to bring it all together. One thing we can improve upon is transition play. When we took that point against Bowling Green, we were working the court and the shot clocks as if we owned them. That is how I remember Miami dodgeball looking like. I’m incredibly proud of this team already, and if there’s one thing the league should know, it’s that Miami never gives up. Keep an eye out for this team for the rest of the season and the seasons to come!

– Anna Moellenbeck, Miami Captain

Ohio University

Although a 1-2 record at our home tournament appears disappointing at a surface level, there were a lot of bright moments for our club and we could not be happier about the results.

We have a lot of new faces on our team this year, and all of the rookies are not only talented, but have the potential to form our club into an incredibly versatile and effective team moving forward.

The decision to face off against two of the top teams in the nation was entirely deliberate and was not intended to result in our season starting 3-0, but rather to give our rookies as much in-game experience as possible while also showing them what it will take to be on top. The development our team saw in a single day was absolutely amazing, and we were able to keep pace and take a few points off of two of the league’s front runners.

Overall, this was an excellent step for our program, and we’re only going to grow stronger as the season continues. I really think this weekend showed them we can compete if we stick to our game plan and play well together. The Young Bobbies(™?) will be ready to compete when the time is called upon us again. These kids know NO FEAR.

– Max Anthony, Ohio Captain

Ohio State University

We played three grueling matches this weekend, and the first was against James Madison. We knew this would be our toughest match going into the day, so we came out with a bunch of energy. They have a lot of athletes, but we outwitted them strategically with our court control and movement. We stayed up on our throw line and kept ball control to win the match. 

Coming off a hot win, we underestimated Bowling Green, who were our second opponents. After we took a 2-0 lead, they came back with a lot of momentum and forced OT. Even though we were at a 5v6 disadvantage in OT, we still were able to win the match. The Falcons were much more coordinated than we anticipated heading into the match.

We expected Saginaw Valley to be better than they were. With this match being right after a long, fast paced game, we knew we would be tired and tried to play this game slower and win with our catching ability. Our team did just that and we were able to secure the win without too much stress. 

We needed our rookies to step up on Saturday and they did that and more. Evan Miller’s confidence and performance took other teams by surprise; he made several critical plays that changed the outcome of the point. Also, Ethan Lehmkuhl proved his contingency for Rookie of the Year with his court presence and numerous eliminations. We know we did not play perfectly throughout the day, but this team is still young and has plenty of time to improve even more throughout the year.

– Ryan Ginsberg, Ohio State Captain

Saginaw Valley State University

Overall, I’m happy with our performance this weekend. Though we went 1-2, I’m actually not disappointed, and as a team, we were definitely not discouraged in the slightest. For a large chunk of our team, this was their first ever dodgeball tournament, and first ever actual matches.

Our first match against Bowling Green was our first match as a complete team and the first in over a year and a half since COVID hit for our veterans. Our biggest downfall in this match was our lack of a game plan to be able to handle Bowling Green’s catching. As the day went on we definitely improved, but our inexperience really showed in this one as the catches just seemed to keep racking up for the Falcons against us.

What we did against Bowling Green was a great learning experience for us to take into our game against Miami, because we won this match handily. This match was a much better performance for us, and specifically Joe Barber and Tristan Baller were able to fix a lot of the mistakes from our first match that ultimately allowed us to secure a solid win versus the RedHawks.

With our first two matches being great learning experiences and confidence boosts for us, I am the most proud of our match against Ohio State. Our third and final match of the day was perhaps our best overall performance, against a top contending team. With great performances from Tyler Adams and our Captains, we were able to put two points on the board and almost force overtime against the Buckeyes, ultimately falling 4-2, with the 4th point being scored late. I saw some impressive improvements from our rookies Cole Manchiela, DJ Goodwin, and Anthony Roehrl. As a team, I think there is great potential for us to continue to improve and develop our very strong rookie class. As we work on securing the simple catches that were missed frequently during the tournament and improving our game plan and communication, Saginaw Valley could become a truly tough competitor.

– Bryce Stevens, Saginaw Valley Captain

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