Previewing the 2021 Buckeye Opener

Dodgeball Returns at Last

With the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association [finally] returning this weekend, we would be remiss if we did not preview the first competitive collegiate dodgeball matches in over 18 months. Indeed, the Buckeye Opener on Sunday, September 19th will feature the host team Ohio State Buckeyes and their B-Team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and the Akron Zips. These teams were ranked 2nd, 4th, and 10th respectively in our 2021 Preseason Power Rankings, so we should be in for three quality, competitive dodgeball matches this weekend. 

We spoke with Dylan Greer – former captain and president of Ohio State, Wes Peters – coach of Cincinnati, and Colby Briceland – coach of Akron, about their teams’ expectations for not only this tournament, but also the season as a whole. Lastly, as always, we have gathered predictions from numerous Content Team members and distinguished alumni for how they believe each match will play out as well. 

Without further ado, here is what each team’s representative had to say..

Ohio State’s Expectations

At the end of the 2019-2020 NCDA season, the Buckeyes’ expectations were straight forward; Win the National Championship. As we return to a new season, these expectations remain the same. I believe our team’s combination of strong returning talent and an extraordinary recruiting class will put us well in a position to do so.

While the pandemic shut down our team’s best season performance since 2015, we plan to return this year without skipping a beat. The long off-season resulted in the loss of All-American Star Ben Johnson, but out of the ashes rose a whole new board of captains: Ben Dardia, Ryan Ginsberg, Evan Utterback, and Elijah Thomas. These captains have shown early on that they’re capable of picking up where we left off and help our team advance in the rankings without a flinch. Elijah, our team’s only recruit from the 2020-2021 off-season, will finally be able to showcase the effort he’s put forth into developing his talent during his first NCDA match on Sunday. Sharing the spotlight with our new leaders are returning players Sam Palumbo, Matt Thomas, Evan Luikart, and the 2019-2020 Women’s MVP Kathryn Mays. These core players standing beside our captains on the court will create a storm that won’t go unnoticed throughout the year.

With our returning talent already in full bloom, we see the bees lining up at the sprouts of our young players, waiting to pollinate the rich flowers they will become. Derek Kemper, Ethan Lehmkuhl, and Will O’Malley are only a few names from a long list of new players that show great encouragement for the future success of this team. After taking part in a roster which could barely field 10 players nearly 3 years ago, being able to support a B team feels like one of the greatest accomplishments our team can make. In addition, supporting a B team with such enthusiasm for the sport makes the feeling even better, and I can’t wait to see them grow. After the long off-season, I believed the team who would have the most success in this upcoming season would be the one who recruited the best, and I believe our team has done just that.

While our team’s expectations are high, we don’t expect our road to success to be handed to us. This upcoming Sunday we know we will have to put forth a solid performance to beat top Ohio teams UC and Akron. This season, UC suddenly became one of the most experienced teams in the league with their astounding number of returning players. Facing them at the end of the day will hopefully give our team time to adjust after the time off, and give our new players time to settle in. Separately, Akron’s mixture of returning players and new recruits makes them a dangerous mystery, as we don’t know what to expect going into their matchup. Nevertheless, I think this new Akron team and UC’s veteran team will lead to a great weekend of matches as we get to showcase the Ohio Region’s talent in Columbus.

Cincinnati’s Expectations

The Bearcats were in the middle of their second season as a club, standing at a respectable 10-8 when the entire world suddenly shut down for the pandemic. With the imminent transfer of now club president Jacob Weber, 2020/21 was shaping up to be their year. Things change real fast. 

Fast forward to fall 2021 and the Bearcats are still poised to make a lot of noise, perhaps even more than they would have a year ago. Given the amount of talent that has graduated around the league over the past year and a half, Cincinnati is in great shape. The Bearcats will feature a lot of familiar faces at this tournament, as they only lost a handful of 2019/20 freshmen and one Assistant Captain. Expect Brett Liming, Cory Heitmann, and Jacob Weber to be the faces of the team, but this team is budding with talent when you get past those big names. Cincinnati has high expectations for Brannon McGinn, Matthew Rosinski, Ryan Engelman, and Ian Bartholomew who each bring something unique to the table. The Bearcats will actually feature two transfer students, including Kevin Skiba, formerly of the Ohio Bobcats. It was difficult for Skiba to stand out on a loaded Bobcats roster in 2019/20, so he will be looking to make a name for himself this year as a core player for UC. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see what the bottom half of the lineup can produce for the Bearcats. The talent doesn’t necessarily fall off the table after their top 8, but Cincinnati will need some unexpected performances from their remaining roster, and a new fall rookie class.

