Reliving Nationals

Before April 4, 2009, the concept of Dodgeball Nationals was very foreign to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I had ideas of what the year’s final tournament would be like from listening to some of the older guys talk about it.

But without seeing it firsthand, the notions I held regarding Nationals were very similar to what I thought college would be like while I was still in high school.

People would preach to me about how awesome college was and I would hear dudes older than me reliving their favorite college stories like they were straight from a blockbuster comedy.

Needless to say, my emotions during the eight hour drive up to Grand Rapids were a mixture of nerves and giddy excitement. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve before he finds out Santa Claus isn’t real. (My parents dropped that bombshell on me last year, much to my dismay.) As I tried to fall asleep on the Styrofoam hotel mattress Friday night, I had a million unanswered questions running through my head.

How would my team fare? What would the captains’ meeting by like? Was GVSU still as dominate as when they whipped us 15-0 our first season? Did anyone actually listen to our podcast?

Walking into that gym the first day was like walking into Disney World for the first time. There was so much I wanted to do.

The setup was fantastic.

Using GVSU’s basketball court as the main stage for competition was ridiculously cool. I mean, how many teams can say they play every game on their basketball team’s court? I could feel the excitement humming through my guys like electricity. They all sensed it.

We’re finally here. After months of anticipation, we’re about to play in the most legitimate tournament we’ll probably ever play in.

Some quick stretching and reuniting with familiar faces helped me shake some of the nerves. It wasn’t like I was seriously worried about the teams we were going to play or how well we’d do. I was just incredibly excited to be at the national tournament and anxious to get started.

Before I knew it, we were being whisked away to the bowels of the Fieldhouse for my first ever captains’ meeting. When we all settled into the chairs lining that lecture hall, you would’ve been hard pressed to find a more dedicated group of guys on the planet at that moment. After some last-minute scrambling, we finally configured the schedules for the first day. My team would play Central Michigan, GVSU JV and Wisconsin-Platteville.

During that first game against CMU, I could’ve griped about how we were drained from the eight hour car ride or just had first half jitters. The simple fact was that we underestimated CMU. That’s one of the beauties of Nationals. It brings together teams that you haven’t played or never even seen play before.

Despite turning a 0-4 deficit into a heartbreaking 3-4 loss, our game against CMU did yield one of the weekend’s funniest moments. It came during the first point. I never even saw it, but apparently a rocket throw from CMU made a detour to crush my buddy Adam Martin in his face as he stood up from grabbing a ball. This was hilarious for several reasons. If you check the pictures from Nationals, you can see the elaborate face paint and hairdo that #99 trotted out for the first day. Knowing that we’d be seeing black face paint on some of the balls was an amusing reminder of how many times Martin stopped throws with his face.

But nothing could’ve topped Martin’s face when he approached me before the start of the second point. In fact, I’m laughing about the thought of it as I write this sentence. The sight of Martin with his eyes swollen shut and a mixture of sweat, tears and snot running down his face was absolutely priceless. Even more classic was him telling me, “I’m fine! I can still play.”

Also on my personal highlight reel was getting hit in not one, but BOTH, buttcheeks by some rocket throws during the GVSU JV game. Like Ron Burgundy said, “I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.” Our team definitely had the best pre-point ritual when we imitated the Globo Gym Purple Cobras against DePaul.

I believe Jack Attack said he was “rolfcoptering” on the floor after that one. Finally, we perfected the game of “Gladiator” against SVSU. Watching our guys battle it out against the Cardinal juggernaut might’ve been my proudest moment of the weekend.

When it was all said and done, we didn’t finish as well as I’d hope. But here’s the way I look at it, thanks to an attitude rearrangement from DePaul’s guys: ten years from now, I won’t remember the record we finished with or the points we should’ve won.

I’ll remember all the awesome dudes we met and the feeling of being around so many people that love the great game of dodgeball. And how much my cheeks hurt after that GVSU game, of course.

Michigan Dodgeball Cup: Preview

Can’t wait for the clash between Michigan’s elite dodgeball teams? Here’s a peek at what to expect from the MDC.

Tournament format:

Pool A: Grand Valley State University, Saginaw Valley State University, Central Michigan University

Pool B: Delta College, Michigan State University, Henry Ford Community College

Round 2: Pool A winner vs. Pool B winner (championship), Pool A runner-up vs. Pool B runner-up (third place game), Pool A third place vs. Pool B third place (fifth place game).

GVSU

2008-09 Record: 3-0
Best Finish: 1st (2006, 07, 08)

The three time defending champions have a target on their backs, and they plan to keep it that way.

“I think that after a track record like we have had over the past years any team would have a bullseye on their back,” Laker captain Alex Soukup said.

“Our team has turned that around though and we all don’t want to lose it. The team plays with a target on their back every game and plays in such a way with such high intensity so that we don’t lose it.”

While they haven’t played a game since November, the Lakers hope that their practices have kept them fine tuned for the tournament.

“I think with the type of practices that we have, and the fun moments in each the momentum keeps rolling,” Soukup said.

“It’s often the younger guys who want to prove something that will keep us on our toes and fueling the fire.”
While they are heavily favored, their game plan remains basic.”

“I think for us to win we need to stick to our game plan each game and work as a team when needed,” Soukup said.

“If we lose, I don’t think it will because of mistakes or lack of preparation. I truly believe that if we lose it will mean there is a better team than us.”

Needless to say, GVSU won’t count their chickens before they are hatched.

“I also think with the hype between all the teams this year and the close games we had last year at nationals with Delta, and this year with SVSU has shown just how much better the league is truly getting,” Soukup said.

