In this series of articles preparing for the 2013 season, we’ll hope to look at a number of teams around the NCDA, as well as their home courts and venues. Take a look at the Michigan region and teams SVSU, CMU, MSU, and GVSU.
Michigan – SVSU
The 2012-2013 season begins with some uncertainties about the historically dominant Michigan region. While Michigan is the home of the defending Michigan Dodgeball Cup and National Champions Saginaw Valley State, there are some major questions about the Cardinals. One of which is what will the Cards do without some of their major weapons, such as former Captain Spencer Jardine, and where will the leadership come from for this coming season? New captains Max Siler, Zach Phelps,Torrie Peplinski, and Mike Sharp will take over for Jardine, Bryan Janick, Jason Stein, and Ryan Schian, but considering how talented that group was, the new group will have to make up for a lot of leadership and offense. The Cards do return one of the best catchers in the league though in Peplinski, and they do have one of the best home court advantages in dodgeball. SVSU won Nationals at home this past season, and have a regular season record of 5-3 at home the past two seasons. All three of their home losses have come to CMU and GVSU as well, making their record look even better.
Former Spartan Mike Youngs says “In terms of a home court advantage, their fans have to be the dominant aspect. They have a lot of people that don’t come to watch but instead come to heckle, getting under opposing team’s skin and causing them to get emotional and make mistakes.” The Cardinal Gym plays like a standard court, with no tricks to mention. The baselines have brick walls with padding on them, so each team has the same chance at a rebound as the other team. The crowd is right on top of the action as well, as the bleachers are only a couple of feet off the sideline. Youngs also says “I think that their court has the best parity of any I’ve played in for rebounding balls off the back wall. Both walls are about the same distance away, giving both teams a relatively equal ability to use their cannons and have a reasonable chance at getting their ball back. This allows the game to be played a little quicker if the teams take that opportunity.” However, they cannot rely on home court advantage this year, and they will no longer be the hunters, but rather the hunters, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle getting everyone’s best shots game in and game out.
Michigan – CMU
The Chippewas of Central Michigan also lose a lot of players, and will have to make up for two of the hardest throwers in the league in Pat Fisher and Eric Sweet. They do return one of the best all around players in the league in Bryce Corrion, and they return catching extraordinaire Brett Hadwin. CMU is just one year removed from a title, but without a solid recruiting class this season they could be hurting big time. However, when you have as good of a top 10 as these guys, they could definitely make yet another Final Four run. The Chips only made it to the National Quarterfinals this past season, where they were defeated by the Lakers in a very close match.
CMU doesn’t usually host matches, having hosted just one in the past two years (a 4-2 victory over GVSU in 2011.) Their home matches are played in the Student Activity Center, otherwise known as the SAC, which was built in 1990 and is 175,000 square feet. Their home court advantage isn’t that strong, with usually smaller crowds. The Chips have two courts they play on, a “fishbowl” gym and a typical basketball court. The basketball court plays very normal, just like the other schools in Michigan, but the “fishbowl” gym is an unique arena where the Chippewas have a definitely advantage for newcomers. It is a hockey rink style court with 15’ walls and 1970’s style windows. The walls round in the corners, removing some of the space for players who usually like to catch there. The out line is on an elevated platform, and shagging balls is unnecessary with the walls, meaning a hard throwing team (such as CMU) can get tons of rebounds. For a player playing there for the first time, it’s definitely a unique gym, and trying to figure out it’s quirks is tough when someone is throwing a 70 mph dodgeball at your face.
Michigan – MSU
Michigan State came off a disappointing season for them, only making it to the National Quarterfinals, but they return the vast majority of their roster, making them one of the favorites for the Michigan Dodgeball Cup title. Their biggest loss will be the loss of Andy Malnor, but the Spartans are bringing back 15 of their 20 players from Nationals 2012. It’s the last run for a lot of players though, so expect them to play with some urgency as they try to win their first title in school history. Led by captains Sam Hiller, Kevin Miller, and Zach Bauer, the Spartans have a good mix of defense and power. Their biggest question is whether or not they can finally defeat CMU and Grand Valley, two foes who have had their number over time.
