The only dodgeball on the slate for the weekend, the Kentucky Invite (formerly known as the Kentucky Classic) has had many good matches in its history, and has been a proving ground for teams in the past. With host school #2 UK, to go along with #1 Kent State, #14 Miami, and #14 Western Kentucky, this round robin will once again prove each team’s worth.
WKU the last two seasons hasn’t played a school other than Kentucky or Louisville outside of Nationals 2012, so this should be an interesting test for them. Kent State and WKU met last year in group play at Nationals, and the Golden Flashes pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory. If WKU wants to avoid the problem they had last year at Nationals (being drastically underseeded due to a lack of games played) they’ll need to pick up two or three wins this weekend, as they will not get many other chances this season to get some wins. The Toppers have struggled against rival UK the past two seasons (0-4 vs the Wildcats) but they played well against other schools at Nationals. Kent State will want to dominate ball possession, which is also WKU’s game plan, so it’ll be interesting to see who can do what. Captain Alex Sorrels and Assistant Captain Felix Perrone will have to do most of the heavy lifting on the offensive end, but if they can get a ball advantage then watch out.
Miami played their only matches of the season at the BGSU Invite, in which they went 0-2 (losses to CMU and SVSU) but there is no shame in losing to those teams. Perceived as the underdog of this tournament, they’ve shown that when they’re overlooked they can sneak up on teams. Last year at Nationals they lost all three games they played, but it was by a total of three points (against UWP, JMU, and MSU.) The question is if they can string together a couple of wins, and move up in the rankings. Two wins would put them second in their region, something that would be huge for them at Nationals 2013.
Kent State is the #1 team in the country, but has already dropped a game to UK. They’ve got the talent to beat the Wildcats, especially with Camden Fullmer at the helm, but can they pull together a full team effort to K.O. Kentucky? They also need to worry about the other two schools appearing at the tournament as well, as both WKU and Miami can upset Kent if they play to their best ability. It’ll be a dangerous tournament for Kent, but even one win ensures they’ll be the #1 team in the country still. This will be the last action for Kent State until the BEAST II at James Madison in February, so it’ll be interesting to compare how they do in this tournament to how they do at the BEAST II. It will also be interesting to see how the Flashes do in their third tournament in four weeks.
Kentucky is probably the favorite to win their home tournament, which would be their first home tournament title ever. They crushed the competition at OSU, played well enough with a depleted squad at Maryland to pick up two wins, and have dominated WKU this season. Having already beaten Kent State and WKU this season should give them some confidence as well. The Wildcats have a chance to move into the #1 spot in the country with a sweep this weekend, so expect them to come out firing, especially Wes Hopkins and Zac Brown. As possibly the most dominant team this season so far, they will have to face the best that Kent, WKU, and Miami has to offer, which is an odd feeling for a team usually on the other end of the rankings. UK has plenty of games after this weekend though, so expect them to stay near the top of the NCDA standings and to continue to get better.