The following was prepared by the NCDA Content Team:
Continuing our regional preview articles, let’s take a closer look at the Michigan Region heading into the 2022-23 season. 2021-22 wasn’t a standard top-to-bottom dominant year for this region, as only two schools made it past the Round of 16 at Nationals. Those two teams (Grand Valley State and Michigan State did happen to face off in the National Title Game though, and they enter this season as the top two schools in the country. Outside of the current ‘Big 2’ in Michigan, Saginaw Valley State is looking to build on some progress made in 2021-22, as is an up-and-coming Western Michigan. Lastly, historical power Central Michigan will look to recover from a year out of the league due to low numbers and get back in action this year. Below is your full Michigan Region Preview:
- Grand Valley State
- Michigan State
- Saginaw Valley State
- Western Michigan
- Central Michigan
Program on the Rise: Saginaw Valley State
Biggest Unknown: Western Michigan
Most Underrated Player: Owen Israels (GVSU)
Coach of the Year: Becca & Kevin Nguyen (MSU)
- Ben Smart (GVSU)
- Jack Girling (MSU)
- Barry Butler III (MSU)
- Tyler Peach (GVSU)
- Alec Deen (MSU)
- Cole Machiela (SVSU)
Grand Valley State
Preseason National Rank: 1
Preseason Regional Rank: 1
2021-22 Record: 20-2
2012-22 Nationals Finish: National Champs
Returning Starters: 9
Captains: Ben Smart (C), Matt Budai (A), Owen Israels (A)
Standout Players: Tyler Peach, Owen Israels, Alec Gonzalez, Matt Budai, Ryan Paddock and Ben Smart
Key Departures: Nick Hehl, Tyler Williamson, Josh Hill*
Well, the Lakers took back their place atop the College Dodgeball world last April with a dominant showing at Nationals 2022. Naturally they enter the 2022-23 season as the top ranked team with a loaded roster full of talent and experience. Ben Smart needs no introduction, just know that he’s back and poised to challenge for National Player of the Year honors once again. Tyler Peach is also back after an All-American campaign in 2021-22. Oh, and should we mention GVSU has loads of young talent set to make the ‘sophomore leap’ in their second full season of NCDA play? Another note: All-American Josh Hill is also possibly back for this year. That would be another massive boost for GVSU if he is back for a semester or even the full year.
Not much bad to speak of for the defending champs. They lose a few of their leaders from last year in Nick Hehl and Tom Williamson. Both Smart and Peach battled through injuries last year so durability could be a question as well. GVSU was lower on depth than in past seasons, so a solid recruiting class to fill out the roster will be key. Other than that? Michigan State took several games off the Lakers last year and they too return the vast majority of their production. The GVSU program’s dominance can’t go on forever?
Grand Valley State boasts 11 College Dodgeball National Titles, and the expectation looks to once again be title or bust in Allendale, MI. With top end talent like Smart and Peach, and rapidly improving young guns like Matt Budai and Ryan Paddock, this team is built to have success in the NCDA. Keep an eye on their recruiting class this year. If they can secure some added depth, it will be hard to bet against the Lakers come April 2023.
Our team expectations are to bring home the Michigan Dodgeball Cup and keep the Nationals trophy here in Allendale.Ben Smart
Preseason National Rank: 2
Preseason Regional Rank: 2
2021-22 Record: 13-4
2012-22 Nationals Finish: National Runner-Up
Returning Starters: 11
Coaches: Kevin Nguyen, Rebecca Nguyen, Brent Weakland
Captains: Josh Kramer (C), Jack Girling (A), Barry Butler III (A), DQ McClean (A)
Standout Players: Josh Kramer, Jack Girling, Barry Butler III, DQ McClean, Alec Deen, Jon Crockett
Key Departures: Andrew Dubon
The stars may finally be aligning for Michigan State. After a fantastic 2021-22 campaign that included a Michigan Dodgeball Cup title and National Title Game appearance, the Spartans return all but one player from one of the most talented rosters in the country. MSU returns four 2021-22 All-Michigan Team players. All-Americans Jack Girling (#2) and Barry Butler III (#6) will lead the way along with 2nd Team All-American Josh Kramer (Captain) and DQ McClean. Paired with the loaded senior class is a group of sophomores poised for a breakout. 2021-22 Rookie of the Year Alec Dean has a cannon and will now have the experience to go with it. Jon Crockett broke out late in the season and is sure to have a monster sophomore year.
