Although the NCDA is still a little over a month away from its first games of the season, the biggest dodgeball tournament of the year for us NCDA alums still itching to play begins a week from today: Elite Dodgeball National Championships 2017. The NCDA’s participation in Elite has grown consistently over the past few years, with this season having more schools and players represented than ever before. As we are just seven days away from Elite Nationals, I thought it would be the perfect time to check up on how the NCDA has performed this season in the Elite North Region.
Although the East Region has begun to see some NCDA participation this season (shout out to Klutch Mode), nearly all of the current and former NCDA players that play Elite are in the North Region. The North is currently the only region that offers a pinch tournament in addition to the standard open 8.5 tournament outside of Elite Nationals, and thus it especially draws the attention of NCDA players. (Hey East Coast players, the more of you to start playing Elite the sooner the East Region will be forced to have a pinch tournament.) Not only have NCDA alumni and players continued their success this season in the North, but this season also saw the formation of several new NCDA-based Elite teams. Nearly every North team now has at least one NCDA player on the team and over half of the teams that competed this season are entirely or nearly entirely composed of NCDA players. Due to this surge, I thought I would interview most of these NCDA-based teams to get their perspective on the Elite season. I first asked them to list all the NCDA players, including alumni, on their team. I then asked each captain the following four questions.
- How would you rate your overall success in Elite? Do you think it’s improved your and your teammates overall dodgeball ability? What can you take from the Elite season and bring into the NCDA season (for those that are still playing, or for when you were still playing)?
- Who would be your MVP from your team for the Elite season and why?
- What was your favorite moment from the Elite season?
- What do you like more about Elite vs the NCDA and/or what do you like about Elite in general?
(The respondent for each team is italicized in the team list, in most cases it was the captain.)
Grand Rapids Dynasty
GVSU: Kevin Bailey, Austin Morley, Dylan Fettig, Jalen Gardner, Trevor Nordberg, and Kenny Bacchus
MSU: Colin O’Brien
Open Bracket Place:
Round 1: 1
Round 2: 1
Round 3: 1
Pinch: 2, 1, 1
Grand Rapids Dynasty had one of the most successful Elite campaigns in recent memory, and certainly the most success by any NCDA team to date. Winning five of the six tournaments, and placing second in the other, it should come as no surprise that Grand Valley has continued its success into another dodgeball league.
Our team’s overall success in Elite has been pretty significant. Grand Rapids Dynasty won 5 of the 6 North Region tourneys this year. While every player on our team is now a college graduate, I can say with confidence that playing in Elite has improved our skillsets, and it transitions over into the NCDA season really well.
One interesting thing about my team is that we are extremely well balanced from top to bottom. Every single player on our team has been the hero at one point or another during the season. So I refuse to give one name.
My favorite moment from this year would have to be our performance at Round 3, when we were able to clinch our North Region Titles in both Pinch and Open by sweeping both divisions.
One thing about Elite is that level of competition is second to none. There are so many differences between the two organizations, but the fact that Elite is a “pro” league and players can continue to compete on the same team past their college years really makes for this being the most competitive league around. The North Division is comprised of so many NCDA alumni, it is turning into a battle between a bunch of former NCDA All Stars.
GVSU: Mark Trippiedi, Paul Hillebrand, Kelvin Koster, Connor Klopcic, and Brandon Meisel
CMU: Michael Riley and Wes Peters
MSU: Tony Stumpo and Wes Peters
Open: 4, T9, T5
Pinch: 1, 3, 2
The other team from Grand Rapids, Kraken had a bit of a disappointing season by their standards. Despite being a pinch powerhouse once again, their open tournament play slipped compared to years past. Nonetheless, few would argue against saying this team is as talented as any team in all of Elite, not just the North.
I think our success in Elite has been great historically even if you take into account that we are having a season that is below our own team’s expectations. I think this style has improved my ability, playing on a smaller court forces you to become a better overall dodgeball player. There is nowhere to “hide” so most of the time you have to make a tough block or a catch just to keep playing in a given point. What I used to take away from Elite when I went back to NCDA during my time at GV was that Elite really taught me how to play much better in tight spaces and the occasions I would get into a 1 on 1 type situation in the neutral zone I was much more equipped to succeed in the NCDA.
It’s so hard to pick just one guy, so many things go into it. Were they able to attend all 3 rounds? Maybe they are the best player in Pinch, but what about factoring the open format into it as well. I also had to miss a round due to injury so I don’t think I can give you the best answer but I would say each of Wes Peters, Brandon Meisel and Mike Riley have all performed really well for us this season consistently. (sorry for a cop out answer haha)
The best moment from this Elite season so far was the North region round 1 Pinch Finals vs Dynasty. We (Kraken) were coming out of the losers side of the double elimination bracket having to win twice. We came together as a team and played our best dodgeball of the season to take first that round.