As for this weekend, it’s pretty simple – The Bearcats are looking to make a statement to the league. They want everyone from out west in Nebraska, up to Michigan, and down to Georgia to know that this team is the real deal, and they are here to stay. A 2-0 performance would set the expectation around the league that it is Final Four or bust for the Bearcats – not to mention this team is already one of the early favorites for the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. 

That being said, it won’t be easy to beat both Ohio State and Akron. OSU is still loaded with most of the talent they had in spring 2020, and the same goes for the Akron Zips. In fact, these three teams may boast the most returning starters of any other team in the NCDA. One thing is for certain: this weekend will feature some quality matchups to welcome us back to dodgeball.

Akron’s Expectations

Despite the losses of multiple starters before the 2019-2020 season the Zips reloaded in a big way and boasted a great recruiting class for that season. Unfortunately, it was cut short and they weren’t able to recruit last year. Despite these losses, I don’t see that being a problem now, since this year the club captains have had great success in retention and recruitment thus far, and attending their first tournament of the season should cement this class of recruits to the roster.

Captain Clay Egleston has put a lot of work in the off season in preparation for this upcoming year, and it shows. The new recruits are honing in their skills and that is thanks in part to Egleston’s effort and time spent teaching and grooming them for match play. I also expect big plays to be made by the assistant captains Brandon Snyder, and KC Franz, who now have a few seasons under their belts. Their veteran experience will be the key to Akron’s success this season. Other stand outs for the season will  include PJ Antalek, Reece Bowman, Nathan “Howdy” Houdeshell, and Tommy Masteller, who need to be on top of their game if the Zips are going to climb the ranks this season.

The real test will be the rookie class this year. How will they adapt to game speed and awareness? As always, my expectations for the first tournament are to just get your sea legs and experience, but this class seems to have a good handle on what that would entail. They’re organized and eager to learn, and those are the two traits that will set them apart from opposing team’s rookie recruits. The captains and assistants of Akron have done a great job in fostering the talent of the new recruits, it’s now up to them to take the first steps into joining the starting roster.

The expectations are high for this team, since they’ve had a few weeks of practice and drills, I fully expect to see some great gameplay and skill being executed on Akron’s side of the court. This tournament will be a great gauge of where our returners and rookies are at, and where we need to improve on as the season progresses. As always, the Ohio Dodgeball Cup and a good seeding at nationals are on the horizon, but in our immediate future we have an immense challenge. Ohio State and Cincinnati are going to be tough first matches for these new recruits, but I always say the best way to learn is to play the best. And in the Ohio Region, these two teams are the best. Go Zips!

Alumni Predictions

As per tradition, we solicited predictions from numerous esteemed alumni to weigh in on how they think the matches this weekend will play out (B team matches excluded).

Hunter Ford: OSU 4-1 Akron | UC 3-2 Akron | OSU 3-1 UC

Kevin Bailey: OSU 4-1 Akron | UC 4-1 Akron | UC 3-2 OSU

Dylan Fettig: OSU 3-1 Akron | Akron 3-2 UC | OSU 4-0, UC

Felix Perrone: OSU 5-2 Akron | UC 3-1 Akron | OSU 4-2 UC

Zigmas Maloni: OSU 4-2 Akron | UC 3-1 Akron | OSU 3-1 UC

Shadeed Drakeford: OSU 4-2 Akron | Akron 3-2 (OT) UC | OSU 3-1 UC

Anthony J. Stumpo: OSU 4-1 Akron | UC 4-2 Akron | UC 3-2 (OT) OSU

Tom Morand: OSU 5-2 Akron | UC 4-2 Akron | OSU 3-2 UC

Power Rankings: Preseason 2021-22

Team writeups provided by the NCDA Power Ranking Panel

1) Grand Valley State

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GVSU looks to continue their winning ways in the 2021-2022 season. The Lakers return plenty of familiar faces, including 2020 Player of the Year Ben Smart, former captain Josh Hill, and assistant captain Nick Hehl. These three all have big game experience and know how to lead their team to success. Tyler Peach is the new name to know from this team. He takes the team over this year as head captain. As a freshman the year COVID hit, he only has half a year of game experience. What he lacks in experience though he more than makes up for in talent, so expect this guy to just keep getting better. GVSU was limited to practice only last season but still managed to bring in a few promising recruits. Among them is Owen Israels, who already looks to have the composure of a veteran despite not playing in a match yet. For those hoping GV would finally have a down year, looks like that’s going to have to wait.

