MSU Shows Promise with 2-2 Finish at GVSU Invite

The Spartans traveled to Grand Valley State University to take part in the Lakers first invite of the year. They played four games against in-state rivals CMU, GVSU, SVSU, and also Kent State.

The first match of the day was already the second match-up in this young season against the Chippewas of Central Michigan. The Spartans came out strong and took the first point fairly convincingly after 13 minutes. Some good catches and solid throws led MSU to the early lead. The next point then ended with neither side eliminating the other before the half ended, although CMU had the advantage. Coming out of halftime the Spartans again played strong in a back and forth point. MSU was eventually able to eliminate all of CMU and take a 2-0 lead with only 6 minutes left. Both teams then kicked the slow play to the wall and came out firing for the last six minutes, with neither side eliminating the other again. The game ended with a 2-0 win for Michigan State.

The second game of the day was against the lone out-of-state team at the tournament, Kent State. With several new players, Kent State was outmatched against Michigan State. The Spartans took four points before the half to se up a commanding lead. KSU came out of halftime fire up, however, and were able to take a point. MSU then finished the game by taking one more point to end the game at 5-1.

The Spartans next match was against the team they have never beaten in their program’s history, Grand Valley State. Despite losing 6-0 the previous week, Michigan State showed no fear against the Lakers. Quick eliminations and catches gave the Spartans and early edge over GVSU. MSU then methodically eliminated each Laker to take a 1-0 lead going into halftime, with a couple minutes rolling over. But GVSU was not ready to lose their first game to Michigan State. They came out of halftime ready and took a point with roughly 18  minutes to go, to tie the game at 1. This set up the all-important third point of the match. After several minutes, both sides had eliminated a couple of their opponents. GVSU then made a couple catches and a couple hits to bring the Spartans down to five men and a ten-second shot clock.  After surviving a couple more minutes, the Spartans failed to make a legitimate throw and suffered a shot clock violation. GVSU then team threw and eliminated Captain Colin O’Brien along with Ben Polcyn and Dan Grogis soon after with only 2:40 to go. With such little time, MSU tried all they could to try to take a point. The Spartans hit several Lakers and caught even more, but Grand Valley had five players left as the clock expired, giving them the win over MSU 2-1.

Michigan State’s final game of the day was against Saginaw Valley State University. MSU again came out strong and took the first point, making several catches along the way. The second point then turned into a dull, slow game as both sides eventually got down to five players but both seemed content to go into the half with MSU in the lead 1-0. Coming out of the second half, Saginaw Valley turned the script and made some catches of their own, propelling them to tie the game at 1. Saginaw took and early edge in the fourth point, but was unable to eliminate Matt Jones and Rebecca Shappell. With the game tied at 1, both sides prepared for overtime. Michigan State sent Captain Colin O’Brien, Assistant Captain Alex Zajac, Tournament Assistant Captain Charlie Wilshire, Dan Grogis, Noe Galaviz, and Josh Brawley. One minute into the overtime period, SVSU eliminated O’Brien on a great team throw to take an early edge. The Spartans battled back with two eliminations to take a 5-4 edge. A caught MSU throw paired with two good throws by the Spartans left them with a one man lead of 4-3. Following a shot clock violation by SVSU, MSU eliminated a Cardinal player before throwing catch to level the sides at three players each. Saginaw then hit two MSU players as MSU hit a SVSU player in the span of five seconds to give SVSU a 2-1 edge. Following another shot clock violation, this time by sole remaining Spartan Charlie Wilshire, the two remaining Cardinals set their sights on a victory. On the ensuing team throw, Wilshire was able to dodge the first throw before failing to catch the second, sending Saginaw Valley home the winners of a thrilling overtime match.

Michigan State went 2-2 on the day with a one-point loss to the defending champs on their home court and an overtime loss to the defending runners-up. With only nine players present at both of the Michigan State’s first tournaments, the rest of the season looks bright if the Spartans can find a way to put together a full roster.

MSU Goes 3-1 in First Tournament

Michigan State traveled to Central Michigan on Saturday to compete in the CMU Invite. The Spartans had four games against CMU, GVSU, WKU, and UK in their first tournament of the year.

The first game of the tournament turned out to be the best as Michigan State opened their season with a matchup against in-state rival Central Michigan. The Spartans started out slowly getting down early to the Chips in the first point. But James Schneider tried to bring State back. Making a couple catches and some nice throws, James eventually got CMU down to one player. In the 1-on-1 showdown, the CMU player made a nice jumping catch to take the first point for the Chips after 13 minutes of action. The Spartans then rebounded in point number two. After taking an early advantage, both teams had five people left with only a couple minutes to go in the half. After some quick eliminations, Charlie Wilshire made a great catch to even the score before half at 1-1. CMU looked to have control in the third point at the start of the second half. MSU was down to only three players against several from CMU. But Captain Colin O’Brien made sure a win would be the start of his tenure. He led MSU to bring CMU down to three players against State’s two before an untimely shot clock violation. On the ensuing team throw, O’Brien made a catch while avoiding the other two throws to give MSU the advantage. However, a catch and an elimination left O’Brien as the sole Spartan against three Chips. Colin then made a long throw to catch a CMU player sleeping and make it a two against one. O’Brien then proceeded to catch two consecutive CMU throws to win the point for MSU and gain a lead of 2-1 with 11 minutes to play. In the fourth point, Michigan State gained an early ball possession. With nine balls in hand, the Spartans made one throw at a time to kill the clock. O’Brien and Wilshire alternated throws for several minutes. After a CMU catch off an O’Brien throw, the Chips proceeded to bring up the tempo. With only a couple minutes remaining, MSU just tried to stay alive. CMU was able to bring the Spartans down to four men, but were unable to eliminate the team before time expired. Michigan State took the first game 2-1 in what should be a great rivalry all season long.

The next three games were all one-sided for the Spartans. The net game for MSU was against the two-time defending champs Grand Valley State University. GVSU thoroughly outplayed MSU in every facet of the game, showing everyone why they have won the past two national titles and are still the team to beat in the NCDA. A rout of 6-0 showed that MSU still have room to improve before they can get their first ever victory against the Lakers.

The next match for MSU was against the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky University. Only bringing ten men, WKU faced a disadvantage all day. The Spartans made quick work of the Hilltoppers, taking a big lead into the half. WKU was able to take a point from the Spartans, however, late in the second half to end the game 6-1.

Michigan State’s final match of the day was against the University of Kentucky. In a fun filled game, the Spartans took a 3-0 lead into the half. The second half showed why many people throughout the league love dodgeball, as both sides had a blast with the Spartans picking up one more point to end the game at 4-0.

Michigan State finished the day with a record of 3-1. Despite missing several players and only bringing fifteen to the tournament, MSU showed why they are a team to watch out for in the NCDA. The good start for the Spartans gives them momentum heading into next weekend’s tournament at Grand Valley, where they will face Central Michigan again, Kent State, and Saginaw Valley State in what looks to be one of the premier tournaments of not only the first semester but the entire season.

Three Spartans Named to All-NCDA Team

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 Falls in the Final Four

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.

MSU Goes 0-4 in First Tournament of Season

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.

Season Begins For Spartans

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.

 

2012-2013 Rookie Class Makes Big Impact for Spartans

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.