Despite what the weather outside may suggest, we are starting to creep deeper and deeper into Fall, and thus deeper and deeper into the NCDA season. There are 3 big tournaments happening this weekend, Kent State’s Summer Street Slugfest, CMU’s Dodgetoberfest, and JMU’s Pumpkin Smash. Each tournament will have big implications in their respective regions, and try to provide a clearer image of the overall power structure in each region.
The Pumpkin Smash will be particularly interesting to see this year though. Traditionally, JMU has been seen as the untouchable power atop the East Coast region since their arrival into the league. However, during the Spring Semester of last season, Towson was finally able to top JMU during their home tournament 3-1. At the end of the year, JMU still finished as the highest ranked team in the East Coast, but it begs the question, are we going to see a change in power this season? Perhaps only time will tell, whether it is this weekend or even further into the future. One thing is for certain though, there will be some heavily heated and highly competitive dodgeball across the country this weekend.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams and what to watch out for.
We get to start with our hosts, and reigning Pumpkin Smash champions. During the offseason, JMU lost 4 of their A team players, including their former leader Derek Pierce. That being said, there’s still a lot of firepower on this team, and they bring with them one of the most talented players in the league, Doug Schilling. Schilling will be the most obvious threat for the Dukes, but some other players to watch out for include Tanner Weaver, Zach Deutel, and Marc Antosz. These players will most likely be making a majority of the throws for their squad, and all have the ability to rack up kills this weekend.
This is the first tournament for JMU this season, so they will be coming into this event with a bit of mystery. I personally don’t expect to see any changes with this team compared to teams of the past however. Their play style and talent favors being a run-n-gun type of unit, and that will most likely be the case this weekend. They should be able to handle UVA without too much difficulty, but their matches with VCU and Towson could prove to be interesting. As previously stated, the last time JMU played Towson it resulted in a 3-1 defeat, and their final match against VCU last year was a close 2-1 victory. Having the home court should prove to be advantageous for JMU, so look for them to put on a show in front of friends and family.
Currently, Towson sits as the #4 team in the country based on the Gonzalez Rankings, and they walk into this tournament as the only undefeated team left in the league (excluding teams that have yet to participate in a tournament). All of their wins this season have come against VCU, UMD, and Stevenson, so they will have the opportunity to play UVA and JMU for the first time this season. This group is very solid, and has won every single match by at least 2 points this season.
A large part of their success can be attributed to Mike Hinely who has had an outstanding season thus far in all aspects of his game. Others have played great as well including Nick Cerdeira, Jeremy Brown, and of course Jonathan Shaw. Two players who I believe will be X-Factors for this team this weekend will be Jonathan Soward and Xavier Cross. They are two athletic players with great catching ability and have the ability to change the momentum of a game. Currently I have Towson as my favorites for the weekend. This is will be their chance to solidify themselves as the top East Coast team.
The Cavaliers will be entering their first tournament, and only their second tournament in program history. As a young team, this weekend will be an uphill battle against 3 fairly experienced programs in JMU, Towson and VCU. That being said, this will be a great opportunity for this team to get some much needed experience.
This team brings with them a lot of energy and young talent. Perhaps there is no other team as raw as these guys when it comes to pure athleticism. I think these guys will get a great chance to develop some of their skills this weekend and be in a better position to challenge some teams in the future. Some guys to watch out for in this group include Marty Knauf and AJ Getter. These two guys are going to be their primary throwers and have the arm strength to compete with most people in the league. Mitch Godfrey will be another guy to watch out for. He also has a solid throw and has shown the ability to catch well too. This might not be UVA’s time yet, but the gained experience here and overall raw talent will give them a better opportunity to compete sooner rather than later.
VCU has been an interesting group so far this year. This team has hovered around the .500 mark all season, and is looking to further push themselves up the totem poll of the East Coast region. At 5-4 for the season, 3 of these losses have been at the hands of Towson, so VCU will be looking to break that losing streak this weekend. VCU has also never beaten JMU, and they will be looking to finally defeat the Dukes as well.
The Rams come into this tournament with the most experience thus far, having played in 3 total tournaments to start the year. Some of the key performers for their team this year have been assistant captains Torao Ota and Matt Bosco. They will again need to come up big in order to pull off upset wins over JMU and Towson. However, some other players have been playing great for this team as well including Tre Edmonds and RJ Morgan. These two were a huge part of the teams success during Akron’s Pink Out tournament, and they will be important once again. VCU was once the bottom tier of the East Coast, but now they have a chance to continue their push upward and contend for a top spot.