Recorded Live from Nationals ’10
In the first of a series of live podcasts from Nationals 2010, Aleks Bomis and Zac Newton bring you all the action from the tournament’s …
Story by: M. Blake Harrison
On Saturday, Feb. 13, Western Kentucky University hosted a five-team charity tournament at the Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center.
All proceeds went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
In its first game, WKU faced Northwestern State University out of Louisiana, who was competing in its first-ever tournament.
Many opposing players said they were caught off guard by the Deamons’ efforts, specifically because of their inexperience.
After dropping the second point, the Toppers sealed the victory with three straight points to finish the job.
WKU sophomore Kyle Dahl made his presence known late to push them to victory.
“I just had to step up and make the throws,” Dahl said. “You’ve just got to have those certain people that want to step up if you want to win.”
Though he did perform well in his first game, Dahl said he was trying to save his arm for the next two.
In their second game, Western fell to The Ohio State, 3-1.
The Buckeyes beat them quite convincingly, winning three consecutive points after allowing WKU to win the first.
OSU didn’t discriminate, going undefeated in the tournament and taking home the trophy.
Joe Spicuzza, a senior for the Buckeyes, said he really enjoyed his time in Bowling Green.
“It’s been great,” Spicuzza said. “This is probably one of the funnest times I’ve had playing dodgeball.”
Up 2-0 at the half, WKU went on to beat Kent State University by a margin of three to one.
Western sophomore Colby Osborne was key to his team’s win over KSU.
“You really had to pace yourself, pick and choose your shots,” Osborne said.
Josh Raymer, founder of WKU’s dodgeball team, said he wanted the team to host an enjoyable tournament that provided a competitive atmosphere.
He admitted that some other teams are ahead of the Hilltoppers at this point, but said he sees progress being made.
“We’re right there at the cusp of being at their level,” Raymer said. “I think we really measured up to what I’ve seen so far.”
While each team participating did want to win, it was clear that there was a greater mission to be accomplished.
Through the sale of tournament t-shirts and spectators’ donations, $1,010.76 was raised for the Research Hospital.
Felix Perrone, a Western sophomore, was instrumental in the event’s planning.
“I wanted to have a great time and try and raise some money for these kids,” Perrone said.
His father, Peter Perrone, who is the vice president of PNC Bank in Bowling Green, was able to secure $500 from the bank to add to the amount raised.
“It’s a worthwhile cause,” he said. “We were just glad to be able to help out a little bit.”
Story by: M. Blake Harrison
“Our players couldn’t help but feed off the fan energy,” Josh Raymer said gratefully in reference to the crowd at Western’s home opener against UK.
It was that energy which propelled Western to a 1-0 start in its third year of competitive dodgeball.
Western, who played host to just its second-ever home game Sunday afternoon, was welcomed by upwards of 150 fans at the Preston Health & Activities Center on main campus.
The raucous crowd looked on as the Toppers took a commanding 1-0 lead to start the contest.
With the lead, Western zeroed in on their second point as UK lost men rapidly.
Finally down to one opponent, Western sophomore Luke “The Sideline Assassin” Gilliam nailed UK’s final hope to tie the match at one apiece.
With a commanding 2-0 lead, Raymer, who serves as the Hilltoppers’ head coach, chose to sub in some younger players for the third point, which they lost.
“We really just lost track of our game plan after awhile,” Raymer said. “Our level of play wasn’t as strong.”
UK won the fourth point to knot the game at 2-2 by the end of regulation.
The fact that the Toppers finished the half up 2-1 and tied 2-2 at the end of regulation highlighted the impact of Gilliam’s play early in the first half.
“It looks a lot better now than it did at the time,” Gilliam said after the match. “Little points like that can make all the difference.”
With 10 minutes of overtime to decide the outcome of the match, Western’s cheering section rose to the occasion.
With chants of “Let’s go Western,” and “T-O-P-S, TOPS, TOPS, TOPS” in the background, the home team prevailed.
