This past Saturday, 11 teams from 3 different regions made the drive to Akron, Ohio to compete in the largest tournament of the season outside of nationals. A lot of teams were able to play new opponents from different regions, allowing viewers to get a preview of how they will stack up with each other down the road in April. In this article, we will discuss whether each team’s stock is rising, falling, or just staying neutral.
(W 4-1 Miami, W 3-2 UC, W 6-0 UNL)
It would be hard to argue that the biggest winners on the day weren’t the Ohio State Buckeyes. After last weekend’s loss to Cincinnati in the Ohio Dodgeball Cup Championship Game, the Buckeyes showed up to WAR and played their best dodgeball of the year. A 3-0 performance with wins against Miami, UC, and UNL cements this team into the top tier of the NCDA. OSU has always believed in themselves as a Final Four contender and more, but now they have finally proved that to the rest of the league.
The Buckeyes’ key to success was limiting mistakes. They were able to secure ball control throughout the day and used their quick counters and coordinated team throws to take down opponents. Ohio State is still one of the younger teams in the country with most of their starting lineup being in their first or second year, so look for this team to continue to improve before Nationals.
(W 8-0 UK, W 4-1 UNL, W 5-1 UWP, W 4-2 UMD)
Akron went into WAR with the feeling that 4-0 was possible, all they needed to do was control the pace of the game and trust each other on the court. Going into their first match with Kentucky, Akron got a sense of how everyone was feeling and played a clean game, resulting in a blowout victory. Immediately following that win was a match that Akron, and the rest of the league, were very interested in, against UNL. The Cornhuskers came out strong trying to play up on their throw line, which Akron only allowed for the first point. Akron played well in transition & when they had ball control dominated the neutral zone, able to stay up on the throw line, handling the Cornhuskers 4-1.
The Akron Dodgettes got another chance to prove why many believe they have the best group of women dodgeballers in the league. Akron’s 5 women, along with some members from a few more teams, were able to secure a win in WAR’s women’s only match.
The 2nd half of the day started with a match against UWP, a match Akron had been eager for after the first meeting went 4-3 in favor of UWP. The first half was competitive, giving Akron a 2-1 lead going into the half. One team’s halftime pep talk must’ve worked better than the other with Akron being able to lock it down and win the game 5-1. The most competitive game of the day for Akron, surprisingly, was UMD. After a break, Akron looked slow on the court for parts of the match but managed to hold things together finishing the game with a 4-2 victory. Akron went 4-0 (5-0 including the women’s match) at the WAR VI and attribute their success to being able to play multiple styles of dodgeball, controlling the pace, and developing a deeper team synergy.
Akron’s 4-0 performance jumped them up to #4 in the hybrid rankings. While you won’t find many fans around the league putting Akron in their top 4, they keep piling up wins, and when they play their game, are very hard to beat. Look for the Zips to ride this momentum into Nationals and be hunting for a spot in the Final Four.
(L 0-4 UWP, W 11-0 UK, W 3-2 CSU)
Kent State came into WAR with a mindset that they could give their three opponents of Wisconsin-Platteville, Kentucky, & Cleveland State a run for their money. What a run it was for the Flashes too, as they went 2-1 on the day and played their best dodgeball in what has been years, probably since the 2018/19 season.
Kent State performed objectively well against UWP even though they lost 4-0 to the Pioneers. This game was quoted to be a “Tune-Up Game” for the real deal later in the day for the Flashes. Although the scoreline was a shutout, the Pioneers were put on edge a couple of times by the Flashes, but in the end, their experience and numbers came to be too much for Kent State in the end, and would use this result as fuel for the fire that would ensue for them against the Wildcats of Kentucky.
Following the Women’s Match, the Battle for “Kent” would ensue as they would welcome old rivals back into the fray, and it was a very comprehensive victory for the Flashes as they would rout the Wildcats 11-0 in what would be their biggest blowout victory in team history (Do not ask me how long it took to find this information even with help). The Flashes were “sky high” following this victory and it seemed to light a spark in the team as they would never rest on their laurels for the rest of the day en route to their historic day.
The Flashes have shown consistent improvement as a team throughout the year and so has their recruiting, with newest additions Michael Blizco & Branden Stevens showing their quality in their first two appearances for the Flashes between the ODC & WAR. The latter of the two, Branden Stevens showed off his incredible catching ability in their win over Cleveland State which saw him get six catches in a monumental point for Kent which saw them take the lead 2-1 at the time en route to their 3-2 victory over a Vikings squad which made improvements following their lackluster finish at the ODC. This result versus the Vikings made Captain & President Vanessa Hudson tear up as it was not only their first comeback win of the season, but also, they were vastly outnumbered by only having 8 players in their final game.
Overall, the Kent State Golden Flashes played at the top of their game at WAR and will be looking forward to the next 5 weeks before Nationals in order to hone in on their sometimes plaguing drawbacks such as ball control & communication in hostile situations. The words of many around the NCDA have been backed as this Kent State team looked dangerous and should be for the next couple of seasons.
(W 7-1 UWP, W 11-0 CSU, L 2-3 (OT) UC)
Penn State made the trip to Akron looking to prove they were being underrated in the power rankings. If you’ve seen the comments on Instagram on the power rankings posts, you’ll know that PSU believes they are much better than being given credit for. Their performance at WAR VI included blowout wins over CSU and UWP and an overtime loss to Cincinnati. This performance wasn’t good enough to put the Nittany Lions in the elite tier yet but they did show flashes of Final Four potential.
