We expected a weekend full of quality dodgeball as Akron hosted their 5th annual iteration of The War. What we witnessed, however, was frankly a lot of lopsided matches. Certain teams we anticipated to have great performances came in as advertised. Others left a lot to be desired, and will hope to bounce back strong if they play again before Nationals, or else they will be chewing on those hard truths about the way their team played for the next 5 weeks.
With that being said, there is a lot to unwrap, and a lot to be said about what we saw from each team, whether they performed well, poorly, or somewhere in between. Let’s go team by team and evaluate what we saw.
Akron Zips: Jekyl, or Hyde?
Saturday: Akron 5-2 UWP, Akron 2-1 Towson, GVSU 5-0 Akron
Sunday: SVSU 2-0 Akron, OSU 5-2 Akron
Overall Record: 2-3
Before the tournament, we stated that Akron was a very even keeled team when they play at The War, where they were historically consistent in beating the teams they should, and losing to the teams they were likely to lose to. With The War V, they were wildly inconsistent.
Would it be fair to say they were expected to lose to GVSU and OSU? Absolutely. While they’ve played OSU much closer throughout the year than this 5-2 scoreline would indicate, playing them last after two days worth of matches when OSU was playing their second match of the tournament is a tough ask.
In the same vein of consistency, defeating a 10-player UWP team was expected. Where things start to get questionable are with the Towson result, defeating them 2-1. Was that an unexpected result? Perhaps, though given Towson’s recent struggles (more on that later), it’s not totally shocking that Akron was able to secure victory.
Saginaw Valley. Things went awry here. Losing 2-0 to a beaten up, tired Cardinal team who are very much in the midst of a rebuilding year was an absolutely shocking result. Based upon the Gonzalez rankings, this result ranks 20th all time in upsets. Akron absolutely should have won this match on paper. But, they didn’t. To paraphrase Charlie Day; That’s dodgeball, baby!
Will the Real BGSU Please Stand Up?
Saturday: Ohio 6-1 BGSU, GVSU 4-1 BGSU, BGSU 4-1 SVSU
Overall Record: 1-2
Prior to Saturday, our content team almost unanimously expected the Falcons to go 2-1. While they did take care of business against Saginaw Valley, they opened the weekend by getting absolutely housed by the Ohio Bobcats. Three weeks prior at the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, the Falcons squeaked out a narrow overtime win against the Bobcats and secured a second quality win against Ohio State. Losing 6-1 to Ohio this time around was not something anybody would have expected – it’s doubtful that even the Bobcats themselves expected to win so handily.
It would be unfair to gloss over Bowling Green’s match with Grand Valley, who they took to the half tied 1-1, but they still fell to the Lakers 4-1, a predictable ultimate result. This match, or at least the first half, was much more in line with the performance we expected of the Falcons.
So what do we make of Bowling Green at this point? Was the Ohio match this weekend a fluke? Were they sleepwalking through that early morning start? Tough to say. In this league, now more than ever, it is imperative you bring your A-game against every single team you play, because we have never had more parity and volatility of results within even just singular tournaments. Look for the Falcons to put together a much better performance when we see them again in Kalamazoo in April.
Cincinnati: Bearcats or Vultures?
Sunday: UC 5-0 SVSU, UC 5-2 Towson, UC 5-0 CSU
Overall Record: 3-0
The Bearcats were arguably as advertised this weekend, with three convincing results against the 4th (TU), 12th (CSU), and 15th (SVSU) ranked teams coming into the weekend. However, all three of these teams had already played at least two matches the day prior, as UC did not compete at The War V until Sunday. So suddenly, it’s arguable that these three convincing results are not quite so convincing, beating up on three already fatigued teams.
