Team writeups provided by the NCDA Power Ranking Panel
1) Michigan State – Michigan State remains #1 in the country after a month without any action leading up to Nationals. The Spartans will look to keep their undefeated season alive next week in Athens, OH, attempting to become the first team since 2009 GVSU to finish a season as undefeated National Champions. Nationals will be the final tournament for a handful of Spartan Legends, all from the same star-studded 2019-20 rookie class. Those players include Barry Butler III, Jack Girling, Josh Kramer, and DQ McClean. This group looks to finish off impressive careers at MSU and add to an already strong resume of 2 MDC Titles and a National Runner-Up finish in 2022. This core is not alone for Michigan State, with other young stars on the roster including a rookie duo as good as any in the country (Matt Barriball and Nick Fedewa). Michigan State is one of the very best programs in collegiate dodgeball history, but the one thing they have never accomplished is winning a national title. 2023 looks like their best opportunity yet to do so. Can the Spartans cap off the season on top, or will they make a deep run but fall short like countless seasons of the past? We will find on Sunday, April 16 in Athens.
2) Cincinnati – Cincinnati stays at #2 in the country despite a shaky performance at WAR heading into Nationals in Athens, OH. This team is filled with talent and depth and are hungry for their first National Championship and the first title for an Ohio team since Ohio State in 2006. This will be the last tournament for some Bearcats that formed the team like Brett Liming, Cory Heitmann, & Brannon McGinn, as well as some other veterans like Ryan Engelman, Kevin Skiba, and Jacob Weber. This core of players is looking to finish strong after winning back-to-back ODC titles and a final four appearance last season. The Bearcats also have some young stars including the dangerous rookie trio of Will Hyatt, Robbie Mitchell, and Tyler Shaffer. The team hasn’t played a tournament since March 4th at WAR, so we’ll have to see if the Bearcats can gain some momentum at Nationals and make that final push to winning their first National Championship. Only time will tell come Saturday, April 15 & Sunday, April 16 in Athens.
3) James Madison – JMU is holding steady at #3 following the Cavalier Classic. The tune up for them vs UMD and UVA may have caused more issues than they had hoped coming in as UMD tied it at 2 late in the second. However, the Dukes finished it off with a 3-2 win, while their match vs UVA was a less stressful one, dominating 4-1. JMU is still considered a final four favorite and one of the few teams who can challenge MSU for the title. We have yet to see this team much with Evan Eschenburg playing. Surely, at bracket play Sunday, this squad will be at full strength.
4) Grand Valley State – Grand Valley State sits at #4 in the Power Rankings heading into Nationals. The Lakers are another team that hasn’t seen action since the Michigan Dodgeball Cup where they narrowly lost to #1 Michigan State in the final match of the day. The Lakers are a very intruiging team as we inch towards Nationals. They have top-end talent as good as any school in the country with Ben Smart, Tyler Peach, Owen Israels, and the return of Josh Hill. The question is if GVSU’s depth will be enough to allow them to take that next step forward. Look for Sophomores Matt Budai and Aidan Jacobs and Freshman Mason Smith to hold the key for this team at Nationals. If the young talent on GVSU steps up, this team can still win it all and repeat as champions once again. The regular season was far from ideal for GVSU, but no prgram knows how to turn it on in April quite like the Lakers.
5) Ohio State- Ohio State stays at #5 following a 3-0 performance at WAR including wins over Cincinnati and Nebraska, and a 2-1 performance at Miami Madness including a heart-breaking OT loss to Ohio. The Buckeyes look to ride the momentum they’ve had all spring into Nationals and look to secure their first final four spot since 2016. Ryan Ginsberg and Ben Dardia along with a super strong class of first and second-year players will lead the way. Ohio State has played 27 matches this season (most in the league) and hope the extra experience will help them against the tough opponents they are bound to matchup with. This young team believes they are in the conversation to take home the national championship, but do they have enough arms and experience to make the big plays necessary during bracket play? Find out April 16th in Athens, Ohio.
6) Ohio – Ohio was able to rebuild stock last weekend as a shorthanded Bobcats roster went 3-0 at Miami Madness, despite missing starters Caleb Arnold, Austin Bensman, and Judson Jones. In their absence, Max Stoeckel, Daniel Van Fleet, and rookie Logan Neff all had impressive showings to help push them to wins over Miami, UIUC, and OSU in an overtime thriller. As a team that has found themselves at both extreme highs and lows this season, the question is quickly becoming what version of Ohio Dodgeball are we going to get in just over a week? This is group that has already proved itself within the Ohio region, posessing an impressive 10-2 record, however it will be interesting to see how they fare against new opponents, along with possible rematches against powerhouses like MSU, GVSU, and JMU, all of whom have bested the Bobcats this season. Ohio captains Arnold, Stoeckel, Terence Checkett, and Alex Jonauskas will look to lead this team to new heights; with the ultimate goal of becoming the first host school to win the National Championship since SVSU in 2012.
