The following was written by Zach Rivera (GSU – Alumni)
Mar. 7, 2020 – Dahlonega, GA
Earlier this month, the University of North Georgia (UNG) hosted the University of Kentucky (UK) and Georgia Southern University (GSU) for the inaugural Southern Dodgeball Cup (SDC). Although the Southern Region of the NCDA is not as large as some of the other established regions in the league, this tournament showed just how competitive this region has become with some nail-biting matches that are sure to show the rest of the league what to expect from these Southern teams in the future. Below are the scores and outcomes from the tournament, and some thoughts on each matchup and how each team did overall:
|UK vs GSU||3-2||UK|
|UNG vs GSU||5-1||UNG|
|UK vs UNG||4-3 (OT)||UK|
UK def GSU (3-2)
The SDC kicked off with a very close match that literally came down to the final seconds on the clock. UK came out strong against GSU, but it seems once GSU found their footing they started showing how strong they’ve become.
UK started with an early lead, taking two points over GSU in the first half. However, GSU rallied hard in the second half and tied the match up. It seems the squad from UK lost some steam in the second half and wasn’t ready for GSU to start making some serious defensive plays and catches. With 30 seconds left in the match, UK was able to secure the that final out in a hard fought final point for both teams.
Tyler Kratzer (UK) – “Our match against GSU was a good one. It was a little closer, us only winning 3-2, than we would have liked but we will take the win. We got up 2-0 early and got a little too comfortable and fell off of our game plan, but we pulled it out in the end.”
UNG def GSU (5-1)
The rival Georgian teams met yet again, but the outcome stay(ed) the same. Although GSU has truly begun to give their in-state rivals a run for their money, they just can’t seem to close out points against the Nighthawks. It didn’t help that they had just gone toe-to-toe with UK right before. Every point these teams played out had everyone on the edge of their seat, with each one coming down to the last few players on each team.
In the very first point of the match, GSU had UNG on the ropes, but UNG’s assistant captain, Vince Bartolomei (#12), pulled off an impressive 1 v. 4 over GSU, and with that the Nighthawks took off! If the Eagles can learn to close out more points in their favor, their next meeting with the Nighthawks is sure to be very different.
Jake Jarrett (UNG) – “I was impressed with GSU for their improved depth, consistency, and catching. It looks like they have improved their recruiting with newcomers such as #4 (Tony Hinson) providing some arm power for them. As long as Josh Manning (#7, AC) can stay healthy and on the court, they have a chance against almost anyone.”
UK def UNG (4-3 OT)
Daniel LaJeunesse Jr. (UK) – “In a recent article, the NCDA listed the ‘top games that the league deserves to see.’ This matchup was one of the ones listed and I believe it lived up to the hype. UK took a late 3-2 lead, but a final minute point from UNG, with a great performance from Jake Jarrett (#5, AC), took it to overtime. From there, Tyler Kratzer took over. He clutched a 1 v 3 with two kills and a catch that sealed the win for UK.”
Jake Jarrett (UNG) – “Great matchup and couldn’t have asked for a better first ever SDC Championship [Match]. It was back and forth throughout. UK abused the ‘wall ball [tactic]’ on us early and it took us a little while to adjust. We had our chances to put UK on many of the points and just didn’t capitalize. Which, props to them for taking advantage of some of our mistakes. They are a good team with solid leadership in their captain Daniel LaJeunesse Jr. (#2).”
Georgia Southern University
Although this squad went 0-2 at their first ever regional cup, they showed up in a big way. To begin, this was the first time since the club’s founding that they were able to bring a FULL roster to an away tournament. This team has put a lot of focus into building its ranks and it shows on the court. Their younger players are finally starting to get their feet wet with NCDA play and the learning gap is starting to shorten. The Eagles are also starting to find their niche strategy wise, coming in as a strong defensive squad with consistent catches from younger players like Will Brandt (#5) and Cason Brown (#24), while also surprising their opponents with firepower from assistant captain Josh Manning (#7) and rookie Tony Hinson (#4). Their performance at the SDC proves they are just about ready to go toe-to-toe with almost any team they face off against in the league.
University of North Georgia
The UNG Nighthawks are still as consistent and aggressive as ever. This is a team that knows how to turn the gas on at the right moment and flip the tables on their opponents. It is even more impressive when you take into account that about half of their SDC roster were rookies, making their team as young and inexperienced as GSU’s. UNG only starts to fall apart on the court when they can’t seem to keep their composure and that inexperience really started to show. They have plenty of time to tighten up and ready their rookies for bigger matches and tournaments. There is a lot of potential in younger players like Alex Phillips (#17), Steven Robinson (#24), and Will Pearson (#33) to step up to the plate after long time leaders like Jake Jarrett (#5), Royce Hogg (#30), and Luke Cheney (#42) graduate.
University of Kentucky
The first ever SDC Champions had a run for their money in this tournament. In the end, they were able to pull off some clutch points and matches thanks to veteran players like Tyler Kratzer (#22), Daniel LaJeunesse Jr. (#2), and Ethan Pale-Hate (#81). Even more impressive, they only brought 10 players to this tournament! Their younger players definitely stepped up when they needed to and helped hold out for this veteran squad. Overall, this team has more experience playing big matches, and that is what sealed the deal. This team has a lot of improvements to make if they want to hold on to the SDC title in the future, but for now they can walk away as the current “Kings of the South.”
Thank you to all the team captains who helped contribute to this recap article!