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Voices of the NCDA: Looking at Diversity On and Off the Court

The following series, Voices of the NCDA: Looking at Diversity On/Off the Court, has been created to give minority members of our organization a chance to be heard and share their experiences.  It allows the rest of the league to hear different perspectives and to highlight the diversity among our members. We will share not only experiences within the NCDA, but off the court as well. The Voices of the NCDA team will be lead by Zachary Rivera (GSU alumni), Leon Rockamore (CSU), and Shadeed Drakeford (VCU alumni). Let’s jump right in and hear their stories. 

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NCDA Among Us Tournament

The NCDA will be hosting another online video game tournament to raise money for the organization’s Recruitment and Retention Fund. This online tournament will feature Among Us. The tournament will be held on January 23 and registration is due by January 21, at 11:59p.m. eastern time.

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A League of Our Own: Sami Beining

The second of our article series – as well as a personal role model – has had her fair share of turning heads. With one of the most unique (and accurate) throws on the court, coupled with phenomenal court IQ and strong catching abilities, she proved herself to be a stand-out almost instantly. Sami Beining was a star, not just on the East Coast but across the league; at one point or another everyone had heard of the girl who softball pitched from Penn State. She carries a decorated career through her time in the NCDA, finishing as a 2x Female MVP. I had the pleasure of talking with her about what her collegiate career was like.

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A League of Our Own – Kathryn Mays

When I began thinking over who to center my first main article of this series, one name stuck out from her play this past season and the new honor of becoming the 2019-20 Women’s MVP: Kathryn Mays. She quickly developed her skills through hard work and dedication, proving that she’s among the top tier of players on Ohio State’s roster. Most people may know her for her incredible catching abilities, but fail to realize that she’s frequently called on as a thrower for the Buckeyes. In three short years, she has climbed to the top of the women’s rankings. With her impressive resume in mind, there seems to be no better choice to kick off this series about strong women in the league than Kathryn.

NCDA Call of Duty Tournament

The NCDA will be hosting another online tournament to raise money that will help jump start the organization’s first officiating fund. Our goal for this fund is to be able to pay for referees not just at Nationals, but other tournaments too. This online tournament will feature Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Gunfight mode). The tournament will be held on October 24 and registration is due by October 11, at 11:59p.m. eastern time.

A special thanks to Caleb Frank (social media specialist) for creating and designing the flyer.
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Power Rankings: 2020-21 Preseason

1) Grand Valley State

Grand Valley opens yet another season as the predicted top team in college dodgeball. After going undefeated in 2019-20 prior to the Covid-19 shutdown, GVSU comes into the 2021 season with a handful of star players on the roster. The Lakers return 2019-20 NCDA Player of the Year Ben Smart, along with fellow All-American Nolan Stanko. On top of that, Captain Josh Hill is back for his second year at the helm. Collin Freeman is back (for potentially just the fall semester), along with Nick Hehl. Not to mention, GVSU had two All-Rookie performers a year ago, who are poised for a strong sophomore campaign: Tyler Peach and Thomas Williamson. GVSU will need to do a good job recruiting this year to keep the depth that has always made them so dangerous, but overall they have the experience and talent at the top to once again be in the title conversation.


2) Michigan State

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2021 Pre-Season Standings

In the 2020 Season, we had 47 technical upsets in 204 ranked matches (76.96% success rate) across 26 events.

The Gonzalez System is a computer ranking model similar to Elo and is a rating exchange system based on research performed by World Rugby. It has been adapted by the NCDA to the demands of College Dodgeball, but can be tuned and customized endlessly to incorporate accurate data. It has been used to help determine seeds for the Nationals bracket since Nationals 2014, and was used exclusively for the each Nationals bracket since 2017.

A recent policy adjustment has changed the carryover in the Gonzalez Ratings from 75% of a previous season’s total to 50%. All seasons prior to the 2021 season still carry the 75% modifier, with the 50% modifier effective for the carryover into the 2021 season.

