Chaos Ensues at Akron’s WAR III

The following was co-authored by Kevin Bailey, Hunter Ford and Colby Briceland.

Over the weekend, University of Akron hosted the biggest regular season tournament of the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association season.  15 teams made their way to Akron for the annual two-day tournament called ‘WAR’. As it turns out, the name fits the bill.

In attendance at this event were teams from five different regions.  Including 14 of the top 18 teams in the latest Power Rankings. Needless to say, there were some epic matches over the weekend.  In fact, an argument could be made it was the most entertaining regular season tourney in NCDA history. If you disagree, feel free to state your case.

Below is a recap of this unbelievable tournament:

All results from this event can be found here:

 

Notable Matches from the Weekend

SVSU def Akron 4-3 OT:

This match was probably the most surprising outcome of the weekend, not because SVSU came out with the win, but because Akron was able to force an overtime against the Cardinals. This match proved that Akron is able to compete with a powerhouse such as SVSU. This match also served as a testament to the strength and persistence of Saginaw who was able to overcome a deficit of 3-1 and win in overtime.

VCU def Kent 3-2 OT:

VCU was able to earn a solid win on day one when they edged out Kent State in OT. The Rams played very well as a team in this game and their superior strategy and catching skills seemed to be the difference maker. Ike Fleckenstein, Wayne Shortt, and Kelvonte’ Nesmith all had strong performances for VCU in this win.

Towson def SVSU 3-1:

This was the first match of the weekend for Towson that proved that they are indeed a powerhouse and force to be reckoned with in the NCDA. Saginaw is no slouch and Towson handled them with relative ease for the most part. This is not a dig at SVSU in the slightest, this is proof that the Tigers that we have seen this season are the most dominant Towson team that we have seen.

Towson def Miami 2-1 OT:

I knew Miami was good, but to take Towson into overtime was an incredible feat for the young team. Towson looked poised to take their second win without much resistance, but then Tom Morand happened. Tom’s body was like a trap. Everything Towson threw at him was a catch, he couldn’t drop the ball even if he tried. Tom was able to force overtime with Towson. One man can only do so much, though and the Towson overtime six was able to end the fairytale story.

MSU def CSU 3-2:

This match proved that Cleveland State is no pushover despite their record at the WAR. Being able to score two points on a team with such a high ratings gap from their own squad is a great feat. The Spartans were able to outlast the young squad and come out with the victory.

Towson def CMU 3-2:

Central Michigan’s clash with Towson turned into an instant classic. The Tigers took a decisive first point, but CMU has an answer with a wild second point comeback sparked by rookie Kyle Taylor. The second half was another back and forth affair, but the Tigers were able to pull out the win in the final seconds thanks to an epic 3 person comeback that point by Colin Sporer, Colin Moerman, and Brandon Kirby.

MSU def Towson 3-2 OT:

Every time an overtime match finished, I thought that there couldn’t be a better match after that. I was wrong every time. Michigan State was able to take an early lead over the Tigers and force Towson to try and battle back to even the score. With overtime underway, it was a back and force event with great plays from both sides. In the end, it was a great effort from Payton Shuster and the Spartans that was able to award them with the victory in overtime.

Akron def Ohio 4-3 OT:

Akron’s OT win over Ohio was the final match of the tournament, and it stuck with the theme of OT thrillers. Akron was able to jump out to a 3-1 lead, but the Bobcats mounted an incredible second half comeback, earning a third point with only seconds left on the clock to force OT. In the overtime period, Akron Freshman Jacob Weber made a name for himself with 2 clutch catches and 3 kills.

Team by Team:

MSU: Going 3-0 at any tournament is no easy feat. When one of those teams is the number 2 ranked team in the Nation, then it’s down right impressive. The Spartans made a strong case for final four contender at Nationals. MSU surly gained some momentum heading into the Michigan Dodgeball cup, and will have to perform well to prove that they didn’t just catch lightening in a bottle.

Towson: The Tigers had a very impressive weekend taking down three of the best teams the league has to offer in Miami, SVSU and CMU. While they fell short to MSU their effort in that match should not go unnoticed. They came back and forced an overtime match, which should be a testament to their effort this weekend.

Miami: I think that the Redhawks impressed me the most. With impressive wins over Penn State and Ohio State and their only loss coming from the powerhouse Towson squad. I didn’t think that they would take Towson to the limit like they did. If we learned anything, it’s that Tom Morand is an MVP candidate for sure. ODC will be a test to see if they can keep the momentum rolling on the way to Grand Rapids in April.

