We already heard from the NCDA Chief of Content on his overreaction from the BEAST VI this weekend. But a couple of days have passed and it’s time for a more reserved, balanced reaction to the wild and entertaining day of dodgeball that took place in Harrisonburg this past Saturday. A reminder once again of this weekend’s results.
JAMES MADISON – UREC
JMU def OSU 4-1
UK def Towson 3-2 OT
JMU def UK 3-1
MSU def VCU 3-2 OT
Towson def MSU 3-1
VCU def OSU 3-2
JMU def MSU 3-1
UK def OSU 3-0
Towson def JMU 2-0
VCU def UK 2-1 OT
MSU def OSU 3-0
The six teams probably feel a wide range of emotions on their own success (or lack thereof) on Saturday. Some feel great after their performance, some not so much. The recap will begin with the latter group.
It was not the Buckeyes’ best performance. An undermanned Ohio State squad traveled with only 12 players to Virginia and lost all four of their games. Three big losses to strong teams in JMU, UK, and MSU can happen to many teams. I think the Buckeyes will look at the VCU game as the one that got away. OSU fought back from one man left against nearly the entire VCU team to win the second point and go into halftime tied at 1. But they couldn’t carry that momentum into the second half and get the win. OSU is tremendously young and will continue to improve throughout the year. But even with a top player in Jeff Starr, when a team loses as much talent as they did from last season, a large regression is usually in the cards. The good news for Ohio State is no one from the Ohio region has broken away from the pack, so an ODC title could still be in the cards. With a full squad, I still think they can be the best team in Ohio. However, the best team in Ohio won’t carry the same weight this season as it has in the past.
Michigan State obviously didn’t get the results they were looking for this weekend. Playing with only 13 players, the lack of depth of the Spartans hurt them all day. VCU took it to MSU in their first game and State was fortunate to take the game to overtime where their top talent prevailed. With no disrespect to the Rams, that game was easily the worst game MSU (or maybe just the author of this recap, but I think both are true) played all day. Following the lackluster display in their opening game, Michigan State played their best point of the day to open against Towson, winning the point in roughly 7 minutes with nearly their entire team on the court. However, Towson took control of the rest of the game and the depth of the Tigers overpowered MSU. Michigan State again went into halftime tied against the hosts JMU. But in a similar story, the depth of the Dukes carried them in the second half. By their fourth game, two undermanned squads faced off and the Spartans were able to win the Big Ten rivalry game fairly easily. The lesson Michigan State learned this weekend was a pretty simple one: no matter how talented a team’s top players are, games between two good teams are won with quality players throughout the roster. The margin for error is too large when you only rely on a couple players. One positive for MSU was freshman Sam Estfan, who not only made the overtime roster against VCU in his first ever tournament but got the game winning kill. Sam made catches all day and proved to be a bright spot for MSU on an otherwise disappointing day. Overall, this performance will not rattle MSU. I expect the Spartans to bring close to if not full rosters every tournament the rest of the year and that depth issue should dissipate.
Kentucky easily had the most perplexing day on Saturday. They began with a 3-2 OT win over Towson in a rematch from the first round of Nationals last year. UK had a chance to clinch the game in regulation, but a big Towson catch held off the point to end regulation tied. Kudos to the Wildcats to rebound and take the game in overtime, one of the best wins on the day. They fell to JMU 3-1 in their second game, which is not all that surprising. JMU is a very good team and hosted the tournament. UK responded nicely and beat Ohio State 3-0, again a result that was not all that surprising. But then in perhaps the biggest upset of the day, VCU stunned UK 2-1 in OT. VCU had a chance to win the game 2-0, but a good comeback from UK pushed the game to OT tied at 1. The Wildcats were on the wrong end of a 50-50 call that resulted in Drew Greenawalt getting called out seconds before a catch, but calls like that happen every game and unfortunately they were unable to respond. Overall, I don’t know what to make of UK. There were times on Saturday where everything was clicking and they looked dominant on the court. But it seemed there were just as many times where they looked outclassed. I give their performance one big question mark and look forward to seeing their team in April when they host Nationals with what I can only hope will be a home crowd that rivals the one they had in 2013.
