Ten teams made the trip to Ohio University on October 1st  to play in the John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza III. We saw a few teams make their first appearance of the season including last year’s runner up, Michigan State, while others were looking to improve on past performances. Of the 18 matches played only one ended with a single point difference. What does this say about the teams this season? We’ll go team by team and breakdown what these matches showed us and what to look for in coming tournaments. Also, stay tuned for the Women’s Tournament Recap article. 

Cleveland State huddling up during a match at JBBBIII

Michigan State Spartans:

  • MSU 5-3 UC
  • MSU 4-2 OU
  • MSU 5-1 CSU

Michigan State made their first appearance this season after a tough loss to Grand Valley in the National Championship last year. They brought back nearly everyone on last year’s team and have the expectation of winning their first National Title this year. Michigan State started their day with Cincinnati in a highly anticipated matchup. After splitting the first two points, they were down 2 players versus 5, and it looked like UC might take the lead. However, the 2 players left were 2022 All-Americans Jack Girling and Barry Butler III, and with pinpoint throws, elusive dodges, and great chemistry, they were able to clutch the point . Their second match of the day was against Ohio University, another top Ohio school. MSU looked dominant, taking the first 4 points of this match; with a comfortable lead, they were able to play their rookies and end the match 4-2. Their final match of the day was against CSU who they handled with ease en route to a 5-1 victory.

MSU came into the day trying to prove they should be National Title favorites. Their performance this past weekend, including two dominant wins over the top two ranked Ohio schools, helped prove their claim. Their experience and talent showed, headlined by Girling and Butler. Adam Arnold, a player on the rise, surprised viewers with his throwing and intelligent gameplay. The tournament proved to be a great day for the Spartans who look to be as dominant as ever.

Cincinnati Bearcats:

  • UC 3-5 MSU
  • UC 4-2 OSU
  • UC 3-2 BGSU (OT)

Cincinnati arrived in Athens with a 3-1 record, a very experienced roster, and the expectation of going undefeated on the day. Their first match of the day was against Michigan State , and they looked up for the challenge. Cincinnati and Michigan State split the first two points, but the Bearcats failed to close out a 5 vs 2 man advantage, leading to a 2-1 deficit. Cincinnati lost the next point, and ended with  a 5-3 loss. Cincinnati had a good chance at coming back but could not win the point to tie the match. Their second match of the day was against Ohio State. Cincinnati let OSU have ball control for most of the match, but with their quick counters and great dodging, they went into half up 2-0. The Bearcats then dropped two points in the second half and let the Buckeyes tie the match. Cincinnati turned it back on and took advantage of wall ball allowing them to take the final two points of the match, resulting in a 4-2 victory. Their third match was against BGSU, a team they were expected to handle easily. However, that was not the case; they dropped the first point against them and struggled with throwing catches. They had to survive a point to force overtime with the score tied 2-2. The Bearcats dominated the Falcons  in overtime. After two catches by Brett Liming at the start of OT, Cincinnati used their powerful arms and crafty team throws to pick off the rest of the Falcons for a victory.

Cincinnati was able to hang in there with MSU, but needed overtime to beat BGSU, a team that went 1-2 at the RedHawk Classic. What does this mean for UC? Will they be able to hang with top teams like MSU and compete for a national title, or will they struggle with inconsistencies this year? The former seems much more likely as this was a final four team last year, and they brought back most of their roster. Cory Heitmann and Matthew Rosinski looked explosive in the middle of the court. Brett Liming and Brannon McGinn used their great throws effectively in the corners.

Ohio Bobcats:

  • Ohio 5-1 BGSU
  • Ohio 2-4 MSU
  • Ohio 8-0 Kent

After going 3-0 against tough competition at the Buckeye Showcase, OU hoped to prove their spot as a top team on their home court. They started their day with a dominant victory over BGSU. The teams split the first two points, but then OU took the next 4 to close out a 5-1 victory.  In the next match against MSU, Ohio was hoping to prove they were title contenders but fell short. They dropped the first 4 points en route to a 4-2 loss. Their day then ended with an 8-0 victory against a newly revived Kent team.

