Michigan Dodgeball Cup Preview

The 2019 Michigan Dodgeball Cup is right around the corner, taking place this Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan on the campus of Michigan State University.  As has been the case for over a decade, the MDC will play host to each school in the state of Michigan for a regular season tournament that will have national title implications.  Below is a preview of this Saturday’s tournament:

Schedule:


Staff Predictions:

Team Previews:

#1 Grand Valley State

What defines success: 

1st Place. At this point, nothing less than that would be tolerated by GV. The Lakers are stacked with as strong of a top end as any team in the country. Captain Brandon Meisel has been a top player in the league for 3 years now. So has Assistant Captain Aaron Krafft. Those two players are virtually unstoppable in transition. Ben Smart has stepped up quite a bit this year, after making his big splash in last year’s National Title Game. Beyond this group of three, the Lakers are quite deep. The amount of experience down the roster makes them a clear favorite for this event.

What defines failure: 

2nd Place. GVSU, as mentioned above, is so loaded. They have been so successful over the years that the expectations are 1st place or bust every season. The Lakers will attempt to do what CMU couldn’t do last year: maintain an undefeated season through MDC. In fact, only one Michigan team in the last decade has kept an undefeated season past the second weekend of February (2015 GVSU). As hard as it may be to grasp, the Lakers earning second place at this event would be considered a failure.

Bottom Line: 

This tournament is Grand Valley’s to lose. They currently sit at 15-0, teasing us with the possibility that we could have our first undefeated National Champion since 2009. GVSU always comes to MDC more mentally prepared than any other team. Their depth of arms is also a benefit in a tournament where each team is charged with playing four games. Not to mention, even if a team does force overtime against them, it’ll be extremely difficult to take the win in OT thanks to the talent and consistent clutch play (looking at you Alex Jonauskas) of the Lakers’ OT 6. Lastly, this team’s ability to adapt to any strategy or pace of game has been unmatched for years. It’s hard to see any team beating GV this weekend, but with 3 opponents in the top 6 nationally on their schedule, it certainly won’t be a cakewalk.


#4 Saginaw Valley State

What defines success: 

2nd Place. To be clear, I’m not ruling out the possibility that SVSU upsets GVSU at MDC. This just means that second place would still be a successful place for SV to land. While it’s an annoying and overused excuse, the fact that SV has not been with their full roster at a tourney this year is something to note. The Cardinals will have everyone this weekend, so they should be playing their best dodgeball all year. A scary thought. The middle of the Michigan Region is so incredibly tough to predict right now, with SVSU, CMU, and MSU all having a legit chance to take 2nd Place at MDC. The Cardinals would obviously love to take down Grand Valley, but beating CMU and MSU en route to a 2nd Place finish would still be a good weekend for them.

What defines failure: 

4th Place.  You’ll notice this trend continue below. The gap is so small from 2-4 in this region that one of the following teams will end up 4th out of 5 at this event (MSU, SVSU, CMU). With these teams jockeying for position in the rankings, it would be a disappointment to finish last of that group at this event. SV has the tools to get top 2, but they also have some weaknesses. A 4th Place finish is entirely possible, but would be considered a failure.

Bottom Line: 

One thing to keep an eye on is the energy SVSU brings at MDC. Over the last half decade the Cardinals have found a way to exceed expectations at this event. They need to come in fired up and play with energy all day if they expect to have a successful day. SVSV can’t afford to come out flat like they did to start WAR, surrendering a 3-1 deficit to Akron at one point in their first match. The Cardinals Overtime 6 is arguably the second best in the Michigan Region (behind GV), so one advantage this squad has over some other teams is that they will hold an edge in a game going to overtime with either MSU or CMU. Look for the Bruce brothers to step up this weekend, along with Ryan Anguilm, Kenny Mize, and a goat of other experienced players. The key to Saginaw success won’t be the usual dominance from their top few players, but rather will be determined by how consistently effective some of their other players can be. Keep an eye on players like Nolan Uitos, Bryce Stevens, and Dylan McDonald to all have big impacts on the team’s success.


#5 Michigan State

What defines success: 

2nd Place. As MSU Captain Payton Schuster pointed out, GVSU is pretty much unbeatable. The hope for his young, talented team is to improve enough over the course of the season to eventually give them a tough time. While I don’t think MSU is capable of taking down GVSU just yet, I do think 2nd Place at MDC is a possibility. Success for them this weekend will be determined by if they can grab that 2 spot, edging out other top contenders: SVSU and CMU. We saw what the Spartans are capable of when they are on their game, as they took down #2 Towson a week ago. Was it a fluke? Or can they sustain that level of play. I credit the vocal leaders on this team for helping them reach a new level as a team last weekend. They will need much more of that tomorrow at MDC.

What defines failure: 

4th Place. While 2nd Place would be a great day for MSU, it is just as much a possibility that they fall to 4th. Must I remind everyone about the horrible history at MDC for this school? They are 9-27 at the event all time. They haven’t won a single game at MDC since 2015! The steak of underperforming needs to end sometime. If they once again can’t convert at MDC and finish 4th, well, certainly they will see that as a failure.