CMU: Could have been a tough start to the season, but Central turned that around with a strong showing in Akron. They dominated Akron and Bowling Green and kept a close match against Towson, who we established was one of the three most impressive squads at the WAR. Central has a lot of young guys, but with leadership like Casey Bielec and Austin Brege, the Chippewas have a good chance at the semi-finals in April.

BGSU: BG was able to turn their fortunes around with solid victories over Ohio and Cleveland State this weekend, and are poised to have a decent run at the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. Owen Sill had a standout day and Max Kawalski always delivers. This team is a strong contender for the final 8 come Nationals weekend.

VCU: I wasn’t sure where to put VCU in the league before the WAR, and I still don’t. With strong matches and wins against Kent State and UK, I thought they would go 3-0 for the weekend. But they weren’t able to put the pieces together against OU. Off games happen, we all know that. The Rams can overcome this and recover in time for the National tournament. The loss doesn’t faze me too much, not t take anything away from OU’s dominant performance though.

UK: I’m not shocked by the weekend Kentucky had, but I still don’t consider them anywhere near they were two seasons ago. This weekend was a definite step in the right direction. With two wins over Ball State, and OSU in overtime, they gained some much needed confidence when they left Akron. With more matches and structure, the Wildcats can make a push amongst the middle/lower tier teams come April.

SVSU: The Cardinals performed as expected for the most part, battling back to defeat Akron in OT and handling Kent State, but their match against Towson got away from them. They looked defeated before the final whistle even sounded. They managed to overcome a 3-1 deficit to beat Akron, but weren’t able to mount steady enough offense to defeat the Tigers. Saginaw needs to make some changes if they want a chance to make the big game at Grand Valley.

Akron: This team started out hot and kept the momentum rolling only slowing down against CMU. Taking Saginaw Valley into overtime may have ended in a loss for the Zips, but the experience they gained from taking the fight to a top five team was well worth it. Josh Lyons, Joey Stack and Jacob Weber all had great performances to aid in their 3-2 record and their commanding win against OSU, and OT thriller against the Ohio Bobcats. If they can make a run at the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, they may just turn some heads at Nationals.

PSU: Penn State had a lukewarm showing at the WAR III this past weekend with their only win coming from BSU. Taking OU to overtime is no small feat but they fell short to the Bobcats. Penn State is as organized as ever and it shows in their performance this past weekend. If they can play more matches and gain more experience before nationals, they can make some noise.

Kent: I was a little let down by Kent State, not because of their matches, because they were able to keep their losses close and take one to OT, but they proved to be very inconsistent with their only win coming from Ball State. I hope we aren’t witnessing the downturn in the Kent State Dodgeball program. The Golden Flashes need to take a step back and play into their strengths more if they want to have a shot at the top 8 come Nationals.

CSU: Cleveland State performed well this weekend, showing some high spots, as well as low spots. They proved that given a substantial lead, they can keep building upon it and scoring points to add to the deficit. They also managed to keep a close score with Michigan State. Their loss to Bowling Green was the low for them this weekend. The Vikings will have to learn from their mistakes and regroup.

Ohio: After the weekend that OU had, it’s crazy to see that they went 2-3. Two impressive wins, including an overtime match and a blowout of VCU. But two very close losses as well, and one match that got away from them. With two overtime thrillers, the Bobcats helped make this tournament as exciting as it ended up being. Ohio made a strong case for themselves heading into the Ohio Dodgeball cup.

OSU: This team was able to force overtime with Kentucky and take a point on Miami, both impressive feats for this young team. No “w’s” in the win column for the Buckeyes, but we saw flashes of brilliance from the likes of Ben Johnson and Dylan Greer. If they can build from their experiences they can be a strong roster moving forward.

BSU: Ball State took on a fifth match in order to make the schedule work, so thank you to them. Unfortunately they were not able to leave with any wins. I saw good stuff from this team in their matches against CSU, Kent and UK, but the inexperience and lack of numbers hurt this squad.

 

NCDA Mailbag: Answered by Kevin Bailey and Hunter Ford

With so much going on at WAR III we decided to open up our mail and take comments and questions from our fans.  There were a lot of good questions brought to us and we want to take the time to answer some of our favorite ones.

What team’s stock rose the most from war? Fell?

KB:

Rise: Michigan State, Akron

Fall: Kent State

The Spartans clearly gained some momentum with the way they performed at WAR. This team’s stock is without a doubt on the rise after upsetting the #2 team in the country (Towson). The question for MSU is: can they continue this upward trajectory at a tournament that they have historically played poorly at (MDC)?

Akron is another team whose stock has to be on the rise after the weekend.  They held a 3-1 lead on #4 SVSU at one point, and also took a 1-0 lead on Central Michigan before things went south.  Akron finished the tourney with an OT win over an (at the time) top 10 Ohio team. The Zips have some serious talent at the top of their roster.

