East Coast Update – Thoughts from an Old Man

by Chris Hess: JMU ’14, former Captain, President, and Founder of JMU Dodgeball

All you Midwesterners out there with your constant scheduling of games and consistent analysis of your teams, but I wanted to shed some light on what’s going on over here on the East Coast.

As some of you older folks may know, I went to James Madison in Virginia, but I grew up just outside Baltimore close to Towson University. As a lad in high school, I never applied to Towson or Maryland because I wanted to get out-of-state to meet new folks. So I took my talents to (South Beach) Harrisonburg, Virginia where I guess we say the rest is history.

Anyways… Baltimore, and more specifically Towson University, was the site of Beltway Bash 2.0 where the usual suspects were in attendance for another NCDA mash-up to see if anything really has changed in the East Coast. And as a stone’s throw from my house, why not spend my Saturday afternoon watching men grab some balls? 


(Loss to James Madison 0-4, Loss to Maryland 1-2)

The host school, despite the record, had a pretty decent day on the court. What the scores don’t say is that this team has a lot more tenacity and fire than what they had in the past. Vocal leader Jon Shaw is one of the most inspirational people in the Tigers’ huddle even when this team is down because he accentuates everything that team does right and the team feeds off the positive vibes. This team on Saturday started almost EVERY POINT with man advantage because they fed off this hype.

Players that you already know:

Sean Smith [TU-19], Jon Shaw [TU-7], Joe Tobin [TU-5]

Players you should get to know:

Chris Thomas [TU-31] – I said at the beginning of the year that this guy is the X-Factor for the Tigers. When he’s in the court, everyone else is playing better. Great crosses and a fast arm. Thomas has great court awareness and analyzes the field before plotting his next move and it rubs off on his teammates.

Trevor O’Loughlin [TU-1] – I can bet you guys haven’t heard of him yet. He’s been on the Tigers roster for a little while but hasn’t really had the recognition, but here it is. This kid has hands. Not only does catch everything that’s in his target area, but he forces catches on balls that aren’t necessarily in his range, and that’s what separates him from his Towson compadres.


At Beltway Bash, Towson was great with eliminating players when the opponent was transitioning to defense. These guys are more accurate than you think, so you always have to watch for crosses and unexpected throws from the Tigers. Like I previously mentioned, Towson brings energy on the court that the team feeds off of. You can say that for many teams, but for these guys it really seems to click.

Things to watch

Lack of aggressiveness in critical situations. In the Maryland game, Towson had two shot clock violations that most likely cost them the game. When they had a shot clock vio in their favor, they had all the ball possession and time to take the tying point in Maryland. The Tigers, however, just seemed to play at a calm pace In the end, they just didn’t have enough time. Next time, when the clock begins to boil down and Towson is in a crunch, I’m going to be watching if they are more aggressive in getting that crucial point.



(Loss to James Madison 0-4, Defeated Towson 2-1)

Ah yes, the in-state rival. The Terps are marked as a dark horse team to make moves at Nationals, and rightfully so. In the past, Maryland never really had strategy. They didn’t really have the weapons that could carry a successful team. But now they do. They are scoring points where in the past they wouldn’t have, and they have a strategy and an accommodating roster that supports this strategy. What everyone has been hearing about is Maryland’s ball management– and it’s most certainly there. They gain possession a little like Grand Valley does, which can get scary (and aggravating) especially when their throws are landing.

Players that you already know:

Tyler Wieland [UMD-88], Dylan Allred [UMD-11], Rohan Mittal [UMD-99]

Player you should get to know:

Steve Via [UMD-50] – Yes, the younger brother of former Maryland captain Chris Via. While his brother had one of the stronger arms for the Terrapins in his time, Steve has the hands in the family and he gobbles up much of the crossfire for the Terps of today.


Ball possession. It’s pretty good… It’s very good. When the Terps have the ball advantage, they know how to maintain it. They are constantly istening to counts and utilizing the clock to it’s most potential. This is part of the recipe that gives them a chance in every point and makes every point a drawn-out process.

Things to watch

Cohesiveness and timing of offense. While the Terps utilize the possession and the clock very well, I want to see if they will progress together as an offense. I’m looking for the big voices on the team like Rohan Mittal to step forward and help lead the team in team throws and pointing out flaws in the defense to pick up easier elims instead of trying to force a play.