I think JMU expected to go 4-0 and anything less than that would be a disappointment in their mind. They had a full roster at home and had their rowdy crowd behind them. James Madison had 3 games where they were clearly the better team in wins over OSU, UK, and MSU. But their momentum came to a halt when they faced their rivals from Maryland. The Dukes suffered just their second loss in program history to Towson. Perhaps the game difference, JMU was on their fourth game compared to TU’s third, resulted in an exhausted JMU team. All I can say is this was the first time in this rivalry’s history Towson outplayed JMU for the entire game. Even with the loss, James Madison proved they are once again a force to be reckoned with. They are a complete team with a balanced number of throwers and catchers. After what I’m sure was a disappointing loss in the Elite Eight last season, I would not be surprised in the slightest to see the Dukes in the Final Four once again.
Could this tournament be considered the greatest day in the history of Towson dodgeball? I will echo Kevin Bailey’s sentiment and say I think so. TU opened upon with a disappointing overtime loss to Kentucky. As I mentioned earlier though, they deserve praise for forcing the game to go to overtime, as they were able to kill the end of the 2nd half without surrendering the game winning point. After the loss, however, Towson pulled two of their biggest wins in program history back to back. Despite falling behind 1-0 to MSU, they quickly regained control of the game and dominated the next three points against the undermanned Spartan squad. They then followed up their first win ever over a Michigan school with just their second win ever over JMU. Towson shut out the Dukes in what was the best overall performance I have ever seen from Towson, in an admittedly limited number of appearances. The biggest change this season in my opinion for Towson is their depth. In years past they have relied heavily on just a couple of players, but this season they go 15 deep. Despite playing with a torn labrum, Elite Dodgeball standout Tim Wells is still a menace on the court and a huge addition for the Tigers. Jon Shaw remains a great leader on and off the court and the rumors are true about the ascendancy of Michael Hinely as a star player (I still have a nice bruise on my eye from his throw on a team throw when I was the last player left). If there was ever a season for Towson to take the next step and make the Final Four, this is it.
What a day for VCU. After gaining late admittance to the BEAST VI due to the drop from CMU, Virginia Commonwealth made the most of their opportunity. VCU opened up the day against MSU and came out on fire. The Rams held a 1-0 and 2-1 lead in the game, but ultimately were unable to get the win in overtime. Regardless of how MSU played in the game, VCU played well and were well deserving of pushing the game to overtime, if not possibly getting the win altogether. VCU in previous years may have lost confidence after such a heartbreaking loss and let it carry with them throughout the day, but not this season. They then rebounded from a missed opportunity to go up 2-0 at the half against OSU and finished them off in the second half to get the win. They followed up that win with one of their best games they’ve ever played against Kentucky. VCU had a good chance to win the game in regulation 2-0, but the Wildcats were able to take the point to force overtime. Before overtime, Hunter Ford gave an impassioned pump up speech to get his fellow overtime players in the right mindset to win this game. He came out and made several big plays in OT and the Rams got one of if not their biggest win in program history. I will once again echo Mr. Bailey and say this was also the biggest day in VCU dodgeball history.
Saturday was a great day of dodgeball filled with close games, upsets, headshots and great catches. I expect at least two schools in attendance at BEAST VI to be in the Final Four, and would not be all that surprised to see three of them among the nations last four teams come April.
I also want to take a moment to recognize both Towson and JMU for their sportsmanship on the court (This isn’t a knock against any other team but these two I thought were exceptional). We played two close, competitive games that often can turn ugly (looking at you Michigan schools, MSU included, Wes double included). There was not one moment in either of the games between these two schools where I ever considered people to be complaining about calls or that players did not go out when hit. In fact, against JMU we had a team throw that I felt we had hit a JMU player and after I said so on the court, the player went out without prompting from the referee. I wish every dodgeball game could be played with the levels of integrity that were displayed in those two matches and just thought JMU and Towson deserved the recognition. Missed calls are a part of every game, but when everyone plays honest on the court dodgeball is much more enjoyable to play.