Now on the other side, I have to say Kent State’s stock dropped the most.  This team certainly has some good pieces, but they are nowhere near the force that we are used to seeing from a Kent team.  Pending what happens at ODC, Kent may drop out of my top 10 in the Power Rankings.

Who really was the best team at the tournament?

KB: This is an interesting question. MSU went undefeated, and beat the only other undefeated team left in the tourney when they took out Towson on Sunday afternoon. Because of that, you obviously have to give the nod to MSU as the best team at WAR.  With that said, Towson had a much more challenging schedule, and came away with a 3-1 record, making them 19-2 on the year. If I had to produce my Power Rankings right now, Towson would remain ahead of MSU, but the Spartans have certainly closed the gap in those rankings.

Will (MSU) be able to continue their dominance at the MDC and get some key wins to move them up in the Power Rankings ahead of Nationals?

HF: MSU’s win over Towson was arguably the biggest surprise of the weekend when there were plenty of surprises.  The short answer is, it’s complicated. The more in depth answer is this, if you look at history the answer would probably be no.  MSU has a track record of underperforming at the MDC, and overall doesn’t fare very well against their own region. Overall, MSU is a combined 9-27 at the MDC, and in fact, has not won a single match at MDC since 2014.  It’s also fair to say that the past is in the past, and a win over the #2 team in the country before the event is certainly nothing to scoff at. The Spartans have played the toughest schedule for the season which will only serve to benefit them.

KB: Very tough call here.  One interesting thing about this Michigan Region at this point in the 2018-19 season is how remarkably close SVSU, MSU, and CMU are.  I can very easily picture the Spartans getting 2nd at MDC, but just as easily see them finishing 4th. I’ll take the easy way out and just say MSU will certainly continue to improve.  Will it show in the win/loss column this weekend? Too many factors at play to give a confident answer there.

Which teams passed the eye test of being legit Elite 8 contenders at Nationals?

HF: In short, I would say Towson, MSU, CMU, and Miami were realistically the four best teams at the event, and their scoresheets demonstrate it as well.  Towson took on the most difficult schedule of the weekend by far while picking up three wins in four games, getting their first overtime victory since 2015, and showed off depth like we’ve never seen from the Tigers.  

MSU finished as the only undefeated team on the weekend, including handing Towson their only loss.  Payton Schuster and Jack Hilt played exceptionally well, and look like two of the best players in the league.  

CMU looked like the best versions of themselves we’ve seen all season, and should certainly garner more respect the rest of the way.  Finally, Miami showed me that their top talent is among the best in the nation. Tom Morand, Dom Tyburski, and Austin Michael all played top level dodgeball and were in a great position to defeat Towson.  

KB: This really all depends on what you consider a legit contender.  The top 5 teams at the event were Towson, Miami and the three attending Michigan schools.  All five of those teams are absolutely contenders to make the quarterfinals. I would argue all 5 have a legit argument that they are going to be a Final Four team.  There are plenty of other teams who have an outside shot at making the top 8. VCU, Ohio, Akron, and even Kent. Maybe even BGSu on a good day. The league is getting very crowded in the middle.  So many teams with similar skill. The bottom level teams have closed the gap with the ‘second tier’ teams, and now we have this mess where there are a bunch of teams close in talent battling it out for higher seeding and the potential of a quarterfinals appearance.

Most surprising game of the weekend?

HF: There were definitely plenty of exciting games that happened throughout the weekend, but only a few “upsets” relative to the number of games played.  In terms of what I would call “surprising” outcomes I would say it is a tie between Akron v. SVSU and Ohio v. VCU.

Akron and SVSU had arguably the most exciting match of the entire weekend right at the beginning of the tournament.  The Zips were literal seconds and inches away from pulling off a memorable upset if not for a well executed throw from Kyle Bruce and Kenny Mize to send the match to OT.  The most surprising thing was to see Akron as close as they were to beating SVSU and just how well they played. On a senior heavy roster their experience and skill shined brightly, and they performed well against elite competition which has been uncommon for this team in the past.

I also mention Ohio and VCU for the lopsided-ness that ensued.  Ohio played well while VCU had arguably played their worst game in the past three seasons.  It makes it very difficult for us to gauge either of their squads and estimate how they’ll play down the stretch.

KB: Akron forcing overtime with SVSU to start the tourney was quite shocking. Going into the weekend, I had a hunch that SVSU was the second best team in Michigan. After their struggles in that game, I’m not so sure about that statement anymore.  Akron played an incredible game, so no credit should be taken away from them. The Zips are as good as they have ever been in program history, and their performance against SVSU (despite the loss) shows me they are a team with a legitimate chance to make some noise at Nationals.

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