With that being said, hanging a 15-2 score differential on your three opponents, including shutting out two is nothing to scoff at, regardless of circumstance. The parity in our league is higher than ever, and every team has its own internal struggles, injuries being nursed, missing players, etc., and the Bearcats are not exempt from that themselves. Missing Captain Brett Liming and having core throwers nursing some nagging arm injuries post-ODC gave the Bearcats some serious pause about attending The War at all. Despite that, Cincinnati performed admirably, albeit with incredibly slow starts against Towson and Cleveland State.
But we aren’t in the business of making excuses for unarguably one of the best teams in the entire league, so good on the Bearcats for taking care of business, and getting their younger players more involved than usual to pick up some of the slack this weekend.
Do the Bearcats have what it takes to run the “gauntlet” at Nationals, having passed on the opportunity to play two days worth of matches themselves this weekend? That much remains to be seen. Fortunately, it seems we may have the chance to watch and assess the Bearcats again prior to Nationals, as they hope to host one final tournament on March 26th.
Cleveland State Needs More Arms
Saturday: CSU 2-1 Miami, CSU 5-0 UWP, Ohio 5-1 CSU
Sunday: UC 5-0 CSU, OSU 5-2 CSU
Overall Record: 2-3
Cleveland State has done a phenomenal job weathering the storm of COVID-19 as a dodgeball club, and have sustained & recruited well to get full or close to full rosters at every tournament they have attended this year. Granted, they have not traveled outside of the Cleveland/Akron area yet this year. That will change come April as they are set to travel westward to Kalamazoo, Michigan for Nationals. I digress. They have been able to get great numbers to all three tournaments, regardless of geographical location, and that’s a testament to the effort their coaching staff and leaders on the team have put in to ensure their club’s competitiveness.
With that being said, can we get Joe Walsh some assistance here please? While it is certainly unfair to say the Vikings have no capable throwers outside of Joe, the disparity in arm talent is glaring nonetheless. Now of course, with a young roster there will be plenty of time for them to develop their throw and become crucial pieces to flesh out what could soon become a truly nationally-competitive roster.
We say all of that to say this: As Joe Walsh went this weekend, so did the Vikings. Cleveland State was able to take care of business in the matches you would have expected them to win against Miami & Wisconsin-Platteville, but were beaten soundly by the Ohio, Cincinnati (despite starting REALLY well in the first point), and Ohio State.
Speaking of that first point against UC, the Vikings enjoyed a massive player advantage over the Bearcats, outnumbering them roughly 8 to 2. They weren’t able to secure that point, however, due in large part to a lack of shot-clock understanding and overall experience & arm talent. Of the remaining 8 players, none of them challenged the remaining two players for the Bearcats, Jacob Weber & Matt Rosinski offensively.
Regardless of the final results of this weekend, this year has to be considered a great developmental year for the Vikings. Look for them to take a big step forward this fall.
The Lakers Bounce Back
Saturday: GVSU 4-1 BGSU, GVSU 5-2 Towson, GVSU 5-0 Akron
Overall Record: 3-0
After an excruciating collapse at the hands of Michigan State in the final match of the 2022 Michigan Dodgeball Cup, the Lakers came out Saturday to The War V and made a statement to the league that they are still in fact the Grand Valley State Lakers that we have come to know. They handled their business this weekend, albeit after a slow start against Bowling Green, going 3-0 on the weekend with some very convincing scorelines against competitive rosters.
A key point of note, Ben Smart was not only on the court for the Lakers, but he was throwing. Has he made a miraculous recovery from his elbow injury back in January? Maybe not 100%, but he was an important part of Grand Valley’s offense throughout the day. Given another five weeks to rest and heal his elbow, along with some of the team’s other nagging injuries, we could be looking at a dangerous, healthy Laker lineup.
Come Nationals in April, expect Grand Valley to be ready to roll. They could be poised to notch yet another national championship on their historically great program’s belt.