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A League of Our Own – Rebecca Shappell

Ten percent: that’s the percentage of women that comprise the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association (NCDA). The percentage who actually start and play? Significantly smaller. Looking from roster to roster across the league, a woman’s name seldom pops up, however their impact on the court can be significant. Women have been a part of rosters since the league’s conception in 2005, however they did not begin consistently being rostered members with frequent playing time until roughly 2008. The NCDA first began to recognize women’s involvement with the establishment of the Ladies’ Match in 2011 and things have slowly grown from there, adding the women’s All-American list in the 2016-2017 season. As important as this growth was for the NCDA, there’s still a long way to go. Being a woman in the sport of dodgeball, you are continuously over-looked; you’re seen as under-sized, under-powered and, if we’re being honest, under-valued. We’d like to change that mindset. As Michelle Obama once said, “there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” My intention with this series is to tell the story of the powerful women, past and present, in the sport of college dodgeball in hopes to begin to erase that stigma. In order to start this, let’s begin with the easiest story to tell: my own.

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2020 College Dodgeball All-Rookie Team

Michigan State’s Barry Butler III is the 2019-20 College Dodgeball Rookie of the Year.

1. Barry Butler III – Michigan State

This year’s rookie class brought in some incredible talent nationally, but when you look across the season one name stood out above the rest – Barry Butler III. Barry had begun to make a name for himself from the first point he played in. He’s already developed into one of Michigan State’s top arms and has strong catching abilities. He learns the game quickly and already has more court awareness than most seasoned vets. It’s hard to watch him play and remember that he’s only a rookie, this kid seems like he can do it all. Beyond his skill set, his work ethic is unparalleled and he is always striving for improvement. Barry has the potential to be a future NCDA MVP.


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Rocket League Fundraiser

On August 8, the NCDA teamed up with the Dodgeball Club at UW-Platteville to host the league’s first ever Rocket League tournament. Rocket League is a fast-paced, exciting online video game featuring remote control cars with special abilities whose goal is to push a larger-than-life soccer ball into the opponent’s net as many times as possible in a given time limit. This event raised money to go towards the Tim Ebert Memorial Scholarship, which goes to help the NCDA’s internship program. The goal of the event was to raise $500 and I’m excited to announce that we raised over $750 through entry fees and donations.

The NCDA teamed up with current players: JT Warren (UWP), Jacob Sebranek (UWP),Caleb Frank (CMU & NCDA intern) and myself to host this competition. This tournament consisted of 9 teams that went head to head to be crowned champions. We started with a round robin tournament followed by a double elimination bracket, and the games were live-streamed for everyone to be a part of the experience. Teams consisted of current and former players from the league. Some of these schools included: UWP, VCU, and WKU. In the end, a team from WKU took home the title as the NCDA’s first ever rocket league champions. There was no one more excited about this than Felix Perrone (WKU alumni). As his response to the victory of his former teammates was, “WKU wins their first championship tonight”! A very much deserved win for sure!

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2020 Women’s All-American Team

Since 2017, the NCDA has honored the female competitors who have dedicated time and effort to their craft. The individuals on our list have excelled throughout the past year and made major contributions to their respective teams. Many of the NCDA’s female athletes also support their organizations through leadership roles, and this list is a way to recognize those outstanding individuals.

MVP – Kathryn Mays (Ohio State)

The NCDA honorably recognizes Kathryn Mays as our 2020 Women’s MVP. Kathryn sets the bar quite high for women’s participation in this league and should be seen not only as a role model for upcoming women in the NCDA, but for all women athletes around the country. Her dedication to her sport and her team is unparalleled by many players in the league. Her passion for the game was not the only factor in her MVP selection of course; Kathryn’s court knowledge and ability granted her high consideration for the MVP role. Making the starting roster on a top 10 team in the league is already no easy task, and while Kathryn not only starts for Ohio State, she can be seen as one of the main reasons for their success. Kathryn is a quiet player who may often be underestimated until she steps up late in the match to show off her survival skills, catching ability, and strategic throws. Her leadership and dedication will be landing her the role of President for The Ohio State Dodgeball Syndicate next year as she continues their team’s journey of success. Kathryn will continue to shine next year, and prove to everyone that women in this league can compete, and win, against many men on the same court.

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2020 College Dodgeball All-American 2nd Team

1) Alex Jonauskas – Grand Valley State

Jonauskas comes in one spot shy of making the 1st Team after another strong season. This GVSU star has been a force for years in Allendale, Michigan. Jonauskas developed over the years into a strong leader, and well-rounded player for the GVSU Lakers. His survivability and knack for making clutch plays as the last man standing helped him gain recognition. In his final year as a college dodgeballer, Jonauskas stepped up as a leader and playmaker and helped Grand Valley to an undefeated season prior to the season being stopped due to COVID-19. Congrats to Jonauskas on making the list!

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