The University of North Georgia hosted Georgia Southern University and the University of Central Florida this past weekend at the UNG Gold Rush. For UNG, it was a chance to flex their muscles and prove once again they are the top contenders in the South. GSU looked to add to their win total for the year, and prove they could compete with their in-state competition. As for UCF, this was a great opportunity for them to get their feet wet, as it was their first match in program history. Overall, it was a fun and simple event which gave us some insight on the younger programs in the country.
University of North Georgia
The Nighthawks ran away with this one, proving once again they are the best team in the south. The biggest observation I could make for this group is that they have become much more well-rounded as a team and don’t have to rely on just a couple guys to be competitive. Kyle Dattelbaum was sensational for the points that he played, racking up kills and catches throughout the day with ease. Royce Hogg and Thomas Clements also looked strong on the court on the offensive end.
When it comes to being successful in this league it ultimately comes down to two things: talent and strategy. UNG had the clear edge in both regards. Their ability to control the court and dominate on every opening rush made it difficult for GSU and UCF to get any momentum. Bailey Hankins helped out a lot in this regard. He was able to win out almost every time on the rush, and controlled the attack line for UNG while adding some timely catches, too.
As a result of their success, UNG now moves to 8-0 on the season, and will rise to the 11th ranked spot, surpassing VCU and Ohio on the way. They haven’t really been challenged much so far this year. Their closest game this season was this weekend against GSU, which was still a 5-1 victory for the Nighthawks. It creates some concerns come Nationals time, but the important thing is they are building up their resume and putting themselves in a solid spot when that time comes.
Georgia Southern University
GSU picked up two more wins this weekend by beating UCF twice, but fell to UNG in their one matchup. There were some positives to take away for the young club. First, and most importantly, their two wins will move them up from 29th to 21st in the Gonzalez Rankings which is the highest this team has been since they first joined last season. They are now 4-4 on the year, which is the first time they have been .500 or above in program history. This is a nice accomplishment to have, and is good news for their team.
A big part of the Eagles’ success this weekend has to be attributed to Assistant Captain Zach Frangi. Whenever he was on the court, it always felt like GSU had a chance to get something done. Frangi was most effective on the offensive end, but he added some catches as well to keep teams honest against him. Head Captain Zach Rivera and Assistant Captain Andre Okosi showed great composure and leadership for this team, helping lead them through points and keeping them under control. Will Reilly and Austin Bullock also played well for the Eagles providing a lot of kills to help out GSU’s offense.
While GSU is far from being contenders at Nationals 2018, they are certainly in a much better spot now than they were one year prior. They have a much deeper bench and talent compared to last year’s team, and they communicate well on the court. If GSU is able to make it to Nationals this year that would be great for this team, and they could get some valuable experience and exposure from the rest of the teams competing.
University of Central Florida
Welcome to the NCDA, UCF Knights! This was their induction tournament to the league, and it was certainly great to see a brand new squad make an appearance. The Knights had some up and down moments throughout the day, however, they were really enjoying themselves and got better as the day went on.
Their first few matches there was definitely a learning curve to overcome. GSU was able to get the best of this team due to a more refined strategy and understanding of the rules. However, UCF nearly got their revenge on GSU in their second match but fell 3-2 in the closing minutes. Captain Sam Culver had a solid arm and was able to take out a number of players on the day. Ethan Kraus also put in good work, laying out for tons of catches and using his mobility to help get balls for the team.
While UCF was unable to come away with a win, they certainly looked stronger at the end of the day than the beginning, and that counts for something. I feel confident in saying that should this team make a Nationals appearance this year, they’ll be able to pick up their first win there.