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This weekend, Maryland will be hosting the first full-scale tournament on the East Coast this season. This tournament is going to be pretty big in seeing where teams stand to start the season, particularly Towson facing JMU with East Coast supremacy on the line. But before I get into all the drama this upcoming weekend, let me first recap the tournament hosted by Towson this past weekend.
Towson def VCU 4-1
VCU def SU 3-0
Towson def SU 4-1
Towson, to no surprise, dominated the whole day. The Tigers were lead by none other than Mike Hinely, the MVP frontrunner alongside Doug Schilling in my totally-not-east-coast-biased-opinion. Hinely absolutely dominated in all phases of the game, showing off his usual impressive arm strength along with his catching and overall instincts for the game. In years past he would turn gunslinger at some point and get himself into a bad situation that got him out. Sadly, he never came to the sideline to mingle with me while I was there.
With a dominant day such as Towson had, there were obviously multiple players that stood out. David Guare is the smartest player on the court, having complete control of his side of the court at all times. Nick Cerdeira really impressed me with his catching on the day, as he has clearly forced himself into being one of the most consistent catchers on the team. And Andrew Kerr is still one of the most well-rounded dodgeball players you can find.
I could go on and on about my former team, so I’m going to force myself to stop now. This team is really going to be tested when they go up against JMU this upcoming weekend. As much hype as Towson has gotten the past two years, JMU still beat Towson all but once last season. But I’ll get into this matchup soon enough, for now you should keep reading my eloquent analysis on last weekend’s tournament.
You could really tell VCU was banged up this weekend. They showed the same team formula that made them so successful last year, but they were missing the firepower necessary to truly compete with the top teams. Hunter Ford was on the court directing traffic, but without his arm the offense didn’t pose much threat to Towson. I was not able to stay for their win over Stevenson, but they clearly took care of business in the 3-0 victory.
I was fairly impressed with what I saw from them this weekend. I think this is a team that is still improving, and they have a clear formula for success. I am very excited to see this team with a full squad, and a healthy one. Don’t forget, this is a team that got up on Towson a few times last season, and I can confirm it was a bit unsettling. I think VCU is continuing to make improvements, and now it is just a matter of finding the arm talent and getting healthy.
Led by Kris DeJesus once again, this team continues to make strides toward becoming a regular on the East Coast. This team still lives and dies by what Kris is able to do, but you can see that there is more talent on the court than just him. I think this team simply needs more and more game experience to turn that corner to becoming a competitive team that can win games. Even against VCU they would get down to 8v8 in a point, but they couldn’t close it out. This is a trend I see with a lot of young teams. The talent is coming along, now it is just a matter of closing out points. I would love to point out a few players I liked in particular, but I still kind of suck at this and don’t know names yet. All in due time, don’t worry.
Now, onto the big tournament this weekend hosted by the University of Maryland. I am going to go game by game with some brief/extended analysis on the matchup, and then give my prediction on the score. I hope you don’t mind reading, because I like writing. Prepare for some serious word vomit!
Maryland vs. Virginia (Block 1)
This first matchup of the day has me hella intrigued. Virginia picked up their FIRST WIN EVER against Maryland last season, and I expect this to be a pleasantly competitive game. There are two storylines I see that deserve overly dramatic titles. Here we go:
Maryland: A Season of Redemption
Do you feel the goose bumps? Are you enamored with what I have to say? Good, then let’s get started. This all dates back to Nationals 2015, when Maryland was picked by some as a dark horse final four team. Well…that didn’t happen. Instead, they went winless on the weekend, and had to wait around for Towson as they pulled the surprise upset over Ohio State to win their first ever elimination game (pats self on back). Maryland has been struggling to recapture that success ever since. There has been a lot of turnover in the program these past couple of seasons, and I am really excited to see what this team brings to the table this year. I’m pretty hype to watch this team, especially so that I can learn names and shout out good players! Yay! Now, lets see if I can make up another dramatic title for the next storyline.
Virginia: A Rising Contender
Yeah, that was the best I could come up with. I’m trying to get this up as fast as possible. The point is this: Virginia could be really good! They are so goddamn fun to watch, guys are diving all over the place trying to make catches and losing shoes and it is absolutely ridiculous. The number one trait I tend to look for in a rising power is willingness to go make a catch. That’s what VCU did last year, that’s what Towson did the year before, and that is what I am already seeing from Virginia. There are a ton of athletes on this team trying to make plays, and I really like Virginia as a team that could become a consistent contender on the East Coast in the future. Alright, I’ll leave it at that. Here’s my prediction:
UMD def UVA 3-1
I have a feeling Maryland comes out ready and shuts the door on what happened last season, and tries to make an early statement to begin the year. Although maybe Virginia will play barefoot and spark a magical 5-0 victory, who knows! (If you don’t understand the barefoot reference, don’t worry about it)
Towson vs. VCU (Block 1)
These teams faced off last weekend, and I expect a mostly similar result this time around.
