University of Maryland Tournament Preview
COLLEGE PARK – Reckord Armory: This weekend features a great tournament at Bowling Green, but eyes will also be focused on the East Coast this Sunday as the University of Maryland hosts a variety of teams including Towson University (TU), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), James Madison University (JMU), last year’s regular season champion Kent State, and last year’s National finalist University of Kentucky (UK).
Maryland-This is the second time Maryland is hosting a tournament in their short team history, but they are looking to defend the home court as a tough slate of teams are competing to come out on top. Maryland’s squad is led by Captain Chris Via, and power arm Alex Gisselbeck. The Terps best strength is gaining and maintaining ball possession; and when they have it, they are hard to take down. While they are a young team, the Terps are gaining more experience in the league this year by adding more tournaments to their schedule. The Terps are 1-1 so far this season, with a 6-0 win against Towson, and a 5-2 loss against JMU. On their home court, Maryland may have an advantage going into this tournament with a good showing of fans, look for the Terps to pull out a few wins this Sunday.
Towson-The Towson Tigers are back for their second season in the NCDA, and they are looking stronger than ever. After a short first season, the Tigers have picked up strategies on the way and captains Sean Smith and Jonathan Shaw are looking for redemption. The Tigers had a rough start to the season at 0-2, but their showing at their home tournament was no less than impressive. After a strong fall recruitment, the Tigers are looking to shake up the standings in the 2012-2013 season. With a tough outing of teams at Maryland, the Tigers could pull out a win or two, with a possible upset situation.
VCU-VCU is facing a conglomerate of experienced teams in their first season as an NCDA member, but they are already looking to make noise. Captain Shadeed Drakeford is looking to slow the roll of teams steaming through College Park this weekend with a large recruitment class from this Fall. Although, this may be their first tournament, VCU will make it more than just a learning experience by challenging some of the veteran teams. VCU’s only intercollegiate experience as a team was the exhibition match they had in April 2012 where they traveled to JMU. They played one half where they eventually lost 6-0, but had plenty of fun runs after the game to get to know their in-state rivals. As a fairly unknown team, no one can really put a point to how well the Rams will do at College Park, but the slate of teams will certainly gain a first impression.
Kent-Kent is seen as one of the favorites in College Park this weekend with the amount of experience their team has already accrued this season. They knocked off Ohio State 2-1 at Kent in September, and continued into the OSU Round Robin where they managed a 2-2 weekend. The Flashes pulled off wins against OSU and Saginaw Valley in a thrilling overtime, which set them at their current record of 3-2. Kent and SVSU’s overtime match was a classic, not only because it was the first overtime of the year under the new six v. six format, but both schools were pulling in catches left and right. It was only fitting that the match ended by a catch hovering above the floor. Kent State is typically known for their offensive talent and athleticism, and they will need to force their tempo in order to move in the standings this weekend. With the lead of big man Dan Shackelford, ever-talented Camden Fuller, and Midwest Player of the week Jason “Machine Gun” Hallman, look for the Flashes to pick up a number of wins this weekend in Maryland.
JMU-The dark horse for Sunday’s tournament is James Madison. In their inaugural season, the Dukes made noise in the 2011-2012 NCDA with an 11-4-1 record, with a trip to National Quarterfinals. This season, they are moving in the right direction again as they defeated both Maryland and Towson at the Towson Throwdown, which placed them at their current 2-0 record. JMU will need to take control of ball possession if they expect wins against a number of stingy offenses. Captain Chris Hess, along with power arms Andrew Hassett and Brett Ireland will look to change the schemes of a number of teams, considering their losses last season came from only Kent State and Kentucky. After a 200-man tryout, the Dukes have added great depth to their roster. Having only lost one starter to graduation, look for an improved power to step on the court for JMU. The Dukes could turn their losing ways to UK and Kent this weekend, but nevertheless, expect a strong outing for James Madison on Sunday.
UK-The Wildcats are seen as one of the main favorites of the tournament this weekend. Kentucky is coming off the best season in team history with a trip to the National Championship game where they fell to SVSU. Zac Brown leads an extremely deep team this year. After a huge midnight dodgeball recruiting event where over 1,500 UK students attended, they’re out to prove that they are serious contenders for Nationals by showcasing their second complete roster for this tournament. The Wildcats are already off to a quick 4-0 record, with wins over WKU, MSU, OSU, and Kent State. With this start, look for the Wildcats to possibly sweep their schedule, unless JMU or Maryland has anything to say about that.
The field and match-ups are set, and this weekend will clear up a number of questions that have been asked this season:
• How real is Kentucky and Kent State this season, and can they make a title run this season?
• Can JMU develop into a top-tier team this year?
• Will Maryland become a serious threat in the 2012-2013 NCDA season?
• Can Towson or VCU blindside a contender this year?
Maryland v. Kentucky
Kent v. JMU
Towson v. VCU
VCU v. JMU
Kentucky v. Towson
Maryland v. Kent
VCU v. Kent
Maryland v. JMU
Kentucky v. VCU
Towson v. Kent
Towson v. Maryland
-Zac Brown (Captain, UK), Chris Hess (Captain, JMU), and Dan Shackelford (Captain, Kent State)