Sorry for the delay, but I am happy to finally announce that our Baller of the Month for February is Colby Briceland from University of Akron. Colby had a very eventful month of February. Here’s a quick recap:
On Feb. 10, Colby hosted the largest collegiate tournament of the season at his school, Akron University. “The War” lived up to the hype as one of the most significant tournaments of the NCDA’s regular season and Colby played a major role in making sure this two-day event took place.
Just one week later, Colby put together a team of college dodgeballers from various teams throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan to travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the GR Open. They played under the team name “Ohio Legacy” despite only a few of the players being regulars on that team. Colby did a great job introducing these players to a new format of dodgeball with a new community of players.
The following week Colby was again in action on the dodgeball court as he led his Akron team to a very solid showing at the annual Ohio Dodgeball Cup. Akron did not come away with the title, but they earned a win over Baldwin Wallace, while also keeping it close against two power ranked teams: Ohio State and Bowling Green State.
Along with all of the events mentioned above, Colby has done a great job as a member of the NCDA Content Team, providing some much needed insight into the Ohio Region and producing articles previewing and recapping tournaments within the region.
I had the chance to speak with Colby about his season, his team, and much more. Check out our interview below:
Kevin Bailey: First off, congratulations on winning Baller of the Month. You have had a busy last month or so, coordinating one of the biggest tournaments of the season (The War), bringing a group of NCDAers to Grand Rapids for an Elite-style tourney, and of course helping lead an improving Akron team through a daunting schedule over the past few tournaments. What has been the highlight for you over the past month?
Colby Briceland: Wow, where to start. First off, I’d like to say thank you, and that this was a bit unexpected. Normally, someone who’s team is in the position that mine is currently in, doesn’t get the honor of being Baller of the Month. So I wanted to say that I’m very grateful. Yeah, February was pretty huge. The War went as well as we could have hoped, with the exception of a time constraint. Yeah, the Grand Rapids Open was a lot of fun. Brought together a bunch of my good buddies from around the league because we wanted to play more. I’m trying to branch out into Elite, and I had some other interested parties, so we put together a roster, and went for it. It was fun getting to play with people that I’m normally across the court from.
I would say the highlight is a tie between The Open, and the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. Yes, The War was my home tournament, but I spent most of the time too stressed out to enjoy it. But yeah, ODC and The Open were awesome. The Open was a good opportunity to get together some guys and see what we can do when we play together instead of against one another. It made me very excited for the Elite season. I also got to play with you for a couple of matches, which was a great experience for me. You’re one of the players I looked up to when I joined the league and I always enjoyed when we played you guys, despite the scores. As for the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, we didn’t end up having a good turnout. We went 1-2. But, the reason why I enjoyed it so much, was that we as a team worked together and were able to put together the best dodgeball that we’ve played so far, outside of our match against CMU at the beginning of the season. We only had 10 players, and we still were able to play well against an OSU team with Jeff Starr, and BGSU, which shouldn’t have happened. We were tied with BG at half, which is a great feat for my young guys. We haven’t been able to put good play together like we have been able to lately and it was a good feeling when I felt it click. It’s a good feeling when your team manages to practice what I’ve been preaching. Gotta give credit to Adam too. I couldn’t do what I do without him.
KB: You have developed into a dangerous dodgeballer, and you were even mentioned as a breakout performer for the upcoming Elite Dodgeball season as a member of Ohio Legacy. How has Elite helped you (and some of your teammates) improve?
CB: Well, I think that Elite is a much quicker pace than NCDA, and that’s not a dig at any of the leagues. It’s a great difference. I was able to get used to the speed of Elite over the summer, and it made NCDA play slow down a bit in my eyes. I’m more aware of myself and the surroundings when I play, and it’s made me more of a survivor and long term team player. I used to play with tunnel vision and only get out the player who stood across from me. It made me feel good to get someone out, but it left me open. I now am aware that a 1-1 swap with me in the equation isn’t good for my team. I’m much more long game minded. Elite also helped me with the element of my game that was missing, which was the catching ability that a good player has. It’s also made me a more tactical player and leader. And because I’ve improved, my players by association improve because I play against them weekly. Joey Stack, Adam Pfiefer, Josh Lyons and Ryan Cook all played for Legacy this past Elite season, so it’s overall better for the Akron Dodgeball program, better players makes a better team, and it’s helped to close the gap a bit between our top and bottom players.
KB: Akron is a young program, still trying to get that break-through victory. What makes you think this year’s team is capable of putting it all together and pulling an upset or two at Nationals?