OU dominated the teams they expected to, but then got outperformed by the Spartans. Are the Bobcats still title contenders? It is impossible to rule a team out in the first week of October, but it appears that Ohio will need to make some  improvements to have a chance at the National Title. Alex Jonauskas, Caleb Arnold, and Max Stoeckel all bring lots of experience and talent, and 2022 All-Rookie team member Terence Checkett brings a powerful arm. The depth behind them brings some top tier catching talent, but arm depth will have to improve.

Ohio State Buckeyes:

  • OSU 2-4 UC
  • OSU 6-0 WMU
  • OSU 4-1 Akron

The Buckeyes came into the day with injuries, but that didn’t stop them from thinking they could beat every team on their schedule. They started the day with a match against last year Ohio Dodgeball Cup (ODC) champion, Cincinnati. In the first two points, Ohio State was able to get ball control, but they could not connect on enough throws and ended up dropping both before half time. Down 0-2 in the second half, OSU came out with great coordination and precise throws, and they were able to  tie the score at 2-2. UC was able to then use wall ball against the Buckeyes, and Ohio State struggled to recover, losing the next two points, resulting in a 4-2 loss. Their next match was against up-and-coming WMU. OSU was able to dominate in strategy. Buckeye rookies also got valuable game experience in this match. Ohio State’s last match of the day was against Akron, a team they beat 3-2 at the Buckeye Showcase. The Buckeyes used previous game experience, strong team throws and plenty of catching en route to a dominant 4-1 victory.

Ohio State showed they can be very competitive, even against a top team like Cincinnati, without Captain Ryan Ginsberg on the court and December 2021 BOTM Derrek Kemper being able to pinch (as he recovers from an arm injury). Ethan Lehmkuhl led the Buckeyes on the court taking numerous throws and making catches. Nick Kemer also proved he is a rookie of the year candidate – controlling the right corner and getting plenty of kills. Evan Utterback used quick counters and diving catches to help Ohio State all day. Ohio State showed they can compete with any team they are put up against, and they are likely a National Title contender at full strength.

Akron Zips

  • Akron 4-2 Miami
  • Akron 7-0 Kent
  • Akron 2-4 OSU

Akron, playing their fourth weekend in a row, was looking to gain more experience and show they can compete with any team in the league. Akron’s first match of the day was against Miami, a team they beat 3-1 just a week prior. This match had a similar outcome as Akron beat them by a two-point margin. Their second match of the day was against Kent, a team they were expected to beat without issue. The Zips shut them out with a 7-0 victory. Their final match of the day was against another familiar opponent: Ohio State. Akron did not look as sharp or fast in this match as they did in the prior match – likely due to them playing their eleventh match in four weeks, and plenty of them were down to the wire.

Akron has a lot of experience but can’t seem to beat the top tier schools. They have everything you would need to beat an elite team: throwers, catchers, and survivors. PJ Antalek can throw overhand or behind his back with velocity and eliminate anyone on the baseline. Captain Clay Egleston is a well rounded player that can do it all – did you see his double catch against Ohio State? Will Akron be able to develop talent and build the team coordination necessary to compete for the ODC or a final four spot? Right now, it is tough to predict the future of this team, and they will have to prove they can compete and defeat the top schools before those claims can be made.

Bowling Green State Falcons

  • BGSU 7-0 Kent
  • BGSU 1-5 Ohio
  • BGSU 2-3 UC (OT)

Bowling Green State came to Athens looking to prove they can still compete with top schools even though they lost four key starters from last year’s team. Their first game of the day was against Kent, where they dominated in a 7-0 victory. Their next game was against Ohio. They were competitive at first, splitting the first two points, but struggled the rest of the way, losing four more points to the Bobcats. Their final game of the day was against UC and after losing by four to OU, spectators did not expect this match to be close. However, BGSU used what they are known for, great catching ability, to tie the match at 2-2 with a man advantage in a crucial 5th point. However, the Falcons could not put away the Bearcats before OT, and Cincinnati used their star power to dominate BGSU in overtime.

