Three Michigan schools competed in Mount Pleasant this weekend for a round robin tournament. The 2nd ranked Chippewas played host to the 3rd ranked Spartans and 7th ranked Cardinals. Central Michigan had been riding a 9 game winning streak and looked to continue their run into the spring semester, whereas both MSU and SVSU looked to rebound from disappointing performances in each of their respective last tournaments of the fall semester. Both teams went 0-2 against Michigan schools in their final tournament of 2015.
The first match of the day pitted Saginaw Valley against Michigan State. The Cardinals brought an undermanned team to the tournament, with only 11 players, including some new faces, on their roster. Michigan State on the other hand brought almost their entire top 20, with only a couple of players unable to make the one-hour trip north. Despite the seemingly advantageous situation in favor of MSU, the Cardinals came out of the gate firing. A flurry of catches for SVSU quickly eliminated the Spartans down to five players. Once on the ten-second shot clock, MSU was unable to rebound and SVSU went up 1-0 in less than eight minutes. Despite their poor performance in the first point, Michigan State again failed to respond in the second point. Although Saginaw lost similar numbers throughout the point, the Spartans again fell behind and faced the ten-second shot clock. MSU was down to just Tony Stumpo and Colin O’Brien against five Cardinal players, including Captain Cody Putnam. A 2-0 deficit would put MSU in a huge hole to try to climb out of in the second half. Fortunately for the Spartans, they would not have to face such a deficit. When backpedalling in transition, Stumpo made a tremendous catch on his high chest / shoulder area on Putnam. With the last big arm for SVSU now eliminated, MSU was able to methodically eliminate the four remaining Saginaw players to tie the game at 1. With just over six minutes remaining, MSU played much better but was unable to take the point before halftime, and thus the game went into the half 1-1.
In the second half, Michigan State was able to utilize their man advantage to take control of the game. The Spartans took the first two points coming out of halftime to take a 3-1 lead. Although SVSU played quite well following MSU’s third point, time expired before the Cardinals were able to eliminate the two remaining Spartans. Michigan State was able to win 3-1 in a match where the score line hardly accurately displays the closeness of the match. Also, a big shout out to Autumn Sacquety who had five catches, including one on Wes Peters, in this game. At least a couple were quite timely as well as she was either the last remaining SVSU player or one of two remaining players.
The second match of the round robin was the match of the day and one of the matches of the year in the NCDA. One might not have expected this match to be as competitive, judging by MSU’s poor performance against Saginaw along with Central Michigan’s recent hotstreak. The first point seemed to follow this story line. The Chippewas came out fired up (pun intended) and dominated the first point. They were making catches, killing both in transition and with MSU pinned on the back line, and the Spartans displayed a general sloppiness that seemed to carry over from their previous game. With just over 14 minutes remaining, CMU took a 1-0 lead. Central again looked like the better team at the start of the second point. Despite one thrown catch and a couple of lazy eliminations, CMU still took an early man advantage due in part to some catches of their own. However, midway through the point, MSU was finally able to break through CMU’s dominance. A couple of quick catches and eliminations flipped the script and gave the Spartans the edge. With the clock ticking down, Michigan State was able to force CMU onto the ten-second shot clock. However, the five remaining players for Central were some of their best. MSU eliminated three Chippewas, but Central held out and killed the clock to go into halftime up 1-0.
The word I would describe the second half as would be chippy. Speaking personally, MSU was no doubt a bit frustrated by their own sloppy play in addition to a couple of instances where we felt CMU was uncharacteristically dishonest. I’m sure CMU felt as though we were probably being a bit of a “sore loser” if you will, as the calls weren’t going our way and we were getting angry. This chippiness was only exacerbated by the fact that these are two top teams that have played each other a bunch of times in what almost always results in close, competitive games. Nonetheless, the second half was quite the dodgeball point. The first ten minutes of the half were dreadful. Central Michigan gained a slight ball advantage and appeared quite content to dare MSU to try to outgun them, knowing their catching ability would likely result in the win. Michigan State knew well enough not to fall into Central’s trap. Thus, ten minutes went on without much action.