Bottom Line: 

MSU has so much potential. I’m just not so sure they are going to reach that potential just yet. Schuster is obviously a force, but he isn’t the only playmaker on the roster. Dennis Sullivan has developed into a very dependable all around player in just his second season, and we saw him make some insane catches a week ago at WAR. Jack Hilt emerged as a rookie star last weekend, and word on the street is he is far from the only rookie who is capable of making a massive impact. Sandros Rivera is becoming more and more dangerous as a catcher, and I expect a huge MDC from him. Max Antilla is such an underrated player right now, but MDC could be his coming out party. Rebecca Shappell continues to make her mark helping lead a wildly inexperienced team (now in the top 5), and if you find her as the last player remaining, trust me, place your throws carefully. There are too many contributors to mention, but bottom line is this team is slowly but surely starting to take shape. They have the tools to eventually challenge for a title game appearance or maybe even a title, but it’s still a work in progress.


#6 Central Michigan

What defines success: 

2nd Place. Well look at that! Anyone noticing a trend? Central is the third team to have 2nd place listed as their definition of success for the weekend. After a solid, yet heartbreaking showing last weekend at WAR (including a legit last-second loss to #2 Towson), I think the Chippewas are starting to peak at the right time. If you would have asked me a few weeks ago what I thought about CMU’s outlook the rest of the year, I would have said they were too top-heavy to have any title aspirations. I have shifted away from that opinion after seeing them perform at WAR. This team has the top end talent with players like Austin Brege, Eric Nelson, Tyler Prill, Kyle Garner, etc., but what impressed me most was the development of their less experienced players. Kyle Taylor had an incredible game against Towson and should be considered one of the best rookies in the state. Jawanza Edwards, while not the top arm on the team, stood out to me as another rookie stud who will help this team quite a bit the rest of the year. CMU is more than capable of getting top 2 at MDC.

What defines failure: 

4th Place. The inexperience and inconsistency of this bunch does make 4th Place a possible outcome. I think this team will be strong enough in transition to avoid finishing 4th, but if they do happen to fall below MSU and SVSU it would be a failure. The Chippewas have made 4 consecutive National Title Games. While they showed last weekend they have the skills to make another run, if they don’t show up and play well on Saturday, that title game streak will start to look more and more like just an image in the rear view mirror.

Bottom Line: 

This CMU team does a lot of things right (including finally wearing matching jerseys). It’s great to see a team plagued with so much inexperience at the beginning of the season start to shrug that off and move forward. CMU has some strong arms, great catchers, and a lot of exciting young talent. While there is certainly a wide range of potential results for this team at MDC, they have the tools to make a statement that they remain an elite NCDA program.


Western michigan

What defines success: 

Making it to the tourney with an eligible squad. Simple as that. This team has tried to attend a tourney already this season but unfortunately had to drop out due to less than 8 players being able to travel. This weekend WMU will try once more to join the NCDA as an official school, with their induction match taking place against SVSU to start the day. The Broncos will be able to consider this a successful trip if they make it to the tourney with 8+ players and complete all their games. It’s a near certainty they lose to the top level squads they will be facing, but the experience will help this young team.

What defines failure: 

Not competing in at least 3 games. Hear me out on this one. WMU is conveniently located just 45 minutes from GVSU (the host school for Nationals). NCDA policy requires a team to play at least three official matches during the season for them to be qualified to attend Nationals. WMU has yet to play in a match, but if they make it to MDC and play in at least 3 games on the day, they will be qualified for Nationals. Young teams will certainly benefit from seeing top squads in action, but what will really help this team going forward is getting to Nationals and playing some teams closer in talent/experience to them.

Bottom Line: 

The goal for MDC should simply be to gain experience and qualify for Nationals. I’m very excited for Peter Broe to finally see his work pay off and have WMU become an official NCDA member school. This weekend will be filled with lopsided losses for the Broncos, by in the long run it will be worth it. Welcome to College Dodgeball, WMU!


History:

Previous Winners: 

Year Winner
2005 MSU
2006 GVSU
2007 GVSU
2008 GVSU
2009 GVSU
2010 CMU
2011 GVSU
2012 SVSU
2013 GVSU
2014 SVSU
2015 GVSU
2016 GVSU
2017 GVSU
2018 GVSU

Records:

How to follow along:

This year, the Michigan Dodgeball Cup will be broadcasted online through the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association Facebook Page.  Each game on the main court will be streamed on Facebook Live with full-game commentary (and an on-screen scoreboard).

You can also follow the progress of the tournament through Instagram, Twitter, and the MDC Scoresheet.  This sheet will give everyone live updates on the scores in each contest, along with the current records of each attending team.


Final Thoughts:

Grand Valley State won the MDC in 2018, coming into the tourney as an underdog to then #1 Central Michigan.

This year’s MDC has plenty of interesting things to keep an eye on.  Grand Valley State will look to keep their perfect record alive.  Saginaw Valley State will attempt to once again prove to the league they are a great team in the second half of the season by exceeding expectations again at MDC.  Michigan State will look to keep the momentum going after their best showing of the season last weekend.  Central Michigan should be hoping to contend for a top 2 spot at MDC, to prove to the league they remain as one of the elite programs in the NCDA.  Lastly, WMU will finally be able to officially join the NCDA, and with four matches on the day, they will gain valuable experience and qualify for Nationals.

All in all, this one will be worth tuning in to.  So many potential classics on the schedule for the weekend.  It’s safe to say the Michigan Dodgeball Cup will continue it’s run as one of the premier tournaments of the NCDA regular season.

Author: Kevin Bailey

Current NCDA Chief of Content. Former Captain for Grand Valley State University (#4).

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