Three of the premiere teams of the NCDA meet in East Lansing on Sunday for the Impact at IM West. The Spartans host the two schools that met in the championship game last season for what should be three very competitive games of dodgeball. All three teams open the season with championship aspirations, and probably expectations, with the tremendous amount of talent on their rosters.
The first game of the day pits the hosts of Michigan State against the defending champions of Grand Valley. For the first time in the program’s history, a member of Michigan State has previously defeated Grand Valley in an NCDA match. Wes Peters will bring his experience and leadership to a team that time and time again has been unable to close out the Lakers when the opportunity for victory presents itself. No doubt a win for MSU over GVSU in their first game of the season would represent a massive cleared hurdle for the program that could spark them for the rest of the year. The Lakers on the other hand would like to avoid equally or even perhaps surpassing their loss total from last season in the opening weekend. The depth of Grand Valley will be the intriguing factor. With so many well-known players gone from last season and it being so early into the season that rookies likely have not quite developed enough yet, GVSU will need some new faces to step into the spotlight. I predict this will be another classic encounter between the two Michigan schools that won’t be decided until well into the second half.
The second game of the day will pit two very experienced squads against each other. Central Michigan and Michigan State lost perhaps a combined five starters from last season’s teams (albeit, one of those switched from one to the other). Expect the number of mistakes to be far fewer than the average in the first game of the season, due to that experience. However, expect the number of catches in this game to be far more than an average game. There are very few, if any, returning players from either team that cannot be counted on for a catch during a game. As a result, neither team will consider themselves out of a point until their last player is eliminated. With the history of these two teams, I wouldn’t be surprised if only two points are scored in regulation. The question will be who will be able to close out the other team once they gain the man advantage.
The final match of the day presents a rematch of the national championship from a five months ago. I’m sure the Chippewas will be relieved to not see Trevor Nordberg on the opposing side of the court, as he had a major impact in the championship game last season. CMU will take the court as the more veteran squad, returning almost all of those players that lost to GVSU. Usually Grand Valley is the most disciplined team on the court, but that may not be the case in this match with the veteran Chippewa squad. And I’m sure CMU will be looking to make a statement with a win over the defending champs early in the season. It will be interesting to see whether or not the system of winning of GVSU can carry them over a very talented team that is certainly looking for revenge. Expect this one to be a heated affair, one that I am just thrilled that I will have to referee.
Although this tournament has three top teams, I would be wary about drawing any conclusions following Sunday’s results. All three of these teams will look a lot difference in a month’s time, let alone by the time the MDC or Nationals come around. Nonetheless, there will be three great games on Sunday between three very talented teams.