“I think we (GVSU) all have the common goal of winning the MDC and nationals again this year. And that will mean we can’t lose the target on our back.”

SVSU

2008-09 Record 7-2
Best MDC Finish: 2nd (2008)

Saginaw Valley State University hasn’t seen the court since being upset by Delta College 3-1 on Jan. 18.

The Cardinals hope to get rid of the bad taste left in their mouth on that day.

“We’re definitely going to go over some stuff in practice and we will work a lot harder and be ready for it,” SVSU captain Bryan Janick said.

“We’re going to do a few different things at practice.”

Despite coming off just their second loss of the season, the Cardinals claim that they should be mentioned as one of the favorites in the Michigan Dodgeball Cup, especially if they can reclaim the magic the team had in the fall semester where they won the Kentucky Dodgeball Classic.

If SVSU wins, what is the reason?

“If we play as a team (we can win),” Janick said.

“We need to play as a team. I definitely think we have some of the best talent so there is no reason why we can’t win.”

And if they don’t win, what is the reason why?

“There is no don’t in this one,” Janick said.

“We’re just going to win it. But if we don’t we did have a break without a lot of games, so maybe that’s a factor.”

CMU

2008-09 Record: 0-2
Best Finish: 5th (2008)

The second year club only has one win since beginning play in the NCDA last year.

That win was over an Oakland University team that isn’t even in the league anymore.

Despite this, the Chippewas hope to have a good day at the tournament.

“One goal, as always is to have fun and win some games,” team captain Kevin Flynn said.

“Other then that, it would be to get some good team work going and some headshots.”

Flynn bases his team’s success and failures on two simple principles.

“If we win we will have to play smart, all 15 on the court,” he said.

“If we lose, (it’s because) we were having too much fun the night before.”

If the Chippewas can lay off the adult beverages for a night, Flynn believes good things can happen the next day.

“I know we will (do well,)” he said.

“We are a different team than anyone has seen. Even the teams that have played us this year.”

Delta

2008-09 Record: 3-0
Best MDC Finish: 2nd (2005, 07)

Only a few weeks ago rumors were swirling that Delta College might not even have a team this season. Now, the discussion is just how good are these guys?

The Pioneers have nice wins over Bowling Green State University, and Michigan State University, but their big win came on Jan. 18 when they beat second ranked Saginaw Valley State University 3-1.

“I don’t expect us to lose a game all season,” Delta president Dave Halloran said.

“So I expect us to win.”

Though, despite his confidence, Halloran does see a scenario that could lead to his team coming up on the short end.

“If Delta loses, it’s because we got outplayed by a team deserving of victory,” he said.

“It’s still relatively early in the season and the only thing that matters to us is a national championship.”

And if the Pioneers are the ones holding up the trophy at the end of the day?

“If Delta wins the MDC, it’s because we played together, listened to our leaders who know the game inside and out, and didn’t do anything stupid,” Halloran said.

With an unblemished record heading into the day, the Pioneers look at themselves as one of the favorites to win it all come Sunday.

“We will have the most momentum of any team there,” Halloran said.

“We’re one of the two undefeated teams in the tournament, and poised to beat Grand Valley after losing to them in overtime last year.”

MSU

2008-09 Record: 3-3
Best Finish: 1st (2005)

The winners of the original Michigan Dodgeball Cup hope to get back on top of the tournament.

While their three losses are against other Michigan teams, they hope they can get back to the way they played when the won all three of their games while at the Kentucky Dodgeball Classic.

“In order to retake the title back we need to make sure we work at a team, play smart, and try to focus on catching over dodging and gunning people out,” Michigan State president Mike Youngs said.

“If we can keep the pace a little faster and work as a team I thnk we have a good shat at winning this tournament.”

Youngs, who is also the one behind the scenes, running the tournament looks at the MDC as one of the best tournaments of the season.

“This tournament is almost a nationals preview,” he said. “In my opinion the MDC has four of the top five teams in the country right now.”

“Playing against teams of that caliber takes constant quality play, always playing smart, and playing as a team. Any losses at the MDC will come from playing teams that just do that better than we do.”

As for taking down three time defending MDC champions Grand Valley State, Youngs has a plan.

“I personally think that taking down GVSU will take good defense, covering for your teammates, being able to run with them, and not being afraid of getting in front of one of their shots and try to catch them out,” he said.

“They throw very hard but not hard enough that they can’t be caught out.”

HFCC

2008-09 Record: 0-1
Best Finish: First appearance

The Hawks have only played one game in their brief tenure in the National College Dodgeball Association.

That one game was a record setting loss to SVSU.

That being said, Henry Ford is still getting their sea legs in the league.

“Henry Ford’s goals going into the cup are to get some wins,” Hawks’ captain Kris Wright said.

While hoping for wins, Wright realizes they will be hard to come by.

“We need to learn teamwork, communication, and strategy,” he said.

“That seemed to be our biggest weak point against SVSU and I think if we can get that fixed we may have a shot.”

Helping in their cause to get ready for to get ready for the tournament, the Hawks scrimmaged against Central Michigan University last month.

“Going into our first tournament, we should start to get a hang of what competitive play is,” Wright said.

“We should go in there and score some points. We are just expecting to go in here and have a great time playing, and who knows, maybe there will be some upsets thrown in there.”

So where exactly does Wright see his team finishing?

“If we go in there like we did against SVSU, there is no way that we will win,” he said.

“If we just go in there and play to play, not thinking about who we are playing I think we may upset some people. Or at least I hope.”