WKU eliminated their final opponent with time to spare, sending a message to future foes: Don’t mess with the Tops in Preston.
Freshman fan Joshua Amos summed up the crowd’s mentality, “With the fans behind them, I knew they could pull it off.”
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.
After nearly two years, gallons of gas, and plenty of last-second cancellations, the streak of 13 consecutive road games for the Western Dodgeball team will come to an end.
On Saturday, March 21 at 3 pm, fans at the Preston Center will be treated to the team’s first-ever home game.
And what a sweet relief it is.
As the captain and founder of the Western dodgeball team, it is with great excitement and joy that I look forward to a game without the worries of traveling.
The streak of road games has finally ended, and we now have a chance to start the proud tradition of defending home court and become a place where teams want to come play.
I always knew this day would come. But I never wanted to act prematurely.
During our first year, it was difficult to justify a home game when we didn’t have nearly enough guys to field a full team.
Road trips were preceded by dozens of phone calls as I tried to find people who were willing to play a game they’d never tried with guys they probably didn’t know.
It was a nightmare.
Then a new school year rolled around, and God decided to smile down on our pitiful little team.
I’d trimmed away some of the dead weight before the summer. Now, I was hoping our fall recruitment fair could bring the fresh faces our team needed to rebound after an 0-7 season.
It did. And then some. And then some more.
After a year of trials and tribulations, my team had finally come together just the way I had always hoped it would.
It was after we picked up some nice wins against in-state rivals UofL and UK that I knew the time was right for us to finally host our first game.
My good buddy Benjamin Sobczyk scanned the forums and found out that Miami University was looking to play some of the Kentucky teams this semester.
A couple phone calls later and it was official: on March 21, our team would make history.
The Facebook events we have put us at over 200 fans attending the game. I didn’t even know 200 people knew about the dodgeball team!
In order to make the game special, I’ve made arrangements for a cameraman and an announcer to be present at the game.
We’re even going to try a blackout among our fans!
Needless to say, my players are pumped at the opportunity to show their friends and family what college dodgeball is all about.
Come Saturday, we’ll have our chance to make history.
I never thought I’d see the day!
Several heads ducked in unison as the projectile sailed over them.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
Three more rubber balls slammed against the back wall in rapid succession.
Those audience members with bad memories from middle school PE classes probably questioned the sanity of the 15 young men standing on the court at some point during the evening.
The white and red clad combatants had scrambled for loose balls, rocketed throws at their opponents and dropped to the floor when dodging was no longer an option.
Although the motivation to play a childrens’ game in college escaped some members of the crowd at Butler County High School, players on the Western dodgeball team never lacked inspiration for their annual game against UK..
It wasn’t the prospect of campus-wide renown or the allure of playing in games that would be featured on ESPN.
Each player that stood on the court that night to risk pain and humiliation did so because of a passion for the eloquence and simplicity of dodgeball.
Any doubts of such devotion were erased when Felix Perrone fell to the floor during the game’s first point clutching his left ankle.
Perrone hobbled off the court and slid down his sock to reveal a sprained ankle that had already swelled to the size of a golf ball.
But instead of heading for the locker room, he waited for his team to win the first game before dragging his swollen ankle onto the court for the second point.
“A bad ankle wouldn’t stop me from playing this game,” Perrone said.
Teammate Ben Sobczyk battled elbow soreness to be on the court during the rematch of Kentucky’s two prominent dodgeball programs.
“I just took it out on our opponent,” Sobczyk said.
Devotion wasn’t the only motivation other injured Western players had in their clash against the Wildcats.
The “Battle of the Bluegrass” was a fundraiser for BCHS’ after-prom program and an opportunity to share dodgeball with young students.
Daniel Williams called the game “the highlight of Western’s season.”
“It feels great to give back to the community,” Williams said.
As he stood among a gaggle of third graders prior to the match, Williams beamed as he watched the kids pelt their classmates with brightly colored foam balls.
“The look on their faces made it all worth it,” he said.