CB: I think a lot of teams underestimate us. And for good reason. Our record isn’t good. But for most of the matches we play, the score doesn’t really reflect how competitive we are. We have some of the best talent in the league, but lately we haven’t been able to put it together. We lose to the teams we’re supposed to lose to and we beat the teams we’re supposed to beat. Sometimes we fall apart due to the lack of experience on our roster, but that falls on our leadership. I can, and will do better going forward to cultivate that environment that we need to succeed. It’s already started. We played very well at the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, and The War. We just need to put together more consecutive points of great dodgeball. Our rookies are catching on to the game, and our vets have been stepping up their game as well. I think we’ve found our groove and we’re ready to strike at Nationals.
KB: As someone who has led an inexperienced team through some tough times, what tips or suggestions do you have for any captains out there trying to get their team to improve?
CB: Stick with it and don’t get discouraged. It’s very easy to give up. Stick with your guys and you will see results. Drilling and scrimmaging are what I’ve found to be the most beneficial. Try to cultivate the environment that you’d like to see in your team. Once you can get that group of dedicated players, the sky’s the limit. If you make your team feel more like a family and a group of close friends, then you’ll see that they’ll take to what you’re teaching more than if you simply practice and play together. Don’t be afraid to ask advise from anyone. When I first became captain, I remember talking to a bunch of captains to see what they do and what works for them. Jake Leski gave me some good advice at Nationals 2016. He’s great at what he does and there’s a reason why our league has grown so much under his advisement.
KB: Which NCDA schools do you consider to be Akron’s rivals?
CB: I would say, at first it was BW because they started right when we did and our matches were always very competitive. Kent State is Akron’s rivals in most sports, but we always have a good time since Kent has always been the big brother in the dynamic. We were able to beat them once, but our matches normally get away from us. I see that changing sometime soon. I’d have to say OU and Miami are also close to our rivals. We have very competitive history with these teams and know each other very well. Makes for a good time when we get to play.
KB: Which NCDA schools (or players) do you most enjoy competing against?
CB: I like playing the best teams we possibly can. Grand Valley has been one of my favorites ever since I became captain. We always learn a lot from playing the Lakers. No matter what the outcome tends to be. As for players, I have a lot of guys across the league that I’ve become close with and like to play against. Unfortunately Hunter Ford hasn’t been healthy, but I like to play against him because he’s a good friend, despite the distance of our Universities. Shadeed Drakeford from VCU is always fun too because of how intense the dude is when he plays. Jeff Starr, Dylan Greer and Ben Johnson are some good friends of mine that are fun to play against also. Mitchell Aldridge and Bert DePerro from Kent are also some guys I like to play against because we know each other well. Now that I’ve been putting Ohio Legacy together, it’s fun to play against the guys that are (or might be) on my roster for the coming season. Guys like Kenny Mize, Tom Morand, and Eric Boehm. Also, I like to try to get out the top guys in the league. Guys like Brandon Meisel and Mike Riley. It’s a personal challenge for me. If I get the opportunity, I like to take them out.
KB: You joined the content team last year to bring more coverage to the Ohio Region. Can you talk a little bit about all the talent in Ohio? Clearly this is a very exciting time for dodgeball in your state.
CB: There are so many players that go unrecognized because I’m the only Ohio writer, but this has been a good year for the Ohio Region. This is the most competitive that we’ve been in a while. We continue to grow and cultivate talent, and it’s paying off tremendously. Games are getting closer and there’s not always a clear favorite. Kent is on a roll, and BG is the best that I’ve ever seen them. Teams that used to be lower are playing great dodgeball and proving that they belong and can compete. OU went from 0-29 to the 2017 ODC champs. Miami came back from obscurity and teams like CSU continue to grow. It’s great to watch the teams grow around me. Makes us all better and the league is benefiting from the competitive Ohio Region.
KB: What’s your go-to pregame meal?
CB: I actually can’t eat. I get sick if I eat before I play sports. I’ve always been that way. If I do eat, it’s something small and impactful, like bananas or some other fruit. I always drink a monster energy ultra before matches to keep me awake while driving and during the long days. And I drink plenty of water. I always eat Chipotle after every tournament though.
KB: Chipotle or Qdoba?
CB: I tend to lean towards Chipotle because of how much more accessible they are where I’m from. That being said I prefer Qdoba. But Moe’s is the best.
KB: Any bold predictions for the rest of this NCDA season?
CB: Akron will upset a top ten team at Nationals. Kent State makes the Final Four. And CMU will win it all.
KB: Congratulations again on the award, and best of luck the rest of the season. Any last thoughts?
CB: Thank you for the award. I’m happy to be the first Akron player to receive this award. Hopefully the first of many.