I prefer the speed of the game in Elite; that is obviously accomplished by the 6v6 format; as well as the court size playing a factor in that as well, as the more volleyball sized court can be accomplished due to smaller rosters. Also it’s been pretty awesome to be able to recruit guys to play with Kraken who were great players in the NCDA but they didn’t go to GVSU so I had only ever played against them. I like that Elite has collected the best dodgeball talent around the country and put us under the same umbrella where we get the chance to compete against the best players all the time, no longer are we only playing regional opponents.
DePaul: Brian Hymel, Tyler Hamilton, Matthew Schroeder, Alex Watkins, Mario Romanelli, Grant Herrejon, Josiah Nodal, and Ryan Atz
North Park College: Isaac Nodal
Open: T9, 3, T7
Pinch: T5, 2, 4
Windy City Corruption has had an up and down year, but their highs proved once again that DePaul has produced some truly great dodgeballers over the years. Corruption placed the highest of any North team in Open last year at Nationals with a 4th place finish.
We had a problem getting the full team that we wanted, but when we did, we played well and placed in a couple tournaments. Even with alternates we played well. I have played four seasons of Elite and I think it is the reason I grew so well as a dodgeball player. Elite is a league that is full of talented players so whenever you play you’re learning. The biggest benefits from playing Elite is forcing players to be an all-round player. NCDA you can get by being just a thrower or just a catcher but in Elite that puts your team behind.
I don’t like saying myself but the being the only north region allstar from our team I think it fits. The reason is because of what I talked about above being an all-round player. The importance of being equally dangerous with or without a ball. I can say that about multiple members of corruption. Another important trait is game knowledge and shot calling which I would like to say I’m good at but I just get recognition because I’m the guy that’s yelling on the court.
I had my first double catch which was memorable. But all of Elite is always very fun and competitive.
I prefer Elite over NCDA. It’s more competitive and intuitive. The main differences that makes me prefer it are the less players and the burden rule. I feel like I alone can have an impact on a match. Another big difference that really got me hooked is the fear. I remember my first game of Elite I could feel the adrenaline which was exhilarating. The closer throwing lines and harder throws will scare you at first but, that’s the fun of dodgeball.
WKU: Felix Perrone and Evan Bemus
Kent State: Kyle FitzPatrick, Ryan Menn, and Dan Shackelford
OSU: Jeff Starr and Jude DuPart
CMU: Jacob Leski
Non-NCDAer: Joey Kronawetter
Open: T5, T7, T5
Pinch: T7, T9, T9
Columbus Gamecocks have significantly improved since last season, as evidenced by their imrpoved open bracket play finishes. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, however, their pinch bracket play has slipped this season. Despite these poor pinch performances, they are as dangerous and talented as any top North team when pinch comes around.
We’ve certainly improved in Elite. Last year we finished dead last, this year we jumped to 5th. One big thing Elite forces you to do in the NCDA is improve on closing out points and reacting quickly. With Elite’s closer throw lines, you are required to react more quickly. You also have to work together in small teams within your team.
We’ve had much more success this year compared to last year so it’s tough to say whether we have a true MVP, but I’d take a stab and say the MVP of our season would either be Kyle FitzPatrick or Jeff Starr. They’ve both consistently contributed.
I think our favorite moment was beating Task Force 2-0 to send them into the consolidation bracket of Round 3 in open. Our team played SO well together and we proved we are not to be taken lightly in open.
The thing I like about Elite in general is how dedicated and excited everyone is to play. More than that though, I like the level of honesty and integrity everyone plays with in Elite. In my experience, players in the NCDA are much more hot headed and tend to be more dishonest while playing. I’ve never witnessed anyone truly losing their cool in an Elite match, but I’ve carded several people in NCDA games because of how poorly they are representing themselves on the court. I think a lot of that comes from maturity though. Even former hot heads in the NCDA (sophomore and junior-year Felix, for instance) have come to respect the game and are much more level headed in their old age.
CMU: Zach Bachner, Shane Willette, Ian Ryan, Brett Hadwin, Alex Holzgen, Austin Brege, Bryce Belen, and Grant Weber
Open: T7, T5, NA
Pinch: 3, T5, NA
The Michigan Mountain Men made quite the splash, taking third place in pinch in their first ever Elite tournament. The men from CMU also were able to improve on their open finish from Round 1 to Round 2.
Our biggest success so far was taking 3rd in pinch in Round 1. Almost all of us had never played Elite rules, yet we were still able to compete at a high level. I’m sure the youngins will be entering the NCDA with a completely new mindset. Much more intimidation focused with much, much more confidence.
MVP so far? I don’t know if we’d have one. We all have had our moments in the spotlight but I don’t think anyone individually stood out above the rest. I would accredit our team chemistry to most of our success for right now.
