Another week, another great slate of dodgeball. This weekend features the Tyler Webb Memorial tournament at Bowling Green State University, where the league will come together to honor the life and legacy of the late Tyler Webb. Here, we preview each pinch and women’s team attending.
Article by Mitchell Porter (Kent State), and Ethan Lehmkuhl (OSU)
Bowling Green is back in action as they play host to four other teams this weekend. It is no secret that the Falcon’s season has been disappointing thus far, and the captains of the team have shared that sentiment. With that being said, BGSU has a prime opportunity to turn it around this weekend, with games against powerhouse MSU, Kent State, and NKU. We’ve seen BG stay in a lot of close games with top teams this year, but the story has been that they can’t finish. We’ll see if they can rewrite that story this weekend with home-court advantage.
After a second consecutive 3-0 outing last weekend, Cincinnati hopes to steer that momentum into another big weekend of challenges at the Tyler Webb Memorial Tournament. The Bearcats will face Northern Kentucky, Kent State, and Michigan State. All three teams they’ll face have very young, but talented rosters. Despite this, going 3-0 once again will be no easy task. While not overlooking the Golden Flashes, perhaps one of the most anticipated matchups of the season will see the Bearcats facing off against the Michigan State Spartans. Somehow, UC and MSU have only played each other once per year each of the last three seasons, all in the fall semester, with their respective records being 1-1. Make no mistake, this is no rubber match. Despite each team losing a massive core of upperclassmen to graduation, both teams expect to be battling it out for a National Championship in April and this matchup could be an excellent preview of a Final Four or beyond matchup.
It will be a busy weekend for the Spartans as their pinch team will play four games on Saturday. As mentioned, the most highly anticipated matchup of the tournament will be between MSU and UC as both teams try to jockey for position at the top of the league. This will no doubt be a heated matchup as both teams are led by some of the most animated coaches in the league. MSU will also be playing NKU, BGSU, and Kent State. A 4-0 performance would be massive for Sparty as they look to avenge their loss to GVSU last month that snapped a 21-game winning streak.
Northern Kentucky University plans to play its first tournament since the Clifton Heights Classic back on October 8th. NKU showed potential as they were tied with Western Michigan 2-2 midway through the second half and narrowly lost to Cincinnati’s second team. The Norse hope to continue to build upon their foundation of experience that they’ve gathered thus far and will have the vast majority of their core roster in attendance. For them to hang with Cincinnati, Michigan State, and Bowling Green State, they’ll need big performances from Captains Will Strong and Jacob Fleck, as well as from standout performers TJ Gilkey, Kishun Yokota, and Sahil Bachwani.
Kent State comes into this tournament with a lot of questions still to be answered. After convincing wins over Ohio & Saginaw State, they faltered when they had to face higher opposition such as PSU, Akron, & JMU in crunch time. Kent State has solidified themselves as a mid-table stalwart and they have shown considerable improvement throughout the year. They’ve shown that they can fight with the big boys but usually cannot seal the deal when it comes to the closing stages. Their slate of matches will truly test their “fight or flight” response with a huge mid-table matchup versus the host Falcons, before playing two of the best teams in the country in Cincinnati & Michigan State. It will definitely be a testing tournament for the Flashes.
Women’s No Sting Preview
Cleveland State enters this tournament as the highest-ranked women’s program in the league, and for good reason. Having 2 separate women’s league OT6 players on your team in Sky Thornsberry and Kathryn Mays helps quite a bit. This squad was able to hand Akron its first loss of the season and did so with only 5 out of their 6 players. They should have all six coming into this next tournament, so it’ll be exciting to see if they can hold their spot. That being said, the women’s talent pool in the league is the strongest and deepest it’s ever been, so they’ll need all six players to contribute heavily to replicate their previous performance.
The Akron Dodgettes are the most esteemed women’s program in the country right now. Churning out an increasingly insane amount of high-quality players every year. The recruitment pays off significantly in both their A and B squads. Reigning women’s MVP Alexis Schultz and fellow All-American Nicole Cutich lead this team as veterans, but Abby Emery may very well be joining them this year. Emery had arguably the MVP performance of the last women’s tournament. Making a name for herself as a top-level catcher. Akron will look to take its top-ranked spot back from CSU this weekend and has all the tools in the world to do so.
MSU is right behind Akron in terms of women’s development, having both a solid A-team and a deep B-team that defeated Akron’s B-team at the previous women’s tournament. Allie Pohl has taken huge leaps in development for this team and is throwing harder than ever, and when players like Mia Fields round out your B-team, your squad is undeniably deep. The one thing this team lacks is experience. Which is the only thing that has set them behind the other two established women’s programs so far. But the more tournaments they play, the more you can expect that gap to close. They’re in the championship race as much as any program.
Our mixed team this weekend features players from Miami, BGSU, Kent, and GVSU. While this team’s games won’t count for the standings, this squad should be incredibly entertaining to watch. Headed by veterans like BGSU’s Reni Kaiser and Miami’s Katie Mei Williams as well as exciting rookies in Kent’s Ally Golubski and GVSU’s Danielle Swett, this team is loaded with enough talent to compete with the best women’s programs the league has to offer. Hopefully, in the future, these teams will be able to keep developing women’s talent and have their own full squads.