A new semester has come upon us, and with that, the NCDA will return to the corner of Ted Boyd Drive & Summit Street in beautiful Kent, Ohio for the first time since 2019. This tournament will be held on Sunday, January 28th, and will feature 10 teams spanning from East Lansing, Michigan, all the way down to Harrisonburg, Virginia, as well as 7/8 of the Ohio teams, and the Nittany Lions of Penn State. This tournament is putting some big names up against each other as we will see a total of EIGHT top-10 match-ups as this will certainly show who are the contenders versus the pretenders. Down below, we have the schedule, the links to each YouTube channel that will be streaming, and previews for all 10 teams attending.
By Mitchell Porter (Kent) & Rylan Close (Kent)
The Zips will be strolling into the home of the enemy as they look to improve on their #7 ranking with a slate of games that puts them in line to go head-to-head with the Nittany Lions, Bearcats, & Bobcats. The Zips went 6-4 in the Fall and are still trying to find a way to succeed without Clay Egleston & Ryan Curtis. On the flip side, the Zips are very excited to have NCDA veteran Matt Young back on the squad as they certainly have the firepower to shake up the standings. Earlier in the year at the Redhawk Classic, the Zips beat the Bobcats in overtime but faltered in their 4-0 loss to Cincinnati and will certainly look to avenge the bad times they faced against Wes Peters’ side. The Zips will be one of the teams to watch at this tournament as they have proven to be invincible at home but have found the outside to not be a happy hunting ground.
Bowling Green State Falcons
The Falcons come into this tournament with a mixed bag of feelings on how they performed in the Fall Semester. Coming into the new semester with a 5-9 record & being 6th in Ohio, the Falcons have a few kinks to work out if they are to make a splash at the Summit Street Slugfest. Led by Evan Brown & Josh Boyers, the Falcons have been flying low to the ground due to the lack of consistency & throw discipline, and with a schedule consisting of #8 Kent, #9 Ohio, & #14 Penn State, the road ahead does not get any easier. Expect the Falcons to come out and try to defend their victory over Kent and work on taking down the Nittany Lions & Bobcats as they look to climb the ranks of Ohio Dodgeball.
A hungry UC squad comes into this weekend looking to exorcise some demons. While they’ve shown they can take care of business and beat the teams that they’re supposed to beat, they’ve yet to notch a win against a top 5 opponent this season and have found themselves playing second-fiddle to Ohio State in the region so far. This team is undeniably capable of getting one of those wins, taking both OSU and MSU to overtime this season, but falling just short both times. They’ll have a chance to correct the ship against both MSU and JMU this weekend, proving they belong in the championship conversation this year.
Cleveland State Vikings
Cleveland State looks to build on the momentum gathered from the end of their previous semester, going 2-1 at DPBC2. The Vikings look like they might be able to start putting some pieces together and continue building a solid squad. Standout players such as Sky Thornsberry and William McCartney have been playing fantastic games as of late. A lack of arms has turned this team into a catching squad first and foremost, and every player on the roster can make plays when needed. As CSU gains more experience, we see them getting better every tournament. A tough draw against Kent, OU, and PSU will be yet another slate to improve on.
James Madison Dukes
JMU is the top-5 team that is hardest to get a read on this season. They are undeniably the powerhouse of the East Coast right now, and when they played against Ohio State they took them down to the wire. But other than that, the Dukes have barely played anyone outside of the East Coast Region. They get what will almost certainly be their toughest draw of the season, playing against OSU, UC, and MSU. This will be the ultimate test for JMU, getting to play nothing but the heavyweights of the Ohio and Michigan regions. We’ll see if they can make the most of the opportunity.
Kent State Golden Flashes
The tournament hosts have a positive record (9-7) for the first time since 2019. The Flashes aim to build on their momentum from a busy fall semester, playing 16 games against 15 different teams. The Flashes will be led by Nathan Keller, Mike Bilczo, & Jacob Florentine who will look to offset the loss of Branden Stevens who is unfortunately out for the rest of the season with an injury. However, the return of Justin Tokes and Nathalie Conn will provide a good replacement. Tough opponents await them in #21 Cleveland State, #12 Bowling Green, and #3 Ohio State, which will reveal the team’s potential as they approach ODC & Nationals. Kent State will look to fly high on home court and there is no question that everybody will be looking at how the Flashes perform without one of the NCDA’s most feared players.
Michigan State Spartans
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better “prove it” schedule than what the Spartans have lined up this weekend. With all 3 games coming against top 5 opponents (OSU, JMU, and UC), this will be the ultimate test to see if MSU can hold its position as the #1 seed and the favorite to win nationals once more. If they can go 3-0 off of this schedule, there will be little room for doubt. But this isn’t *quite* the undefeated squad that they were last season. They’ve shown that they’re a little more mortal this year, and these 3 squads are going to give them everything they’ve got.
The Bobcats see two rematches against Akron and BGSU, as well as the only Ohio region they’ve yet to play this season in CSU. While Ohio hasn’t quite been the top 5 squad we thought they were this season, they’re improving steadily with every tournament. Avenging a close overtime loss to Akron would be a huge step toward making a splash at ODC in February. When this team does play top-level Ohio talent, they’ve played it very closely. All it takes is a few more things to click for this squad to be the contenders we know they can be.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes come into this weekend looking to cement their place as a potential #1 seed at Nationals. With a rematch against a hungry JMU and a long-awaited matchup against MSU, Ohio State will need all hands on deck to go 3-0 on the day. Rookies Chance Preece and Colson Bunch have been huge for the depth of this squad, which was already a contender last year. If the Buckeyes can put together a 3-0 day they’ll no doubt be the favorites to win Nationals.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is another difficult team to get a read on. As of late they’re prone to looking very strong on the East Coast, but struggling at Ohio Region tournaments. They’ve gone 0-3 at Pink-Out earlier this season but secured a massive upset against Ohio State at home just a few weeks later. It remains to be seen what side of the Nittany Lions we’ll see this weekend, but they have a solid draw to prove themselves. Facing the likes of Akron, CSU, and BGSU. A 2-1 or 3-0 performance would be exactly what this team needs to handle doubts about their ability to face talent on the road.