Then, in a span of about twenty-five seconds, Michigan State made two catches and a team catch to flip the point in their favor. From that point onwards MSU had the advantage and were eventually able to get CMU down to five players. Once with a distinct ball advantage, MSU began to pick off the remaining Chippewas with a couple of quality team throws. With only a little over 2 minutes left, Jacob Leski was the last remaining player for CMU. Perhaps fueled by a desire to top his former team, Wes Peters then threw a solo throw right at Leski’s chest. Those who know the player would know that a throw like that is much too easy of a catch for Jacob. He made the catch and brought Brett Hadwin back in the game. MSU again made use of the shot clock discrepancy to leave Central without a ball for defense. The Spartans again used a team throw to eliminate Leski, leaving only Hadwin remaining. Despite numerous team throws, Hadwin remained alive as the clock ticked under a minute. Another shot clock violation on Central Michigan gave MSU the perfect chance to end the point with less than thirty seconds remaining. Here’s where if you watch the livestream video you might be confused. On the subsequent team throw Brett dove to the ground. One of the MSU throws hit his outstretched arm and caromed upwards. The near side refs did not make the immediate call of out. Thus, Zajac and O’Brien reloaded and threw again. This time, Brett was hit but also made a catch. However, The far side ref came in and ruled that Hadwin had been hit on the first team throw and thus MSU won the point with roughly fifteen seconds left. After a small discussion to confirm the ruling, the two teams prepped for overtime.
Central Michigan’s overtime six consisted of Shane Willette, Zach Bachner, Ian Ryan, Brett Hadwin, Michael Riley, and Jacob Leski. The Spartans sent out Colin O’Brien, Alex Zajac, Kameron Caldwell, Wes Peters, Noe Galaviz, and Lucas Salinas. On the opening rush Bachner and Caldwell were eliminated, leaving both sides with five players remaining. Michigan State took a slight advantage as they eliminated Hadwin, Willette and Ryan, even with Bachner returning to play with a team catch. Salinas then dropped what would be an easy catch from Riley (a theme that recurred in this overtime). CMU then caught Galaviz too far up unprotected and were able to eliminate him with an accurate throw at his feet. A couple of plays later, O’Brien hung a throw meant to kill the shot clock towards Bachner. Fortunately for MSU, Zach was unable to make the slightly diving catch. It was one of those moments when as soon as you release the ball, you know you made a horrible throw. I was just fortunate enough to remain in the game. Following a shot clock violation, Central Michigan was again down to just Jacob Leski, as O’Brien, Zajac, and Peters got ready for what they hoped would be the last play of the game. The three Spartan captains charged forward and team threw at Leski. Both O’Brien and Zajac’s throws were off the mark, while Peters hit him right in the chest. Unfortunately for Wes, Leski once again made the catch. Peters claimed Leski had lifted his foot prior to the catch, which with how the game had gone had no chance of being really listened to, and the match went on with both sides with two players apiece, as Hadwin again had come in on the catch. Following more shot clock violations, Zajac and O’Brien once again took aim at Hadwin in the corner. Zajac’s throw caused Hadwin to duck, but O’Brien’s throw was medium height and to the left. I have seen Brett make catches a lot more difficult than that one look easy, but just like with Bachner, MSU lucked out with another drop. (I believe I turned to the CMU sideline and SVSU refs and said that was the second throw I got away with that should have been caught.)
Following a throw to kill the shot clock by Leski and an errant team throw by Zajac and O’Brien, Leski jogged up the court ready to kill the clock once again. He threw to left of O’Brien, but the throw was to high off the ground and Colin was able to dive and barely make the catch pinned against his shoulder. Michigan State took the point in overtime and evened the season series at 2-2. Although this match had more bickering than any CMU-MSU match I had ever been a part of, this match was still an instant classic. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see another overtime thriller when these two teams face off again in one month at the MDC.
The final game of the day quickly turned into a rout. Central Michigan no doubt was frustrated from their OT loss to MSU and they played like they were hungry for a win. The Chippewas showed why they are the 2nd ranked team in the country against SVSU. CMU quickly established a high line and picked off SVSU players one by one on the back line. Along with their characteristic catching prowess, CMU jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The fourth point was probably the closest of the match. Central rested a good number of their top players and SVSU took advantage.
As the clock was running down in the half, both sides were on the ten-second shot clock. Despite some newer faces left for CMU, they were able to make the plays to take the point just before halftime to take a commanding 4-0 lead. With a running clock in the second half and a big lead for the Chips, the half did not provide the most excitement. Nonetheless, SVSU again put up a fight in the fifth point. The Cardinals again had the opportunity to take the point, but once again just did not have the roster on this day to be able to hold off CMU. Central took the fifth point of the game to win 5-0.
Following the win by Michigan State over Central these are the records between these two schools and Grand Valley this season.
MSU 2 v GVSU 3
MSU 2 CMU 2
CMU 2 GVSU 1
Out of the the 12 games these three teams have played, 6 have gone to overtime. I think it is very safe to say that the MDC is absolutely wide open, and lets not forget that SVSU did take both GVSU and MSU to overtime earlier this season, despite not having a win over any of the other three. If you’re not doing anything on February 27th, I would highly suggest coming to East Lansing for what could be the greatest regular season tournament in league history.