This Saturday, Michigan State University will host three other schools in the annual Michigan Dodgeball Cup. In attendance will be Grand Valley State (8-1), Michigan State (5-3), Saginaw Valley State (2-7), and Western Michigan (0-3). Missing from the MDC for the first time since 2007 (prior to their club’s existence) is Central Michigan University.
While eyes will be on the CMU club to see if they can rebuild their program and get back to competition, let’s shift our attention back to the four teams in attendance. To start, here is the schedule for the 2022 MDC, which will be livestreamed on the NCDA’s social channels this Saturday, starting at 10:00 AM.
The host school, Michigan State, enters the 2022 Michigan Dodgeball Cup seeking some revenge after their last tournament they attended at GVSU (The Grand Valley Gauntlet on Jan. 22). The Spartans were downed by the Lakers at that tournament by a surprisingly wide margin, losing 4-1. That 3-point margin matched MSU’s 5-2 win over GVSU back in November, making the two schools 1-1 on the year. A rubber match will take place on Saturday, and it will be the last match of the day. Smart scheduling there, as it is almost guaranteed to be for the MDC title considering how far these two schools are ahead of the rest of the pack.
Michigan State boasts a deep and talented roster this year, with a few All-American level players at the top of their roster including Barry Butler, Josh Kramer, and Jack Girling. Each of these players has stepped up big this year, with Girling being a massive factor in the Spartans’ victory over GVSU earlier in the year, and Butler possessing the rare ability to truly take over a point on his own when his game is clicking.
Along with those stars, MSU also happens to have another strong rookie class. Led by Alec Deen, a serious Rookie of the Year candidate, Michigan State’s rookies have shown off their talent already this year and will be crucial to the team’s success this weekend, especially against another deep roster like GVSU.
On to the Lakers. Let’s get this out of the way first: reigning National Player of the Year Ben Smart will not be playing for GVSU after injuring his elbow in January late in their match against Michigan State. In his absence, we will look to a few other players to step up and fill the (figuratively, not literally) biggest shoes in the league.
Tyler Peach is certainly a household name in the NCDA at this point, and while he has battled an injury of his own earlier in the season, he looked to be back in form at the Grand Valley Gauntlet. Peach will need to have the best tournament of his young career if the Lakers plan to stay on a hot streak. Tom Williamson and Nick Hehl are two more players who should be mentioned. Each of them play a key role in GVSU’s offensive game plan, and big days from them would be a big boost for GVSU.
Saginaw Valley State is certainly not at the level that they traditionally have been, but this team is young and looks to be growing and improving. Led by Cole Machiela, Joe Barber, and Bryce Stevens, this group will look to hold their own against the ‘Big 2’ at this tournament, and bring home an important win in their match against Western Michigan.
Speaking of Western, the school that was recently awarded hosting rights for Nationals 2022 will be on a mission this weekend to prove they are no longer the bottom of the barrel in the state of Michigan. Peter Broe leads the way once again. His on-court knowledge and coordination will be crucial if the Broncos have any plans on pulling an upset. Randy Santana-Jimenez, Evin Cooper, and John Koprowicz are three more big contributors on this roster. WMU is searching for their first win on the season, and there is no better time to get that done than at a historic event like the MDC.
As mentioned above, it really looks like we have a ‘Big 2’ in the Michigan Region this year. Grand Valley State and Michigan State stand high above the rest of the region, and that isn’t likely to change on Saturday in East Lansing. There have been past season where we entered this tournament staring down 4 of the best teams in the country. In 2022, that seems to no longer be the case. With COVID-19 causing traditional powerhouse Central Michigan to struggle to field a team (and score practice times at their school), and usual contender Saginaw Valley State having a young roster in a bit of a rebuild, the once dominant Michigan Region is a bit more top heavy than any of us are used to.
The story on Saturday really will be that final matchup of the day between the Lakers and Spartans. Assuming both parties have undefeated MDC records heading into that showdown, the winner will have a very strong case for being ranked #1 in the country.
Follow along all day, as we will be streaming the tournament start to finish with (fingers crossed) scoreboard on screen and full commentary each match. We may even bring in some players for interviews throughout the event. Check our social media channels on Saturday for the stream link!
|MDC All-Time Records (2005-present):