The Spartans play their home matches at the Sports Arena in MSU’s IM West, and it is one of the most fair courts in the league to play at. The gym walls are somewhat close to the baseline, with both sides covered with bricks. This leads to a very equal bounce back for rebounds for both teams. They also feature pullup bars, which according to former Kent State captain Kyle FitzPatrick, is “perfect to stretch out sore dodgeball arms.” The Spartans don’t have a great home court advantage, but they can usually fill out the bleachers of the Sports Arena. The Spartans are 6-5 over the past two seasons at the Sports Arena, but all their losses at home have come to instate rivals. The crowd is a bit more laid back, but Michigan State feeds off their home court and have only dropped 4 points to out of state schools at IM West the past two seasons. Kyle FitzPatrick, says that “the Sports Arena has a unique energy about it…[MSU’s] fan base is legit, and make it that much harder to swing momentum.”
IM West is one of the older gyms in the league, at being over 50 years old so there is some history at the gym, with every Michigan Dodgeball Cup and a Nationals being hosted there. DePaul’s Zigmas Maloni says “Maybe it was growing up in half century old gyms in grade school and high school, but walking around MSU’s IM Sports West building is a blast from the past. IM West does have modern conveniences, but it’s for the nostalgic reason that MSU’s facilities help create a classic dodgeball atmosphere.” Another feature of the Sports Arena is an overhanging balcony in the gym, which allows a great location for filming. One negative however of the Sports Arena is the “openness of the court” according to Maloni. “While there’s no crowded prison problem of some other courts, you can’t get out of using ball shaggers for power cross court throws and rockets.”
Michigan – GVSU
The probable favorite for the Michigan Region, as it is almost every year it seems, is Grand Valley. The Lakers are led by two of the best players in the country in Mark Trippiedi and Dylan Fettig, and their roster is loaded from top to bottom. They missed out on the National Championship game by one player in overtime last spring, so they are definitely a force to be reckoned with. They’ve won the most National Championships and Michigan Dodgeball Cups out of anyone, so history is on their side, and this is looking like a squad that could join those former elite teams. This is a team with a bunch of power arms, some great catchers, and probably the best leadership core in the league. They’re also known for having tremendous blocking, and the Lakers are probably the toughest team in the league to beat year in and year out.
The Lakers play in the GVSU Fieldhouse, one of the most intimidating venues in all of the league. With huge crowds, the Lakers have been a dominating team at home, in fact, they’ve only had two losses (both to CMU) at home in the history of their program. The Arena seats 4,100 rabid fans and hosted the 2009 National Tournament, in which the Lakers cruised to the title. With netting that comes down separating the three courts, there is not much of a chance for rebounds, and there is also a lot of room between the sidelines and the seats, which means stray balls will not return to the court very easily. Former Central Michigan Captain Eric Sweet says “Playing at GVSU is strangely enjoyable. You never have to worry that there won’t be enough officials or that you’ll have to shag balls. I have heard that they had a larger fan base in the past, but it seemed relatively large during my two career matches there. The fans do heckle a little bit but I think it was mostly because I’m an easy target with my last name.” GVSU usually just hosts individual matches (outside of Nationals 2009) but they try and host two or three a season. Former Spartan Aleks Bomis says “The GVSU Fieldhouse in 2006 and 2007 was, to me, the highwater mark for a home court atmosphere. Hundreds of fans with an understanding of the game, enthusiastic without being crass, away teams easily frustrated, it was an environment where things turned against you quickly, with a remarkably fast team delivering highlights early and often.”
Local Michigan Events this season:
The Michigan teams have some of the fiercest rivalries in the NCDA, and each team desperately wants to be the best in the state every season. Of course, they get that chance at the Michigan Dodgeball Cup hosted at MSU every season, in which all four teams can get the chance to prove dominance over the others. With the bracket working out so all four Michigan teams were on one side of the bracket last year at Nationals, there were only two Michigan teams in the Final Four, a far cry from the previous years, including all four Final Four teams in 2011. Any one of these teams could hoist the National Championship trophy at Kentucky this spring.