Favorite moment is every time we beat Kraken because f*** those guys.
Elite is a lot more personal. 6v6 and 15v15 have completely different feels. The smaller courts and smaller numbers make catching a lot more valuable, which I’m stoked about.
Kent State: Cassie Weaver, Albert Deperro, Mitchell Aldridge, and James Paltani
Akron: Ryan Cook, Joshua Cagle, and Adam Pfiefer(Rd. 3)
BGSU: Treanna Bidlack
OSU: Greg Behan
Open: NA, T13, T9
Pinch: NA, T9, T7
In their first season, Space Monkey Mafia showed substantial improvements form their first tournament to their second. Although they will not be attending Nationals, look for SMM to continue to make strides next season.
Open- 4 Pinch-6. I would say it’s improved our dodgeball ability, especially from how we played from round 2 compared to round 3.
MVP- Albert DePerro, his intensity while playing is so high and he gets the whole team hyped up when we start getting low on ourselves.
My favorite moment of the Elite season was getting to play two separate ways of game play, open and pinch. Although, I very much liked pinch more since I’m used to that. I also enjoyed playing people that I had never met before and weren’t in or from the NCDA.
I like the intensity and the faster game play that comes from Elite. I also think it’s very appropriate to give high fives after each point, I think that should be done within the NCDA. I like the NCDA because you play for a certain period of time versus best 2 out of 3 points. As a new team, we frequently had games end very quickly in open and sometimes pinch because we couldn’t get set and we weren’t well rehearsed in the rules. Such as, not taking any feet out of the court and/or getting more than one person out with a single dodgeball.
Akron: Colby Briceland, Adam Pfiefer, Joshua Lyons, Joey Stack, Ryan Cook, and Raymond Gines
Ohio: Caleb Arnold
SVSU: Joe McCumber
UVA: Jeremy Shaw (also formerly of Kent State)
UNG: Kyle Dattelbaum
OSU: Marshall Winterbotham
Open: NA, T13, NA
Pinch: NA, T7, NA
Although they were only able to attend Round 2, Ohio Legacy will be attending Nationals. Legacy was able to show their pinch chops with a solid T7 place finish at Round 2, picking up a couple nice wins in the loser’s bracket.
I think that we’ve all grown as players from playing Elite. I know that we’ve all become much better catchers because of the shorter court distances. It’s making us all stronger players in every aspect of the game, catching, smart throws, court awareness, and overall teamwork.
We’ve all had many flashes of brilliance, from clutch plays and what not. But I’d say Joey Stack and Joe McCumber. They both caught on to the Elite courts and play the quickest.
My favorite moment was either our match in pinch against Kraken, because it demonstrated how well we started to work as a team when we scored a point on them or when we played the Columbus Gamecocks and were able to secure the victory. It was cool because those are all players that we looked up to and some of them even helped our team start up, and it was cool to be able to compete against them.
I like the quick play of Elite, and the close proximity of the court. Also, burden ball is great. It keeps the game moving.
As I mentioned earlier, several other teams in the North Region also have at least one NCDA player.
Chicago Task Force: Niko Nodal (DePaul)
Final Justice (Round 2): Kevin Nguyen (CMU), Kameron Caldwell (MSU), Becca Shappell (MSU), Jason Andrews (MSU)
(Should be noted that FJ finished 4th in Pinch at Round 2)
Chicago Kaiju: Kat Takeda (DePaul), Vegim Begolli (DePaul), Anthony Incrocci (GVSU)
Chicago Rogue: Paige Peterson (DePaul)
Awakening: RaQuain Franklin (GVSU), Tyler Alcantara (GVSU)
As if participation and team success wasn’t enough for these NCDA players in Elite, the NCDA had quite the representation on both the Men’s and Women’s All-Star teams this season (the first time Elite has had All-Star teams).
North Region All-Stars:
Men’s All-Stars from NCDA:
Kevin Bailey (GVSU)
Brian Hymel (DePaul)
Niko Nodal (DePaul)
Colin O’Brien (MSU)
Women’s All-Stars from NCDA:
Treanna Bidlock (BGSU)
Paige Peterson (DePaul)
Becca Shappell (MSU)
Kat Takeda (DePaul)
Cassie Weaver (Kent)
That is a whopping 9 of the 12 All-Stars that started their dodgeball careers in the NCDA. There is enough talent in the players listed above that I wouldn’t be surprised if that number were to grow in the years to come.
As the both the NCDA and Elite continue to grow, I’m sure the North will pick up more and more NCDA teams. Hopefully as our league continues to expand, we will expand our reach beyond merely the North. A Towson team won the East Region’s one-off pinch tournament, so hopefully they and Klutch Mode can be an inspiration to other East Coast teams to form their own teams next season. When the Elite Dodgeball National Championships begin next week, make sure to check out the livestream and support these NCDA teams in Boston.