TU def. VCU 2-1
Towson will take care of business, but they will be looking ahead to their matchup with JMU just a tiny bit I predict. However; if Hunter Ford shows up with a new bionic arm, this could be very interesting. Anyways, onto block two.
JMU vs. Virginia (Block 2)
Ok, I need to get some initial JMU analysis out of the way before I go crazy writing about the JMU-Towson matchup. Did everyone forget that JMU only lost one East Coast match all of last season? Just one. I get why Towson receives so much hype, but JMU has continued to chug along and dominate the East Coast anyways. Plus, this team is stacked once again. There are so many guys that get overlooked on this team (I blame Doug), and I have a bad feeling they come out and crush Virginia to start the day.
JMU def. UVA 5-0
JMU doesn’t slow down when they get a lead. They have a killer instinct that typically leads to big wins over less skilled teams. I don’t think they slow down against Virginia, and send an early message to start their day.
Stevenson vs. VCU (Block 2)
We saw these teams face off last week at Towson, and I once again predict it will go the same way. Only this time, Stevenson will score a point.
VCU def. SU 3-1
Towson vs. JMU (Block 3)
So I am a little hype for this matchup. Just a little. This is the only game being played at the time, so everyone will get to sit back and enjoy this one. Both these teams are looking to represent the East Coast in the Final Four later this year, and both are capable of doing just that. Both teams are led by MVP candidates. And both teams are loaded with talent that doesn’t get enough praise. I’ve already discussed some of the players that stood out for Towson last weekend, so let me point out two guys for JMU that should be a big factor this season: Evan Eschenburg and Evan Bosanko. Both of these guys will need to put in big performances this Saturday to get the win over Towson, and they will need to play big all season if JMU is going to make a run at a national title. This game will be huge in setting the tone for the rest of the season, and JMU will need to come out firing on all cylinders to maintain their domination of the east. Without further ado, I’ll make my damn pick already.
TU def. JMU 3-2
I’ll be blunt: my Towson bias 100% led to this pick. I really can see this game going either way. It’s going to come down to which side makes more catches. In the past, Towson has been able to take down JMU with a big day catching the ball. Based on what I saw last weekend, this team has once again improved in that category. JMU has always been successful due to a plethora of strong arms, but they will need to improve in the other phases of the game if they want to make a push for the final four. If JMU comes out looking to make catches and is willing to move up and down court in transition, then this game will go the other way.
Virginia vs. Stevenson (Block 4)
I think this will be a nice barometer to see where these two young programs currently stand, but I think Virginia emerges on top with their balanced attack.
UVA def. SU 2-1
Maryland vs. VCU (Block 4)
This is an important game for both teams. Maryland has a perfect opportunity to compete for the number 3 slot in the East Coast on their own court. VCU is trying to maintain their grip on that title. I would like to personally challenge Wayne Shortt of VCU to step up and give a dominant performance this weekend for VCU. If he can go out and make some key throws and stay on the court for VCU, they can close out their day with a win over Maryland.
VCU def. UMD 2-1
Stevenson vs. Towson (Block 5)
Will Kris DeJesus singlehandedly defeat the Tigers? I hope not.
TU def. SU 4-0
JMU vs. Maryland (Block 5)
I really am excited to see what Maryland brings this weekend. Unfortunately, JMU is way too good.
JMU def. UMD 4-0
Well, there you have it. I hope I was able to hold your attention all the way to the end. I think this tournament should be an absolute blast to see where teams stand on the East Coast. JMU and Towson in particular need to start off the season in dominant fashion. These two teams need to play each other as much as possible this season. I for one am very sick of the Michigan stronghold over the NCDA, and these are the two teams with the best shot at ending the reign of terror. I would love nothing more than to see these two teams duke it out in the national title game this year, but we have a long season ahead. Hopefully I can make it out and catch all the action first hand, though I may be tasked with meeting the girlfriend’s family. If you don’t see me, wish me luck.
PS: Get it? “Duke” it out?