Nationals 2017 Review

Well folks, another season of NCDA Dodgeball has come and gone.  Another year of this amazing thing we call college dodgeball.

Nationals 2017, hosted by University of Kentucky, was one of the best final tournaments in our league’s history.  Listed below are some initial takeaways that I had (starting with the top finishing teams, and wandering around from there).  Also here are the results from the tournament:

Grand Valley State

Most people will skip right over this section because they are sick of GVSU.  I guess that means the Lakers are getting the job done!  This weekend, GVSU earned a 5th consecutive national title, breaking the previous record of 4-straight.  Unreal.

A handful of players get a shoutout here.

Brandon Meisel was never mentioned by me as an All-American Candidate throughout the year due in large part to his knee injuries and his teammates stealing the spotlight during that time.  Well, I think Brandon should be a lock for an AA spot after the last month of the season.  A clutch performance at ‘The War’ a few weeks ago was just the start.  At Nationals, I’m pretty sure Brandon had more thrown headshots than most entire teams did on the weekend.  And he came up big in the second half of the MSU Final Four game… the greatest comeback in NCDA history (Article on this coming soon).

Aaron Terenzi had arguably his best tournament of his career during his very last tournament.  Countless thrown outs along with an increased role as a catcher made him a standout.  In the Title Game, Central Michigan made a few mistakes.  A) they talked smack towards Aaron.  B) they threw balls towards Aaron.  Neither worked out in CMU’s favor.

Ben Tubergen came off a Baller of the Month distinction and had a solid Nationals as well.  One of GVSU’s most consistent performers all year round.  He is also an easy choice on the AA list.

Ray Franklin is officially a household name in the NCDA after this weekend.  He tied Nick Hazergian as the hardest thrower in the league, clocking in at 79 mph!  He also blew up his opponents all weekend, with powerful throws and some big catches.  If Ray can manage to get more consistent, he will be a very good player next year.

Aaron Krafft and Sam Stockdale were crucial pieces for GVSU on the weekend.  Krafft has been a consistent and reliable player for GVSU, and his balanced skillset helped the Lakers tremendously on Sunday of Nationals.  Stockdale put together his best weekend of dodgeball all year.  This should be a big boost for him going into the off season.

Shoutouts are necessary for a few graduating players for GVSU.  Logan Rohloff transformed from a bad JV player, to a star performer for GVSU over the course of his career, also holding the roles of Assistant Captain and President this season.  His legacy will be remembered.  Tyler Alcantara went a clean 5 for 5 at Nationals.  He stepped up big this season, and was relied upon as a thrower all weekend for GVSU.

Anthony Incrocci was an unsung hero last year during the final game, and once again came up clutch with his strategic play throughout Sunday.  His catching skills will need to be replaced for GVSU next year.  Speaking of catching, Jake Devine’s name will be etched into the history books after his fingertip catch sealed GVSU’s 5-Peat in the game against CMU.  A fitting way for his career to end, after he made so many highlight-reel catches like that against his teammates in practices all year long.

Overall, GVSU had an impressive year.  They graduate a handful of starters, but they return too much talent to not be considered favorites again next year.

5-straight titles is a new record.  If I was a betting man, I’d say they are probably going to make it 6 next season.

Central Michigan

As I predicted, this team made it to the finals once again, and once against the  lost at the hands of Grand Valley.  Yes, that is a heartbreaker, but I’ll focus on the positives.

CMU had a dominant weekend.  GVSU was the only team to even hold a lead against them.  Central struggled for parts of this season, but when it mattered most, they came up with their best performances of the year.

I am told that CMU graduates potentially half their starters from this stacked roster.  Those seniors leave quite the legacy behind.  Consider this: if GVSU Dodgeball just did not exist, we would be talking about CMU being on a 3-Peat. Central’s core during this stretch of stellar dodgeball play was the graduating group that will leave this year.  Too many names to mention, but Central has some big shoes to fill.

Michigan State

Well, this didn’t go as planned for MSU. Blowing a 2-0 lead in the Final Four isn’t something I can sugar coat.  They missed an opportunity to finally end their school’s title drought.  It was destiny… but then it fell apart.

With that said, I hope this bad ending doesn’t have a negative affect on the opinions people will have of so many MSU players that are hanging it up after this season.

First thing’s first.  Colin O’Brien is clearly the best player in MSU Dodgeball history.  The storybook ending did not happen for him, but he still leaves quite a legacy.  One could argue that MSU’s top 5 squads ever were during his 5 years on the team, and that isn’t just a coincidence.  The NCDA loses a legend with O’Brien graduating.  But MSU’s opponents shouldn’t complain too much.

