Two weekends ago, we had the 8th Edition of JMU’s BEAST and overall had an opportunity to see how the East Coast stacks up. This article was co-written by my fellow captain Jeremy Shaw (JS) and myself and although it really doesn’t have much structure, it covers quite a few of the big storylines from the weekend. We also have some quotes from other Captains from teams in attendance, which will give you a little bit of insight on how (almost) every team at the tournament felt.
JMU Captain Evan Eschenburg
“JMU wants to thank everyone that was able to come and make the tournament a success. A lot of good games were played this weekend by all teams. Towson once again proved this year that they are a force to be reckoned with but most games I felt could’ve gone either way when we played. Maryland’s leadership is by far one of the best in the league in terms of getting their whole team to buy into the system and play. VCU is hurting a little bit as they lost some key arms last year but they’re just a few pieces away from putting together another good dodgeball team. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see too much of UVA but what Zane and Jeremy are doing over there is really cool.”
Towson Captain Colin Sporer
On Towson: “We came out slow in all of our games. Once all the adrenaline kicked in we started to play better, and did well to close out that final point against JMU. We got to get everyone some valuable PT against UMD and VCU, which is always huge for building depth. We have to be better at playing with all of that energy right from the start, but overall we got 3 more games under our belt in preparation for Nationals.”
Other Thoughts: “JMU was a couple plays away from turning that game the other direction. I still believe they’re a top 3 team in this league and can make a serious run in April. UMD looked organized when we played them, and I believe they are much better than their record indicates. Jeremy Shaw was throwing heat in their game against VCU, and I believe UVA can be a potential Cinderella team if they play with a little more strategy. VCU looked a little too relaxed this weekend in my eyes. They have some good talent, but need to have more confidence when they play.”
UMD Captain Carl Boettner
“We were impressed with one of our freshman Jalen Rawles really helping us secure ball control and making some big catches in his first tournament. Overall we were happy with our performance after a long break from competitions especially our composure against UVA.”UMD Captain Carl BoettnerJS: The main takeaways from The Beast this year: There are some strong players on the East Coast and some interesting paper/scissors/rock type match-ups as well (Check scores of Towson, JMU, & UMD).
JS: I’m going to start with the two teams everyone cares about the most: JMU & Towson. They had a heated match that was loaded with big hits, crazy catches, and a lot of skillful dodgeball play in this rivalry. However, the major thing that was missing was intelligent strategy into the later stages of the game. Towson starts off with excellent organization while JMU relies on their crazy athletes to do crazy athlete things. However, one moment, JMU would all of their ballers in and Towson on the ropes, then I look again five minutes later and Towson was in a clear winning position… only to look over again five minutes later and see JMU back on top. For two teams that know each other so well, they really need to learn how to finish games intelligently. For JMU that means stop playing hero ball, going for unnecessary catches, or throwing (multiple times in a row) at Towson’s best catcher(s). For Towson that means actually utilizing the ball control they are so obsessed with getting to finish teams off instead of only throwing 1-2 telegraphed balls at the chests of JMU players who can all catch. Don’t get me wrong, these are two of the top 5-6 teams in the league in my opinion, but until they can decisively finish games, they’re going to have some tough matches against GVSU & friends in Michigan.
ZD: Although I don’t agree with everything Jeremy said, I do agree that this is a very heated rivalry and that both teams may let their emotions get the best of them while playing. That just happens in sports. It is what it is. As he stated, each game was a close, back and forth affair without either team pulling away with a dominant point (I didn’t watch the full game, so this could’ve happened during a point I missed). As for what I think of there two teams overall, they’re as talented as anybody. JMU has such a deep roster of athletes that they can plug and play during any game. Towson knows their roles and plays them well. I’m going to side with Colin here and say that these two teams are top 3-4 (hot take, top 3) and I fully expect to see each in the Final Four when nationals comes around.
JS: I would love to mention noteworthy players, but I’m really old in this league and like Andy Dwyer says “I don’t know who (that JMU/Towson Player) is, and at this point I’m too afraid to ask”. However McGurl, Eschenburg, McDaniel, Smith, & Whitten for JMU plus Watt, Kerr, Guare, Sporer, “intimidating beard guy”, and “front row catcher” for Towson.
