Michigan State comprised one-fifth of the entire All-NCDA team made up of the top fifteen players from 2014 NCDA Nationals at Ohio State University. All-NCDA mainstay Eric Paul was the first Spartan on the list. Eric, or EP, was a force for the Spartans all season, and throughout his whole career. Whether it be a big throw or a clutch catch, EP always was ready to make a big play. Captain Mike Van Ermen was the next All-NCDA player from MSU. His leadership was vital to the success of the Spartans as he played in his final tournament as a Spartan. A big arm for Michigan State, Mike also made some timely catches throughout the tourney. The last Spartan All-NCDA member was Assistant Captain and next year’s Captain, Colin O’Brien. In his sophomore season, Colin was ready to take on a leadership role for the Spartans. He helped Van Ermen lead the Spartans and made big plays for MSU on Sunday. All three Spartans earned their recognition with their play all Nationals long.
MSU traveled to Ohio State to compete in the 2014 NCDA Nationals . After going 2-1 in group play on Saturday, MSU battled hard on Sunday. Earning a difficult comeback win over University of Wisconsin-Platteville, MSU then looked to take on Kent State in the quarterfinals. Despite losing to KSU the day prior, Michigan State was able to upset the higher ranked Golden Flashes to make it the their second consecutive Final Four. Their next opponent was in-state rival Saginaw Valley State. The Cardinals quickly took a 2-0 lead to open the first half. However, MSU battled back to cut the lead in half right before the end of the first half. The Spartans opened the scoring in the second half to tie the game at 2. Then, in a decisive fifth point, Saginaw was able to take the lead. MSU quickly gained a man advantage in the last point, but the clock was not on the Spartans side as time expired with SVSU down to just three players. It was a difficult loss for the Michigan State, but with 18 of the 20 members of the Nationals roster returning next season, the future looks bright.
Michigan State traveled to Kent State for the first time in program history to partake in the Kent State Tournament a.k.a. the “Summer Street Slugfest”. Led by Mike Van Ermen, Colin O’Brien, and Andy Lieblich for the first time, the Spartans would play matches against Central Michigan, Kent State, Saginaw Valley, and Kentucky. This was being touted as a big beginning of the season showcase tournament, as all the teams involved were in the top eight of the preseason Captains’ Poll.
Unfortunately, it did not go as well as the Spartans would hope. Nine of the sixteen players on the roster were playing their first ever varsity match, and they were down some of their bigger power throwers. However, other teams, such as Kentucky, were also down players, and everyone had first year players playing.
In their first match, MSU was paired up with CMU, a team they had beaten twice last year (8-1 and 3-0.) This wasn’t the same CMU team though, as they came with a full roster and ready to play. The Chips would go on to win 4-1. Michigan State then faced Kent, who they defeated in the National Semifinals last year, and lost that one in a close one 2-1. After that was a 3-0 loss to SVSU, another team they K.O.’d from Nationals last year, and then followed by a 3-2 loss in OT to UK.
The OT loss ensured the Spartans a point on the weekend, but they definitely would have wanted more than one. It also meant that MSU is now 0-4 in the new overtime rules (established before the 2012-2013 season.) State will look to rebound later on this Fall, as they will likely travel at least once more and host the MSU Invite.
After reaching the National Championship Game last season, the Spartans have their sights set on winning the title this year. Despite losing six key members of last year’s team, including four All Stars, State should be even better this season. Part of this is the return of multiple key contributors who missed Nationals 2013, including three of the team’s hardest throwers, and another part of this is the general growth of the returning players. Add this to a potentially huge recruiting class by new captain Mike Van Ermen, and this is a team who should make a lot of noise in the NCDA this year.
MSU was picked fourth in the preseason Captain’s Poll this year, trailing #1 Grand Valley, #2 James Madison, and #3 Kentucky. To win a championship, they’ll likely have to beat at least two of those schools in one day at Nationals 2014, and MSU hasn’t beaten any of those schools since Fall 2008 (a win vs UK.)
The Spartans first tournament this year will likely be in a little over two weeks at Kent State. This will be the earliest State has started their season in recent memory, and they’ll get some tough tests. Also participating in the tournament will be Kent State, Central Michigan, Saginaw Valley, and Kentucky. These are some of the best teams in the league, with all of them being top seven seeds at Nationals 2013, and there will be three of last year’s Final Four teams. Kent State and Saginaw Valley will want some payback after being knocked out of the Nationals tournament by MSU.
Also on the schedule for this season for MSU are their typical home tournaments- the MSU Invite in the Fall and the Michigan Dodgeball Cup in the winter. They’ve also been given an invite to the GVSU Invite and the Chicago Dodgeball Open. And of course, Nationals 2014 in Columbus, OH.
Check them out after the jump:
High-Definition with announcers courtesy of GVTV. The Lakers would win 3-2 in OT in an instant classic:
Michigan State brought in 9 players for the 2012-2013 season, and 7 of them played in tournaments, and four of them played at Nationals 2013. Colin O’Brien, James Schneider, and Alex Starbird were the Freshmen rookies on the Nationals roster, and Ethan Ettema was a Sophomore rookie on the roster.
O’Brien especially stood out as a rookie, garnering some All-NCDA votes and being named an Assistant Captain for the 2013-2014 season. He was a Varsity level player from his first practice, and became a star for the Spartans over the course of the year.
Ethan Ettema fought off a virus that took away the middle part of the season, but was able to come back for Nationals where he played great. He played through an injury at Nationals when his team needed him most, and he was able to help State get ball possession and he covered for his teammates.
Alex Starbird showed tremendous growth as he made the Nationals 2013 roster, and he made some big time plays at the tournament, He’s turning into a reliable player for MSU, and should become a starter soon.
James Schneider also showed growth over the season, and he’s becoming a clutch player for MSU. He can do everything well, but there’s still room for improvement in his game.
Josh Ciboch wasn’t able to play in the second half of the season due to injury, but if he can return for MSU he would be a welcomed improvement. Similar to Schneider he’s a guy who can do everything well, but can still get better.
Sam Clark was perhaps the most improved rookie this past season, as he picked up the game better and started becoming a great catcher. His throw is getting better as well, and he could become a great player for MSU if he continues his hard work.
Zach Webber has a lot of talent, it just needs unlocking. He’s a great dodger and is hard to hit, and at times showed glimpses of great catching and throwing. If he can do it consistently, he also could become an elite player for State.