Alex Zajac might get overshadowed at times by the more well known O’Brien, but I don’t want to take anything away from him either.  Zajac is an MSU legend.  One of the best to ever wear the Spartan uniform.  I’ve seen far too many remarkable catches and throws from this guy to not respect him as a player.  Without a doubt Zajac will be on my All-American ballot.  I just hope the rest of the league realizes he is worthy of the recognition.

Wes Peters is probably the most controversial player in the league.  While he didn’t get to close out his final season with a title, he can retire knowing that his last season in the NCDA was his best as an individual.  No doubt, Wes made a bigger impact for his team this season, than he ever had before.

Lucas Salinas went from an overlooked player on MSU’s team, to the captain.  He went from someone with minimal skills, to one of the most well rounded players on the team.  Lucas had his best season of his career in 2016-17, and he will also leave some huge shoes to fill.

MSU graduates a lot of important pieces.  I am concerned that next year will be a step back for them.  Regardless, we all should recognize just how impressive Michigan State’s season was in 2016-17.  And how close they were to winning it all.  In my opinion, this was the best MSU Dodgeball squad in the team’s history.

Saginaw Valley State

SVSU exceeded expectations during the second half of the season.  Led by a pair of second year players in Nick Hazergian and Kyle Bruce, this team had top level talent to compete with anyone.

It is a shame that SV couldn’t finish off the careers of their seniors with a National title, but the Cardinals did get back to the Final Four.

Saginaw is at a cross road as a program I think.  Next year could be one for the ages for SVSU if they really go all in with recruiting, and scheduling.  I think the future is bright for Saginaw.  Their roster is filling back out with skilled and talented players.  A little more experience for those younger guys and we will see this team back in contention for titles.

Towson

Wow.  This team impressed me.  Towson’s season ended with a gut-wrenching lost point in 4 minutes.  They were so close to forcing overtime with MSU and potentially getting a spot in the Final Four, but they just weren’t quite there yet.

I have a lot of respect for the leaders of this team.  Jon Shaw is arguably the nicest guy in the league.  Sad to see his career come to an end.  Jeremy Brown was way better than I remember him being.  Honestly, he was borderline All-American caliber this weekend.  Competed till the very end too.

Mike Hinely is one of the top players in the league.  I think he will have this team ready to take the next step when the season starts back up next fall.  I expect big things from him next year.

Overall, this was Towson’s best team ever.  That shouldn’t be overlooked.  The Tigers have continued to climb the NCDA mountain.  They are oh so close to becoming an elite NCDA team.  This year was another step in the right direction for their program.

Kent State

What a weird team.  I mean that in a good way.  Kent had some awful performances this year, but then showed up at Nationals and made a lot of noise.  Kent took down JMU on Day 1.  Who saw that coming?  Kent took a 2-0 lead on SVSU on Day 2.  Who saw that coming?  Kent graduates a lot of talent going into next year, but don’t be surprised if they are a strong contender for a Final Four spot once again.  Don’t complain to me that you didn’t see it coming…

James Madison

Not sure what else is to be said about this group.  They have talent, but they haven’t been able to put it all together.  I know they were down a few of their top guys, and that would’ve helped them a lot.  But losing 5-1 in the quarterfinals is not the mark of an elite program.  I really hope JMU takes some steps forward next fall, and comes ready to compete for a title next spring.

With all of that said, Doug Schilling is still the headliner for them.  he is a top level talent in the NCDA.  Joe Bringuier was better than I expected.  Evan Eschenburg is one of the most underrated players in the league.  I’ve noticed that in order to be a good player for JMU, you have to have a trendy haircut like each of these guys.  All jokes aside, I have criticized JMU some this season, but the season is now over.  I am optimistic about the future for the team.  They have talent, depth, and a competitive spirit.  I hope they can put it all together next year, and get back to being JMU Dodgeball again.

Kentucky

UK hosted a great tournament.  Props to Colin Hiatt and the rest of the crew that helped make this weekend possible.

With that said, UK played about to what I expected from them.  The Wildcats were a solid team, that made a lot of big catches, but in the end, they didn’t quite have the arms or the experience to beat top teams like CMU.

Kentucky finished the year 20-7, which is very impressive.  I am excited to see if they take another step forward in 2017-18.

Penn State

This team had athletes!  The guy who’s jersey said CS Jeff was one of the top players in the tourney.  Penn State came to Nationals with arguably one of the top 5 most talented teams in the country.  It just happened to be raw talent.  My hope is that this Nationals proved to Penn State the dodgeball is fun and they should schedule more than a handful of games int he regular season.  If Penn State plays in a lot of tourneys next year, they will at minimum make the quarterfinals at Nationals.  They talent and enthusiasm are there.  Just not the experience.

