The following was written by North Georgia’s Kyle Dattelbaum:
This past Saturday, the University of North Georgia and Georgia Southern University took long voyages to Northwestern State University of Louisiana for NSULA’s Mardi Gras Madness Tournament. In result, the league found some answers about the unknown South Region of the NCDA. Five matches were played between the three squads validating each school to become eligible to compete at Nationals come April. The day began with in-state rivals UNG and GSU going head-to-head, and concluded with NSULA playing two matches against the traveling teams each. Below will be my takeaways along with captain’s opinions on how their squads performed:
Before we look at the takeaways, here are the scores from the games this weekend:
UNG def GSU 5-0
UNG def NSU 9-1
GSU def NSU 5-1
UNG def NSU 11-0
GSU def NSU 5-1
University of North Georgia:
The Nighthawks came in as the favorite this weekend and definitely did not disappoint. Outscoring opponents 26-1 in their three matches, it’s safe to say that UNG dominated throughout Saturday. There were very few times where UNG was found anywhere except camping the throw line maintaining ball control. Consistent top performers include Bailey Hankins, Royce Hogg and Thomas Clements as they constantly carried themselves with a swagger that was unmatched by anybody on the opposite side of the court. The confidence ended up transitioning into being on the right side of every play regardless offensive or defensive. Newcomer Hunter Stuart already came into his roll as one of the stronger arms for UNG as he was portrayed as a player not playing in his first matches. All throughout Saturday, Hunter connected with powerful throws that often slipped under opponents blockers for kills. Even with UNG’s performance there’s always room for improvement. In their one dropped game, it seemed that all 12 players were eliminated on careless mistakes, allowing NSULA to go into halftime only down by one point (2-1). A big halftime pep talk by Kyle Dattelbaum had UNG firing on all cylinders going off for seven points in the second half. But moving forward UNG will be unable to maintain a possible competitive edge on higher ranked opponents if they are to make similar mistakes. So they will have to make sure they are constantly squared away to avoid complacency.
First of all, in their 9th official NCDA match, Georgia Southern finally secured their first points as well as their first win in the same match. Going 2-1 on the weekend just shows the efforts their organization has been putting into practice and recruiting. Hopefully the taste of some wins will further light a fire under the program to make the next leap on the competitive scale. Even though their in-state rival still seems to have their number, there are other positives to takeaway from this tournament. Southern is constantly improving, each player has developed a grasp of throwing a solid pinched ball. And even though they were without their strongest arm from my experiences (Edgar Diaz) the team did not have too much of a drop-off due to their all-around improvement. The team’s organization really showed in their games versus NSULA as leadership was often able to make late game comebacks in a very poised and composed manner. Some top performers include assistant captain Zach Frangi (2017 ASG Mr. Irrelevant) who in my opinion is consistently their best overall player due to his on-court decisions with a solid throw and catching abilities to complement. Two players who have come a long way are Austin Bullock and JT Wills. Both delivered constant clutch plays that kept momentum in favor of Georgia Southern throughout their matchups with NSULA. Looking forward, Brett Storie will be somebody with the potential for a lot of GSU’s production, the mechanics to be an important player are there, but he will need to develop more court awareness as well a understanding of the pinch throw to see that type of production. A developed Edgar and Brett leading the rest of GSU’s developing squad and there may be problems in the peach state.
Zach Rivera’s thoughts:
Georgia Southern University:
vs. UNG: We unfortunately weren’t able to score our 1st point on UNG like we had hoped, although we were close on the very 1st point. We still feel as though this was our best match against UNG thus far. We kept it a much lower scoring game than in the past. What this tells us is that compared to UNG, we aren’t quite there offensively yet to put them on the ropes. UNG is able to keep us on defense way longer during the match and wear us down, but our defense has definitely become stronger so we can stay in on a point longer.
vs. NSULA: Both of our matches against NSULA were really good for us. We really started finding more of a groove on our offense and were able to keep NSULA pushed back for the most part. But, just like the point I made about our match against UNG, NSULA was able to hold out against us for a good while even when we were more aggressive on offense. That tells us that our offensive game needs a good bit of work so we can win more points on teams. NSULA was really impressive for a new team and held their own against both us and UNG. With some more experience in communication, team plays, and how to deal with team throws defensively, they can become a strong team quickly. All that means is that Georgia Southern needs more work so they don’t catch up to us.
Overall, we see where we have become much stronger as a team, and where we need the most improvement. We are much better at communicating on the court, playing defensively, and establishing our roles on the court. We still need to work on our offensive plays, ball control (it was a bit better, but needs work still), and being aggressive and holding the attack line. Personally, as team captain, I can really see my team responding to our chain of command and listening to what needs to change on the court as we play, which has really helped. We saw great performances from both veterans and our rookies and from here we know we can become even stronger.
Northwestern State University:
On paper, NSULA did not walk away with much from their hosted tournament. But they do have the ability to say they put points up on both teams while playing man/men down. The lack of opportunities to get matches did show. Veteran Casey Jones seemed to be the only very comfortable player on NSULA’s side. He probably led the tournament in kills with how much production he carried for NSULA. The whole team caught well, specifically Rebecca Marchland with a surplus of off-balanced catches. Landry Davis probably had the strongest arm of the tournament. Even without applying a pinch, he often picked off opponents feet with his fastball. A huge problem I saw in NSULA was their ability to close points though. There were a few points that they had solid advantages over Georgia Southern, but due to the lack of coordination of working together and relying on only three or four players to make throws, Georgia Southern was often able to make comebacks. Do not look too much into the high scores of this weekend’s matches. It was a much smaller court than what Georgia schools have played on in the past and they decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
Casey Alfultis’s thoughts:
Naturally, I wasn’t thrilled with the scores that came out of it, but all in all I feel like it was an extremely successful tournament for us. It gave a lot of us some much needed experience, showed us our weaknesses and let us see how other teams operate. I feel like from beginning to end we improved as a team and that was just the start. With a little more recruitment and some more intense practice with focus in the right areas, I think this tournament was the first step in making us the team I know we can be.