7) Penn State – Penn State has quietly been having a very good season this year, and are a bit of an enigma coming into Nationals. The Nittany Lions have had a rapidly changing roster all year due to their massive practices giving them one of the largest talent pools in the NCDA right now. PSU has also been able to compete with top teams all year, with wins against the likes of GVSU, JMU, and a close overtime loss to UC. While the roster may often change, they are led by a core made up of top-level talent from the likes of Hunter Stewart and Zachary Eck. Depending on what PSU is able to put together for Nationals, they could end up being an absolute nightmare matchup for other top programs with final four aspirations. The Nittany Lions have the element of surprise on their side, it’s just a matter of if they can put it all together.
8) Akron – Few teams come in riding a bigger high than the Akron Zips. Ranked fourth in the league standings heading into Nationals, and sweeping a slate of 4 matches at their home WAR tournament last month, Akron is poised to make a run at Nationals. They’ve got strong senior leadership in Clay Egleston, and a strong cast of players who know how to play a brand of dodgeball that maximizes their team’s strengths, while hiding their few weaknesses. This team has big wins over some of the highest ranked teams in the league, including most notably Penn State, James Madison, and Nebraska. With all of that being said, the Bearcats absolutely dismantled this team at the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, winning going away 7-0. Given that, the question does remain, how high is this Zips team’s ceiling? Final four would by default be considered a massive success for this group, having never reached such heights in the past, but is this group capable of more? We find out next weekend..
9) Nebraska – This semester, UNL participated in just one tournament and it was at the War in Akron Ohio. The conrnhuskers did not have much success as they lost to all three of their opponents they played that weekend. For the cornhuskers, this was their first true challenge of the season and it was a great learning experience for them to better prepare for nationals.This team will regroup and come to Ohio University with a better game plan. They have a lot of talent and can compete with anyone at nationals. Teams better not brush them a side because come Sunday this is not a team you want to play in the first round.
10) Wisconsin Platteville – After losing some people to graduation in December, Platteville has been focused on getting the majority of their young squad up to speed and getting them valuable game experience. The hope is that they will have developed their skills enough that they will just relax and play the game. At the War tournament, in UWP’s last game of the day, it seemed like they were doing just that. The young squad was looking to compete rather than worried about making mistakes and playing with more confidence. If the Pioneers can just play with confidence on the court at all times, and do the little things right they will give any team a good match up at nationals.
11) Maryland – UMD had by far their best performance of the year at the Cavalier Classic. Dominating UVA and a close loss vs JMU. Coming out with completely rehashed tactics from WAR, the Terps looked like a completely different team. Sophomore Adam Butz held down the right corner with highlight kills while junior Zach Demos adapted to his new middle position quite well. Most notably, this squad catching improved tremendously from their last showing at WAR. Freshman Franklin Zessis made some huge plays on the day and is really rounding into a key player for the Terps. For a team that still has not played much out of region, it is hard to gauge what their potential will be come Sunday at Nationals, but they look quite strong at the moment.
12) Western Michigan – The Broncos continue to climb up in the standings and power rankings, getting top 10 in the standings for a program first. Led by Captains Ryan Allor, Matt Barnett, and Randy Sanata Jimenez, the Broncos bested SVSU on their home turf with 10 players in a 3-2 victory in overtime. The Broncs will be aiming to shoot high at Nationals bringing a full 12 with 1-2 subs with all four captains and their front runners for the All Rookie team in Joseph “JR” Williams and Alex “Boy Wonder” Marczuk. It will be interesting to see how they hold up at their first ever Nationals having expectations.
13) Bowling Green State – BGSU comes into Nationals following a relatively quiet fall semester, attending the ODC as their sole tournament. That being said, the Falcons had a solid 2-1 performance good for 5th overall in the Ohio region. The biggest draw for this team comes from the flashes of brilliance shown back in the fall semester, taking the likes of OSU, Akron, and UC all to overtime. While they haven’t been able to get over the hump and take a game against top talent, they’ve shown they have the capability to stay in games against it. There is a lot of potential on this team, and a very high ceiling. But the lack of travel in the spring semester raises a few questions about potential rust to shake off come Nationals. Especially since this squad has only seen one non-Ohio team all year.