James Madison

(Defeated Maryland 4-0, Defeated Towson 4-0)

Last but not least, the southern boys. The Dukes of James Madison are on everyone’s radar to possibly dethrone the Grand Valley dynasty this year, and they have all the tools to do it. Will the pieces fall in place for Madison this year? Athleticism has been the key to the Dukes in the past, and this year they’ve kept their same niche along with the arms and hands they’ve had in the past.

Players that you already know:

Ben Sizemore [JMU-92], Brent Gromer [JMU-00], Joey Cardella [JMU-15]

Players you should get to know:

Lee Lucas [JMU-34] – Lee was a big force in the success for JMU on Saturday and he is by far the most underrated player on the Dukes’ roster. The reason why I say this? Because he’s been on the starting roster for JMU since he was a freshman… Well he’s a senior now, and no one has ever spoke of him. Lucas has a devastating arm that has great drop on the ball, and hands that speak for themselves.

Doug Schilling [JMU-35] – Schilling is one of the several freshman that have already made it onto the starting roster for the Dukes. While it’s hard to not elaborate on everyone, Doug had a great tournament for the Dukes on offense and defense including a point-ending kill in the JMU-Towson game. Players like Doug, Conner Forester, and Jake McMonagle are leading the fresh-face movement on the Dukes roster who lose a few seniors this year.


Experience. Like Bailey said earlier in the year, JMU has enough experience to make other teams in the league blush. It’s no doubt that this leadership will carry the Dukes through the season and into Nationals. Ben Sizemore, Brent Gromer, Connor Ford, Taylor Wilhelm, all of these guys who were the first recruiting class of JMU Dodgeball are entering in their senior season and are now leading the Dukes. It’s just a matter of whether they can overcome their…

Things to watch

Fundamental mistakes. The Dukes are a strong team offensively and defensively. Their strategy is dynamic and changes to the team they play and will attempt to outplay their opponent in their own strategy because they can do it with their talent. The thing to watch with the Dukes is fundamental errors and whether they can control them. So far this year, the Dukes have been nipped in the bud by several shot clock vios. While it hasn’t truly affected them yet, just wait to see how it transfers over to a game against a team like GVSU where they lose all balls over to the Lakers in a critical point.

Other news:

Penn State and VCU are expected to be attending the event happening at the University of Maryland in mid-November. These teams have not had much experience in the past nor have they had a regular season game this season, but don’t pass on them on walking away this tournament empty handed.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions have made few appearances in their tenure as an NCDA team, but time I saw them, they didn’t disappoint. Their first appearance was at Nationals 2013 where they were best described as raw. They then made an appearance at Pumpkin Smash 2K13 and showed up more prepared. More throwers with pinching, a handful of players with explosive arms, and little more organization in terms of transitioning. The team was brought on by Chris Cetnar (graduated) and is now led by William Deutsch.


The VCU Rams are are a little unknown this season as former captain Shadeed Drakeford has graduated and handed the reigns down to Adam Hallers. The Rams are not as raw as Penn State, as VCU has had multiple tournament appearances with challenging competition. The roster is quite the mystery right now, however the Rams have picked up a transfer from JMU in Marc Antosz[Former JMU-69] for the season who was on the starting roster for the Dukes. Given his experience, he may be able to instill some strategy for the Rams to carry into their first tournament.

Shameless promotion:


Chris Hess
[Ed: Legendary Twitter Jockey]

Author: Zigmister

DePaul Dodgeball #68 & NCDA Director of Officiating

2 thoughts on “East Coast Update – Thoughts from an Old Man”

  1. GREAT article Chris! I agree 100% that Lucas #34 is an underrated player, he’s been one of the better arms for JMU in the past. I’m really excited to see how the UMD tourney plays out with 5 (or 6 with RIT) East Coast teams in attendance.
    GVSU is taking a long look at going to BEAST once again this year, don’t hold your breath though.

  2. Such a well written article Hess, Chris Thomas definitely has been an X factor for Towson, also would like to point out that President Sean Smith’s catching has improved to a top tier level this year, and he has been keeping us in many points. Also you mentioned his name, but Connor Ford has stepped his game up again this year, all around the kid doesn’t have a weakness, and he his throwing accuracy has been deadly this year. And just an fyi to ncda dodgeball Brent Gromer is still as dominant as ever, rocket arm is accurate as hell, and he never gets enough praise for his catching, which has been crucial for his all around game this year.

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