Yep, Miami is Still Rebuilding
Saturday: SVSU 6-1 Miami, CSU 2-1 Miami, UWP 3-2 Miami
Overall Record: 0-3
Typically, going 0-3 at a tournament is a horrifically bad result for any team, but that’s just been the reality of this season for the Miami RedHawks. With that said, they have continued to show improvements throughout the year, and while they remain winless after this weekend, taking points against all three teams they competed against, and only losing by 1 in two of those matches, has to be considered a successful day for this team.
A lot can be said about the drop off the RedHawks have encountered from the stoppage of dodgeball in March of 2020 til we started back up this past fall, but they haven’t given up. Turning over the vast majority of your roster hurts, no question. With that being said, this team has the building blocks in place to have a resurgence back to prominence. We expect that by this fall, with another recruiting class added to the roster, Miami will be significantly improved, and this once national title contending program will be on their way back toward the top, winning once again.
Get the Bobcats Better Competition!
Saturday: Ohio 6-1 BGSU, Ohio 5-1 SVSU, Ohio 5-1 CSU
Overall Record: 3-0
In the first match of the tournament, Ohio delivered arguably the most shocking result of the whole weekend, defeating Bowling Green 6-1. Why, you ask? Just three weeks prior, Ohio fell in overtime to the then host Falcons, 4-3. While it wouldn’t have been shocking to predict Ohio to come out and win this match on Saturday, the fashion that they did so is nothing less than remarkable. What changed for the Bobcats? Was it simply having the experience gained from the Ohio Dodgeball Cup and having improved synergy on the court together? Remember, the last time we saw Ohio was in November for the 2nd annual John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza, their only appearance prior to ODC.
After setting the tone against Bowling Green, Ohio went on to also defeat Saginaw Valley and Cleveland State in basically equally as convincing fashion. What else could be said about this team’s performance? How good are the Bobcats in actuality? They need some better competition, that’s for sure. While destroying their three opponents was certainly impressive, it remains to be seen just how high this team’s ceiling goes. Looking back, it would’ve been great to have them play Grand Valley or Towson this weekend, as those teams were also in attendance Saturday.
Thankfully, we may get that chance at what is shaping to be the last major tournament weekend prior to Nationals, with a tournament hosted by Cincinnati on Saturday, March 26th (Maryland also plans to host on Sunday, March 27th). We aren’t sure at this moment who might make the trip down to Clifton, but Ohio has stated they plan to attend. It would be an excellent opportunity for the league to see how good this Bobcat team actually is, and also for the Bobcats to truly understand themselves where they stand in the pecking order heading into our first Nationals since 2019.
Buckeyes Find Some Stability
Sunday: OSU 4-2 Towson, OSU 5-2 Akron, OSU 5-2 CSU
Overall Record: 3-0
Another team who had a tough go of it at the Ohio Dodgeball Cup were the Ohio State Buckeyes. Going 1-2 at the annual Cup, Ohio State needed to come out this weekend and make a statement. Luckily for them, they did. While the Towson match was fairly competitive, the final result never really seemed in doubt in any of the three matches they played Sunday. Great performances from Ryan Ginsberg, Dylan Greer, and rookie Ethan Lehmkuhl ensured a 3-0 day for the Buckeyes at The War.
What does this mean for Ohio State going forward? Relevant to Nationals, the Buckeyes have absolutely put themselves in the picture to make a Final Four run – and beyond. Standing now at 11-4, they have had some up and down results throughout the year. Here are their results against key opponents:
2-0 vs. Akron (2-1, 5-2)
1-1 vs. Bowling Green (5-4 OT, 3-4)
1-2 vs. Cincinnati (1-5, 4-1, 1-2)
1-0 vs. James Madison (4-2)
0-1 vs. Michigan State (2-4)
1-0 vs. Ohio (4-2)
1-0 vs. Towson (4-2)
It’s been certainly more good than bad for the Buckeyes, but it remains to be seen 5 weeks from now what Ohio State team comes to Nationals. Will we see the confident Buckeyes team that is undefeated against Akron, JMU, Ohio, and Towson? Or perhaps the Buckeye team that has come up short when matched against Cincinnati and Michigan State (or Grand Valley, perhaps?). I’m certain that every Buckeye reading this has suddenly had a fire reignited underneath them, as well it should. Expect Ohio State to show the league what exactly they are made of in April.