Can the Spartans finally reach the peak? For as storied a program as Michigan State is (12 Final Four appearances), they have never claimed a National Title. For as good as MSU was last year, they barely snuck by JMU in the semifinals and then laid an egg in the finals against GVSU. Yes, Michigan State returns nearly everyone, but if we are looking for a negative on this team, its the question of if they have the fire power and depth of arm talent to take down GVSU on a Sunday afternoon in April.
In the words of MSU Captain Josh Kramer, this is the last chance for the MSU senior class. This MSU roster has the top end talent. They have the young, upcoming stars. They have two great coaches in Kevin and Rebecca Nguyen who have been around the NCDA for a long time and have seen it all. MSU has had a number of strong teams over the years but it seems appropriate to say this roster is their best opportunity to finally bring home the national title.
Us seniors have one more chance to show what Michigan State Dodgeball is about… I can promise you that no one wants it more than us.Josh Kramer
Saginaw Valley State
Preseason National Rank: 9
Preseason Regional Rank: 3
2021-22 Record: 7-14
2012-22 Nationals Finish: Round of 16
Returning Starters: 10
Coaches: Chase Roelofs
Captains: Bryce Stevens (C), Cole Machiela (C), Joe Barber (A), Preston Cartwright (A)
Standout Players: Bryce Stevens, Cole Machiela, Joe Barber, Preston Cartwright, Tristan Baller
Key Departures: Mitchell Oliver, Tyler Adams
SVSU expects between 9 and 11 returning starters back for the 2022-23 season coming off a rebuilding year. Great news for a team that progressed quite well towards the end of the year and nearly pulled off one of the better upsets of Nationals in bracket play against Ohio State. Veteran Bryce Stevens and Sophomore sensation Cole Machiela will lead the way as co-captains, along with Joe Barber, Preston Cartwright, and one of the most underrated all-around players in the country: Tristan Baller.
SVSU only went 7-14 last year. They have a long way to go to be on the level of the Grand Valleys and Michigan States of the world. The Cardinals haven’t had a winning record since the 2018-19 season. In a top heavy Michigan Region, SVSU needs to improve dramatically to be anything but an afterthought. This roster is still very young, but the potential is there.
Saginaw Valley used to be an NCDA ‘blue blood’. A team that could be counted on to consistently compete for a national title. Things have changed quite a bit over the last half decade, but with so many impact players returning, this could be the start of a resurgence for SVSU. Don’t expect any trophies to be hoisted by the Cardinals this year, but expect a much improved squad.
Preseason National Rank: 16
Preseason Regional Rank: 4
2021-22 Record: 0-10
2012-22 Nationals Finish: Round of 32
Returning Starters: 7
Coaches: Peter Broe
Captains: Matthew Barnett, Ryan Allor, Joshua VanSlambrouck, Randy Santana-Jimenez
Standout Players: Ryan Eternal, Joshua Vanslambrouck, Matthew Barnett, Thomas Mosebach
Key Departures: Peter Broe, Payton Gagliardi
Western Michigan enters 2022-23 with a bit of momentum despite their record from last season. With at least 7 starters back from last year’s squad, WMU is primed to take the ‘next step’ as a program. This team was not short on talent at Nationals 2022.
The question is how the Broncos can handle life without club founder Peter Broe on the court. The biggest issue with WMU last year was how inexperienced the roster was. Can Western be a fundamentally (and strategically) sound team without their former captain operating the offense on the court.
How will the post-Peter Broe era go for WMU? Is this a program that is here to stay? Can they build off the momentum that Broe left them with last season. A team that improved immensely over the year should enter 2022-23 with a better idea of how to approach recruiting, strategy, etc. Look for WMU to find their way into the win column in 2022-23.
Our goal is to have a huge recruitment and be able to push into the top 10 of power rankingsMatthew Barnett
Preseason National Rank: 22
Preseason Regional Rank: 5
2021-22 Record: N/A
2012-22 Nationals Finish: Did Not Attend
After no action in 2021-22, CMU looks to get back to competing in NCDA matches in the 2022-23 season.