Virginia Commonwealth

VCU is clearly not a top level team just yet.  But they are certainly on the right track.  Hunter Ford is either loved or hated in this league, depending on who you are.  Say what you will about him and his team, but I know a great leader when I see one.  I know a great group of teammates when I see that too.  VCU is in a good place.  They have some work to do to get their talent level up a little more, and gain more experience, but it is only a matter of time.

Fun fact: VCU broke the NCDA record for most games played in one season with 41 this year.  If they keep out-hustling the league in that regard, they will continue to make strides as a program.  I’ve still got them chalked in as one of the two teams competing for the Title at Nationals 2020.

Bowling Green State

Lots of respect for this team.  BGSU came to play at Nationals.  It’s worth pointing out that this was easily the best BGSU team ever.  I know that Tyrell Smith is graduating, and he deserves a shoutout for being a great competitor, and a better person.  He also built BG into a very competitive squad.

Tyler Broyles was a standout for BGSU all weekend.  The girls for BG are unreal.  Some very talented ladies on this team.  They made big catches all weekend long.

Oh, and Tyler Wickham is the real deal.  Chalk him in as an All-American favorite for the 2017-18 season.  I expect him to help lead this team as they continue to improve next year.

The Rest

Sorry, I didn’t get to see a lot from every team in attendance.

Ohio State clearly was a weaker team than last year.  Starr and Hulbert were the top arms, while Winterbotham was the top catcher.  Not sure who returns for them, but I hope they get a strong recruiting class.

DePaul was carried by Josiah Nodal, Tyler Hamilton, and Brian Hymel.  Those three are great players, but not enough to have a very competitive team in the NCDA.

Western Kentucky I didn’t see much of.  but their top players are better now than the past few seasons.

Wisconsin Platteville I sadly didn’t see very much either, but I did  see them put in a  valiant effort on Day 2 against Kent State.  I hope we get more teams out near UWP so they can get more games in.  That team has potential.

Maryland is not as bad as many people said they would be.  But they certainly have some work to do to get back to being a solid squad.  Lets hope they compete in a lot of tourneys next season, so they can improve.

North Georgia is an exciting new team.  I am pumped for the Georgia Region to continue to develop.  Honestly, “The South” is going to be an awesome region in 5 years.  I hope UNG comes back next fall and recruits heavily so they have a full 20-man roster.  With all of that said, Kyle Dattelbaum is a playmaker.  I’m told he carried his team back from a 3-12 this weekend.  I also saw him provide most of his teams offense during a few points.  he;s got my vote for the All-American team.

Cleveland State I didn’t see much at all.  but I like the uniforms.

Northwestern State looked a lot like they did back in the day.  More competition down south will benefit this team.  I like having them in the league.

Virginia was way better than expected.  I am confident Jeremy Shaw brings this team to new heights next season.  UVA is a team to watch out for these next few seasons.

Miami was a more well put together team than what I thought they would be.  Obviously they need more talent and experience.  That will come over the next few seasons.

Ohio did impress me.  A lot of people were acting like this team was not good at all even though they won the Ohio Dodgeball Cup.  I happen to be optimistic about this group.  Caleb Arnold is building a competitive team.  Adam Hynes was throwing the ball very hard, despite an injured finger/hand.  Evan Radivoyevitch is extremely underrated.  That guy is a baller.  Spencer Roth is a great player, but he is graduating, s those shoes must be filled.

Akron might be hosting Nationals next year.  I hope they continue to get better as a team too.  The captains of this team have a good mindset.  They want to continue to improve.  GVSU’s players were raving about how much Akron had improved from a year ago, so that is a moral victory Akron can take out of Nationals.  In all seriousness, this team is destined to get better, and it will only make the Ohio Region stronger!

Georgia Southern / Stevenson / Wisconsin Whitewater

I had the chance to meet the captain(s) from these teams, and I was impressed with all of them.  I hope these schools develop into regular competitors at Nationals.  Only time will tell.


Bottom line, this league continues to get better.  I can’t wait to see where all these teams are at next year.  GVSU can’t win them all, can they?  The Michigan Region’s reign has to end at some point.  Some team will be the hero that ends this streak.  Who’s it going to be?

Along with my article on the greatest comeback in NCDA history, I have a way too early preseason rankings article on the way, along with a 2017-18 All-American Watchlist.  But first, you all need to email in your 15 AA votes for this season.

In other news: our Snapchat filters were viewed 62.6 thousand times over the weekend… not too shabby.

Author: Kevin Bailey

Current NCDA Chief of Content.

Former Captain for Grand Valley State University (#4).

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