14) Miami – Miami remains in a pretty stagnant spot this month. Able to consistently beat the teams that they should beat, but not quite able to get to that next level and beat the teams that are above them. Their best wins of the year so far are two wins against WMU, one of which being in overtime. But unfortunately, the Redhawks have struggled against other similarly ranked teams this year, with losses to the likes of SVSU and BGSU. It’s certainly not for a lack of talent however, as players such as Jay Patel, Connor Smith, and perennial Women’s All-Star Elly Schipfer provide the tools Miami needs to get to that next level. Coming off a 1-2 performance at their home tournament right before Nationals, Miami will look to regroup and make one final push to get over some of the teams that have hovered above them all year.
15) Saginaw Valley State – The Cardinals have been struggling lately, finishing 4th at MDC then losing to the Bronco’s in overtime at home. Led by All-Michigan likely Cole Maliela and former All-American Joe Barber, the Cardinals will be looking to regain their lost footing at Nationals. They need to have more confidence in themselves as a team and have a someone step up to be their court leader, then they will have success. Depending on their matchup they are a sleeper pick for elite 8 on day 2 of Nationals.
16) Kent State – The Golden Flashes have been a surprise package all year following a tumultuous time after the outbreak of Covid-19. Kent State went from going 0-3 at the John Betters Bobcat Bonanza III at OU this year losing by a total of 22-0 to most recently going 2-1 at WAR IV with a team record win over Kentucky & keeping their hot streak against CSU in a matchup that did not favor the depleted Flashes. Kent State has seen a myriad of injuries/off-the-court obligations. Players such as Mitchell Porter, Colin Fitz & Andrew Phillips have missed over half the season, which has been a big hindrance for the rebuilding Flashes. Even when Kent has been without some firepower, they have defied expectations through the stars of Captains Vanessa Hudson & Nathan Keller coupled with some fantastic performances from Rookies Brendan Stevens & Andrew Radigan. Kent State has been showing flashes of development at the right time as the NCDA nears its season conclusion at Nationals. For a program that has been through so much, the Flashes have been able to punch above their weight all season with 8-10 players at any given tournament. Although it might be a multi-year rebuild for Kent, a good Nationals performance would put the Flashes on the right track as they look to get back to the glory days of their program.
17) Virginia – UVA is a difficult team to gauge, as they’ve only been able to play against other East Coast teams this year (with the exception of Kentucky). While their record on the East Coast hasn’t been great this year, the competition in that region is stiff as well. Constantly going against the likes of PSU, JMU, and UMD. The Cavaliers did manage to secure one win against UMD back in November, but it will be much more clear to see where this team truly is when they play against some brand new out-of-region teams at Nationals.
18) Cleveland State – Cleveland State University had a rocky year. Their season began and ended with devastating blowouts, falling short in close games, and losses to teams they should’ve outclassed on paper. While the year may seem like a total loss, they were able to pick up some great rookie talent such as Alex Costello, Kyle Yates, and Sam Durno, who have all become crucial to their success. In addition, a surprise transfer from OSU alum Kathryn Mays has lit a fire under this team we’re hoping they can get behind. It has been said a dozen times that what this team needs going forward is to develop their arm talent. That fact remains. Injuries became a plague of CSU as they lost three players to them, including two OT6 players. However, with the mix of rookie and sophmore talent and veteran leadership, CSU may be able to pull off a few wins at Nationals. If CSU can foster their still very young while bringing in some more arms, they may once again become an Ohio team to lookout for.
19) Central Michigan – Central Michigan finishes off their season without attending Nationals and drops a few spots in the rankings. The Chippewas were unable to attend a March event at Saginaw Valley State due to inclement weather, and were unable to make a commitment to Nationals. CMU will be a fun team to watch develop over the next 12 months, though they will be without a few graduating seniors including Tadhg Allen, a finalist for February’s Baller of the Month award.
20) Concordia – CUW once again hangs onto their power ranked spot this month, despite not being able to attend any tournaments this semester. However, CUW will be attending nationals and will be hungry to get that first ever program win on the biggest stage. The talent is there for them to make it happen, as Captains Connor Knott and Paul Brock give the Falcons the on-court firepower as well as the leadership needed to drive this program forward. Word on the street is that they also have a brand new coach helping the team now as well. We’ve seen this program start to take steps forward already, taking their first ever points at the Peter Broe Classic back in December. All that remains now is for them to get that coveted first win.