ZD: Echoing who Jeremy mentioned, it was the usual suspects doing the dirty work for each team. I’ll go ahead and throw in Shawn Donahue as a key contributor for JMU. As for Towson, Colin Sporer accredited Colin Moerman, Jeff Hayden, and Jordan Watt with a big day for the Tigers.
JS: The real winners of this tournament in my opinion were VCU, UMD, & “Number 95” from UVA. Though VCU lost their 2-0 lead against us in the 2nd half. They had about as decisive of a victory as you can in OT. Quick, efficient, and well-executed. I love to hate those players, but led by Wayne Short (still one of the most underrated players in the league) Marek Bauer, & Ike Fleckenstein very rarely has a team known their roles and executed them so well. With guys stepping up to fill the shoes of their graduated gunner Toroa Ota, this team is sneakily becoming less of just a catching team and more of an all-around strong squad.
ZD: Yeah I have to say that VCU really pulled it together in crunch time and dominated that overtime period. It was pretty rough looking around and realizing that I was the only player left on my side of the court only like 30 seconds into OT (that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point). Like UMD, they suffered from having to play both Towson and JMU, which is a tall task. Overall, they did what they were supposed to do (maybe not in the fashion that they wanted) and got out of BEAST with a 1-2 record.
JS: To anyone still sleeping on UMD, it’s time to wake up. If you look at the Gonzalez rankings, they are the most underrated team in the league right now, period. Every time we play them, I find less and less weaknesses to exploit. Their ball control, throwing power, organization, and everything else has rapidly improved as the year has gone on. They managed to beat us (UVA) like 3 or 4 to 1 with 12 players on their third game of the day and even took JMU at home to 2-3. I’m giving Bobby a nod for an all-east coast and (depending on the rest of UMD’s season), potentially coming up on a second-team AA spot. Besides that, led by Vinnie DeMaio, Dobich, Sullivan, James, & company.. I’m looking forward to what these guys bring the rest of Spring Semester. PS: When Nathan Stock is ready, look for this team to take it to the next level.
ZD: These guys can ball. Period. I said way back in September that this isn’t a team that you should sleep on and boy was I right. Evan and Colin gave credit to Maryland’s leadership and organization and I agree completely. These guys came out to JMU without any subs and just went to town. JMU was playing their third straight game in their 3-2 win against UMD, but that score was surprising regardless of the circumstances. And then also to go out and manhandle our UVA team was equally as impressive. Jeremy stole the guy I was going to shoutout, but good things need to be said about Bobby Burton. He’s quick, has a solid arm, and will catch you sleeping with a nice counter. Overall, Maryland went out and killed it. It sucks that we were the team that took an L, but the Terps were the team to watch at BEAST. I’m also looking forward to a UMD-VCU game, because we missed out on that this tournament.
JS: Finally, if you heard a UVA player took VCU from a 7-1 to narrowly losing on a 1-1, I’m sure you would think Zane Durbin, Vikram Gupta, Ryan Kelly, Myles McPartland, or myself… but you would be wrong. If you thought it would be a veteran player, you would be wrong again. Luckily, if you thought Shadeed didn’t get it on film, you would be wrong a third time. It was freshman Jake Korman. Remember that name when you are voting for Rookie of the Year. OR feel free to forget it, he’ll remind you if you find yourself on the opposite side of the court from UVA.
ZD: Yeah, going off of that, huge shoutout to Jake for his big day. He was slinging it in both of our games and really had a breakout game against VCU. Another guy I want to shout out from UVA is Kal Fernlund. He really doesn’t get talked about much, but he had another great day, knocking down quite a few good catchers from VCU with solid throws.
This wraps it up for the BEAST recap. I apologize for the delay and wanted to thank JMU for hosting. Also, another apology goes out to Maryland and Towson… I guess our photographer hates the state of Maryland or something. As spring breaks roll around, I’m not really sure what’s next for each of the East Coast teams, but be sure to look out for Towson hosting JMU, VCU, and some school named GVSU on March 30th!