On Sunday, Nov. 9, Saginaw Valley State University played host to Grand Valley State University in the annual “Battle of the Valleys” dodgeball game. As is always the case in this rivalry, the game was very competitive. GVSU wound up being the victors by a score of 3-1, but don’t let the two point deficit fool you; this game could have swung either way.
It didn’t take long for exciting dodgeball to take place when this game began. SVSU came out of the gate extremely fast, and GVSU was unable to match their opponent’s intensity. The Cardinals possessed the ball advantage right from the start with great execution on the run-up. Using the ball possession advantage to control the pace of the game, SVSU was able to slowly chip away at Grand Valley’s numbers.
Saginaw used great counters to GVSU team throws/solo throws to get a huge man advantage. About midway through the first half GVSU was down to only three players: Kevin Bailey, Tyler Kowalk, and Trevor Nordberg. The good news for the Lakers was that all three of these players were overtime-roster players, and more than capable of orchestrating a comeback during this first point of the match.
The three GVSU players eluded a number of attacks from SVSU (they had close to 10 players remaining still), but eventually the Cardinals were able to execute. The Cardinals first got an elimination on GVSU’s captain, Kevin Bailey with a well-timed cross-court throw, and then moments later eliminated GVSU’s Tyler Kowalk in the same manner, leaving Trevor Nordberg alone on the court. Nordberg was able to last for a while, but eventually an SVSU team throw caused him to drop his block ending the point.
Midway through the 1st half
Point #2 started in similar fashion, with the Cardinals gaining a slight ball advantage. Again, SVSU used this advantage to control the game for the first couple minutes of the point, getting eliminations on many of Grand Valley’s best players. SVSU at one point, dropped GVSU to the 10-count, and looked in position to take a 2-0 lead on the heavily favored Lakers, but the tides were about to turn. In a span of only a few minutes, Grand Valley climbed back into the game with clutch catches by Sophomore Britt Skinner, Juniors Drew Jones and Aaron Terenzi, as well as Senior Ben Newhouse.
GVSU gained ball advantage at this point and after a few on-point team throws most notably by Sophomore Todd Millar and Assistant Captain Dylan Fettig, the Lakers had Saginaw down to one man. Blake Grivetti remained on the court for SVSU, and had the task of surviving about 5 minutes in order to preserve Saginaw’s 1-0 lead going into halftime. Grivetti was able to avoid several throws by GVSU, and gained the ball advantage back for Saginaw before calling a timeout with about three minutes remaining.
Grivetti was then subbed out for another player (he had been sick for the past few days, and thought it would be better to sub in a new player at this point). After the timeout, the first throw by SVSU was caught, locking the game up at 1, with the final three minutes rolling over to the second half.
The first half of this game was arguably one of the most competitive halves of dodgeball played all season, setting the stage for an intense second half.
The second half started off different than either point in the first half, with the Lakers able to attain ball-advantage right off the bat. With a much more organized approach in the second half, GVSU ran away with the first point, winning it in six or seven minutes. One huge difference in this point was the execution of blocks for GVSU. Saginaw’s counter throw/cross-court throw strategy is as dangerous as any team’s in the NCDA, but Grand Valley made the necessary adjustments in order to protect their top throwers from quick eliminations. GVSU finished the point with the majority of their roster still on the court, taking the lead with about 21 minutes remaining in the contest.
21 minutes remaining in 2nd half
The second point of half #2 looked very similar to the first. Grand Valley excelled when they gained the ball advantage and the Lakers were able to get some important outs in transition against a disciplined opponent when it comes to defense. Grand Valley took a 3-1 lead with about 14 minutes left in the contest, making it a near impossible task for the Cardinals to tie the game up before the 50 minutes was up.
14 minutes remaining in the 2nd half
Saginaw began the next point with way more intensity than either of the points they had lost in the second half. SVSU seemed like they weren’t worried about losing at this point, and played less timid in the final 13 minutes. Thanks to stellar play by Grivetti, Andrew Miller, Kyle Foster, and former captain Max Siler, the Cardinals found their stride in this point and dropped GVSU down to the ten-count shot clock fairly quickly.
The game slowed down once GVSU got down to three players: Sophomore Devon Calero, Freshman Ben Tubergen, as well as Bailey. The three Lakers played conservative and slow paced the rest of the game, preventing Saginaw from getting a point. When the second ticked off the clock GVSU actually had a 2-1 man advantage with Calero being the only Laker eliminated in the last five or six minutes of action.
Overall, this was a very competitive match from start to finish. Many people around the league were beginning to doubt that Saginaw Valley State would remain one of the elite schools in the NCDA due to their limited matches this year. One thing I am certain about is that anyone that was on hand for the 2014 version of “Battle of the Valleys” would agree with me when I say SVSU looked sharp in this match. Whether the Cardinals will be able to keep the momentum going from this strong performance is yet to be seen, but they kept it close with arguably the best team in the country on Sunday, which is an accomplishment in itself. Saginaw joins Central Michigan as the only two teams to hold a lead against the Lakers so far this year. Keep in mind SVSU was pretty darn close to taking a 2-0 lead into halftime, but a late rally by GVSU’s remaining players flipped that point in favor of Grand Valley.
Something worth noting is the SVSU crowd was the best I have seen since attending BEAST II at James Madison last year. Saginaw had a decent crowd supporting them, and it was a factor for sure in that 1st half. One other tidbit of information is that you might not recognize the Cardinals next time you play them because they won’t be sporting their traditional black uniforms. At Battle of the Valleys, SVSU decided to debut their new red and white jerseys!