Where does this put them? Will they be able to use their catching to compete with top tier Ohio schools all year or was their match against Cincinnati  a fluke and the match against Ohio was a better representation? This team is young, so they will have plenty of time to improve. Their catching already seems to be at a high level, but they will need to develop more arms before they can reliably compete with top schools. This was shown in OT against UC where they started by throwing 2 catches.

Miami RedHawks

  • Miami 2-4 Akron
  • Miami 4-1 CSU
  • Miami 6-1 WMU

Miami came into the day trying to improve on a winless performance at their home tournament just a week prior. They started their day with a match against Akron. Miami came out firing in this match, splitting the first four points against a solid opponent. However, Akron took control of the throw line, and Miami struggled with blocking, losing the last two points. Their second match of the day was against CSU. They came out a little slow but dominated by winning the last three points of the match for their first win of the season. They then won their third match of the day in convincing fashion over Western Michigan.

With their two wins, they have topped their win total from last year, showing that hard work from the captains and young players has paid off. Captain Elly Schipfer used her experience and leadership to try and get this team back to their dominant past. Jay Patel and John Rick had solid performances this past weekend, while rookie Phillip Hampton continues to gain confidence and improve his game. This team has been improving rapidly, so don’t be shocked if this team starts pulling off some upsets.

Cleveland State Vikings

  • CSU 4-2 WMU
  • CSU 1-4 Miami
  • CSU 1-5 MSU

CSU came into this tournament hoping to improve on their performance from the Buckeye Showcase. Their first match of the day was against Western Michigan. The Vikings were able to get their first win of the season against a non-B team with a two-point victory over the Broncos. Their next game was against Miami; they were competitive at the beginning of the match but watched their hopes disappear as Miami took the last three points against them. Their final match of the day was against MSU. The teams split the first two points, taking the Spartans by surprise with a tied game, but they struggled against the National Title runner-ups and lost 5-1.

Cleveland State has struggled since the departure of Joe Walsh, having trouble trying to find replacements for his offense. Coach Leon Rockamore Jr. and captains will have to work at practice to improve team coordination and strategy before they can be competitive against top schools. However, the Vikings did show improvement from their first matches at the Buckeye Showcase, so don’t count this team out.

Western Michigan Broncos

  • WMU 2-4 CSU
  • WMU 0-6 OSU
  • WMU 1-6 Miami

Western Michigan made the trip to Ohio University beginning a new era after losing founder, Dr. Peter Broe. Their first match against CSU was competitive, but the Broncos were not able to secure a win. Their next two games against Ohio State and Miami were not competitive, resulting in big losses for WMU where they gave up 12 points

Western Michigan was only able to bring 11 players to their tournament, so that was the first piece of their struggles. They also had issues with communication and strategy as they adjusted to new leadership on the court. As Western Michigan  continues to recruit and work on team strategy, they will get better and have more competitive matches. This tournament experience was very valuable for returning players and rookies.

Kent State Golden Flashes

  • Kent 0-7 BGSU
  • Kent 0-7 Akron
  • Kent 0-8 OU

Kent played in their first tournament in over a year, and  they brought a full 12-person roster to Athens looking to begin their revival. Kent came into the tournament looking to get valuable in-game experience as most of their roster had never played in a tournament before. Kent played BGSU, Akron, and Ohio and struggled to score a point. Captain Vanessa Hudson said the struggle was due to lack of counters and too many catches thrown.

Kent had trouble being competitive but that was expected with little experience and about a year off. They did have some highlights as Spencer Murphy had a fantastic day catching and rookie Ethan Temple showed high potential with his performance. The team was happy with getting some needed experience and plans on being more competitive at Akron on November 5th. Although the team is young, they have great leadership through Hudson, and two coaches helping them improve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.