Spectators and opposing players were impressed with Hunter Stewart’s all around ability and believe he is the best player on this talented roster. If Penn State can improve their cohesion and strategy and eliminate some of the mistakes they made during the OT loss to UC, look for them to make some noise at their home tournament on 4/2 and Nationals in mid-April. This team will come in as one of the most confident, that is a guarantee.
(W 3-2 Miami, W 4-3 (OT) CSU, L 2-4 Akron)
UMD came into the day looking to prove they were better than people were giving them credit for in their first non-east coast tournament this year. They started their day off to a good start with a win over Miami, but then needed overtime to handle a rebuilding CSU team. This result was a shocker to many even though UMD did come away with a win. They ended their day with a 4-2 loss to Akron.
The Terrapins were without arguably their best player in Adam Butz, so a 2-1 performance is a very good sign. However, they will need to clean up some mistakes they made against CSU if they want a shot at competing for an Elite 8 appearance at Nationals. This is still a young team and 6 weeks is a lot of time to make the necessary adjustments before Nationals.
(L 1-4 OSU, L 2-3 UMD, W 9-0 UK)
Miami has impressed many all year after they struggled last year coming out of COVID. They flashed their potential at the beginning of the day by taking the first point against the Buckeyes. They have some live arms and great catching ability that can catch teams off guard if they dare think the RedHawks will be an easy win. Miami might have been a little disappointed to lose to UMD, but they fought hard and it was a super close match the whole time.
The Miami captains have done a great job rebuilding this program and they will only continue to improve. Miami will play one final tournament before Nationals at home on April 1st. If Miami keeps developing the way they do they can take teams by surprise at Nationals and contend for a top 8 ranking next year.
(L 0-11 PSU, L 3-4 (OT) UMD, L 2-3 Kent)
CSU made the short drive over to Akron looking to continue their rebuild by gaining valuable experience for their very young roster. By their last game they were able to have a full 12 person starting lineup which is a good sign for their future. They started their day by getting outplayed by a very talented PSU team, this didn’t come as a shock to anyone. However, what did come as a shock to everyone was the Vikings’ ability to force OT against UMD. Even though they would lose in overtime, it was a very good sign going forward for the Vikings. Their last game of the day was another loss to Kent, a team they lost to the week prior at ODC. Another competitive match put together by the Vikings.
Cleveland State’s stock stays neutral due to their near upset over UMD but then losing to Kent, a game they would’ve loved to win. CSU is doing all the right things, focusing on recruiting and getting in-game experience, as shown by leading the NCDA with 25 games played. CSU will likely struggle at Nationals, but look for them to keep improving going forward.
(W 5-2 UNL, L 2-3 OSU, W 3-2 (OT) PSU)
Marking UC as a stock down might be a little harsh as they did go 2-1, but being ranked one and winning ODC the week prior, they definitely underperformed expectations. After a dominant win over UNL, UC played below their expectations in their next two matches. They lost 3-2 against Ohio State in a game that could’ve been a 2-3 point loss if a few plays go the other way and an OT win against PSU where UC lacked energy for most of the second half before turning it on in OT, not losing a single player in sudden death.
It should be noted that Cincinnati was missing Captain and All-American Cory Heitmann, but they will not use that as an excuse. Coach Wes Peters noted during their game against PSU that they were not playing the same way they were a week prior at ODC, severely lacking energy in their last match. The Bearcats are still national title contenders, but they will have to play a lot better than they did at WAR if they want to raise the trophy in April.
(L 2-5 UC, L 1-4 Akron, L 0-6 OSU)
The team with likely the biggest drop in their stock was UNL. After their surprising Nationals performance last year and a 5-0 record so far this year (albeit with some games against weaker opponents), people around the league thought this team could take a step forward this year. Their 0-3 performance with 3+ point losses to UC (5-2), Akron (4-1) and OSU (6-0) was a giant step backwards.
All day UNL struggled with ball control, partially due to inexperience with wall ball. This caused them to have 2 or less balls very often, subjecting them to many team throws. This made it impossible for them to compete against the strong arms of the opponents they faced. Luckily for UNL, they got this experience before nationals. They have about 6 weeks to adjust their strategy before nationals. Don’t let this performance make you think this team can’t go far at nationals because they certainly have the athletes to do so with some strategy adjustments.
(L 1-7 PSU, W 4-0 Kent, L 1-5 Akron)
UWP started off their day against a more talented PSU team. Their roster was inexperienced and it showed against the sheer talent of PSU’s roster. There is much to be desired for the Pioneers, starting with the fundamentals. Their younger players need to get to the level of their veterans if they want to compete against bigger schools. On the flip side, UWP swept Kent 4-0. This was an expected result for the Pioneers; while they may have a young roster, they still have more experience in comparison to the Golden Flashes.
Rounding off their tournament came a hard loss at the hands of an improved Akron squad. The first half was entertaining, both squads battled to secure points. However, Akron’s strategy is what helped them pull away from the Pioneers, picking off unaware players left and right with cross throws. While UWP walked away 1-2, they saw higher level competition. After facing some tough competition, it is now clear what UWP needs to improve before Nationals if they want to compete for an Elite 8 appearance. Given the amount of young players on the roster, there is still plenty of time and room for improvement.
(L 0-8 Akron, L 0-11 Kent, L 0-9 Miami)
As a rebuilding program, UK did not have high expectations going into the tournament and they only had 8 players. Even with these low expectations, many thought they would be able to compete with Kent and that did not happen as they took an 11-0 loss to the Golden Flashes. They were also uncompetitive in their other two matches and failed to score a point all day.
There’s still something to look forward to as a Wildcat fan as they got much needed experience before their home tournament in late March and have a better idea of what they need to work on to continue to improve. Hopefully they will be able to have a roster of more than 8 players when they host and attend Nationals.