As Grand Valley continued its march toward another inevitable national championship last year, brutally destroying every team that stepped in its path and averaging more fans than some professional sports teams, another team in the college dodgeball heartland was making some noise of its own.
Saginaw Valley State, despite the stiff competition from GVSU, Delta College and Michigan State, continued to prove why it belonged amongst the NCDA’s elite teams.
But despite the recent success, the SVSU dodgeball squad wasn’t always associated with winning.
The team got its start in the fall semester of 2006. They suffered through a winless regular season their first year only to surge during the national tournament and take home a sixth place ranking and a fresh wave of confidence.
Under the fearless leadership of team founder and captain Bryan Janick, the Cardinals returned for the 2007-2008 season with a mission: to beat Grand Valley and win the national championship.
“The obvious school rivalry between SVSU and GVSU naturally makes us want to beat them, and we figured if we beat them we could have a good chance to win a national championship,” Janick said.
Unfortunately for Janick’s squad, GVSU derailed both of his team’s ambitions as they beat the Cardinals twice during the regular season and again during the national tournament.
The Cardinals finished the year with plenty to build upon, though, ending with an impressive 9-5 regular season record that included a notable overtime victory over Delta College.
Their hot streak continued into the postseason, where they racked up a 3-2 record on their way to the team’s first ever final four appearance.
“Last year was our first full year playing college dodgeball and to make it to the final four was amazing for the team,” Janick said. “Most of the team was freshman and sophomores, so we feel like we have a good chance to win a few national championships before we’re done,” he said.
Perhaps the most important accomplishment for the Cardinals last season wasn’t reflected in their overall record. Despite losing to GVSU three times last season, each loss came by smaller margin than the one before it.
“We are a young team and we’re getting better every time we play. I feel like we have a good chance to upset them this year, especially with the new students coming in this season,” Janick said.
Only time will tell which “Valley” team will emerge victorious and claim dominance in the college dodgeball capital of the world this season. Their first clash, which takes place on September 12, should offer anxious fans some clues about this intense rivalry.
No matter which team comes out on top, don’t expect the outcome to stop Saginaw Valley from striving toward the ultimate prize of winning the national championship.
“Winning the championship is more important because we would be helping the prestige of the club sport and Saginaw Valley State University.”