Saturday: SVSU 6-1 Miami, Ohio 5-1 SVSU, BGSU 4-1 SVSU
Sunday: UC 5-0 SVSU, SVSU 2-0 Akron
Overall Record: 2-3
Saginaw had a very up and down weekend at The War, going 2-3. Securing a win against Akron was a monumental upset (again, 20th biggest upset historically), and taking care of Miami was to be expected. Losing to Ohio, Bowling Green, and Cincinnati, however, were not ideal results of course for the Cardinals.
It needs to be said, there is a LOT of young talent on this Cardinals roster, particularly standout, freshman assistant captain, Cole Machiela. He is quickly developing into a reliable player for Saginaw Valley, though right now their offense is asking a lot of him due to a lack of overall firepower. It was evident against the three teams they lost to that this team is very limited offensively, needing to rely upon team cohesion, pressuring opposing teams into poor throws, and catching.
Similar to Cleveland State, once Saginaw Valley is able to recruit and develop some more offensive capability, this Cardinals team will be back on track with the upper echelon of the league, competitively.
The Towson Tigers are Teetering
Saturday: GVSU 5-2 Towson, Akron 2-1 Towson
Sunday: OSU 4-2 Towson, UC 5-2 Towson
Overall Record: 0-4
Woof. What a weekend for Towson, and not in a good way. Going 0-4 on the weekend, with only one close matchup, Towson appears to be in rough shape. This entire semester has been a disaster for them, frankly. The technically-speaking defending National Champions are a combined 1-6 on the court this semester. Additionally, we’ve just gotten word as of Thursday morning that they will have to pull out of the BEAST X, hosted by James Madison University, which will result in 3 forfeits. With a 1-9 record this semester, Towson has indicated they plan to attend Maryland’s tournament on March 27th. Short of a strong performance that day, the Tigers will likely draw a very difficult matchup in the first round of Nationals, especially if their schedule Saturday continues in the same way the rest of this semester has for them. I don’t know that we have ever had a defending National Champion fail to make the “Elite 8” the following Nationals (Admittedly, COVID-19 makes this stat pretty unfair for Towson, as they were looking poised to potentially repeat as champions in spring 2020).
But it’s not all bad for Towson. Sure their record is abysmal this semester, and a string of freak injuries at the Happy Valley Throwdown make things very difficult, but they do have the opportunity to get their overall roster healthy and rested. 5 weeks is a lot of time to rest for Nationals (sans UMD on 3/27), and boy do the Towson Tigers need it. Rest up boys, because currently the rest of the league is feeling pretty good about the possibility of getting scheduled to play you Sunday morning.
Well Played, Wisconsin
Saturday: Akron 5-2 UWP, UWP 3-2 Miami, CSU 5-0 UWP
Overall Record: 1-2
Well played indeed, considering the Pioneers of Platteville only were able to bring a roster of 10 players the weekend after hosting Nebraska-Lincoln for the Zanderthon, where they secured their first win of the season. Bringing 10 is far from ideal for any team, let alone one with as deep of a roster overall as the Pioneers have, but for what they were working with, they performed pretty well. Sure, losing 5-0 to Cleveland State is a bad result if you’re a Pioneer, but securing a win against Miami and taking two points against a fiesty Akron squad is absolutely worthy of commending.
The Pioneers have expressed interest in attending Cincinnati’s home tournament on March 26th and will also be attending Nationals on the weekend of April 9th. Hopefully we see a much more complete roster making these trips, otherwise it will be another long weekend for the Pioneers on the dodgeball court. If they do bring a more competitive roster, expect the Pioneers to make some real noise at Nationals and upset some teams who may be looking at their record and taking them lightly.