Grand Valley hosted their second tournament of the year this past weekend. Arguably the most surprising result from this event was the game between GVSU and in-state opponent Central Michigan. The final score was GVSU-2 CMU-1 in Overtime!
No, you don’t need to refresh this webpage, or restart your computer or anything like that, because you read the score correctly: GVSU vs. CMU went to overtime. This game was certainly an “instant classic”, and in my opinion is the game people will look back on as the restoration of Central Michigan Dodgeball as one of the elite college dodgeball teams nationally. Here is a recap of what is to this point in the year, one of the best games of the NCDA’s 2014-15 season:
The game started slow, with the first point taking most of the first half. CMU used a slow-paced approach to take an early man advantage, but as the point went on it seemed to even out. With around ten minutes left in the half it was down to just a handful of players on each side, but thanks to a few clutch catches by GVSU’s Austin Morley, the Lakers were able to take point #1.
The remaining time from the first half expired before either team could take a point, though GVSU did get CMU down to only a number of players on the court with about a minute left. CMU’s remaining players, including Wes Peters, were able to fend off the GVSU rally and go into halftime only down one point.
In the second half CMU flipped the script on their opponents. Central Michigan relied heavily on their stellar catching to work their way to a huge man advantage in the opening point of half #2. With about 10 minutes left, Central had finally dropped GVSU to five players, putting them on the 10-count shot clock.
Using the shot clock difference to give CMU a significant ball-advantage, it looked like the Chippewas were a few team-throws away from tying the game. Unfortunately for CMU, they failed to throw in time and their shot clock expired, giving Grand Valley “balls over”, and the ability to possibly drain the remaining time to give GVSU a 1-0 victory.
Central Michigan didn’t let this setback stop their comeback effort, and were able to make a few catches (Scott La Valley had a stellar performance catching many GVSU players this point) to eliminate all but one Laker.
GVSU Sophomore Britton Skinner was the only remaining GVSU player, and had the task of surviving about eight minutes alone, in order to win the game for his squad. Skinner lasted several minutes by himself, avoiding several CMU team throws, while eliminating some of Central’s remaining players, but with under five minutes to play he was hit in the feet, tying the game at 1.
The last four and a half minutes of regulation looked like a completely different game. GVSU came out extremely fast, determined to win the game, while CMU seemed more conservative, content on letting overtime decide the winner of this contest.
GVSU played their best dodgeball all day in the frantic last few minutes, with a game plan that if any of their star players did not have a dodgeball in hand, a teammate would send one their way. Central was down to only four players (Wes Peters, Kris Kohler, Tyler Prill, and Pat Beguhn) by the time the clock hit zero, setting up a very interesting OT scenario.
The NCDA’s overtime format states each team gets to choose only six players to compete in a sudden death scenario. Central Michigan chose Wes Peters, Zach Bachner, Shane Willette (played a very strong game for CMU), Brett Hadwin, Mike Heller, and Kevin Greig as their overtime six. Each player in this group is a more than capable catcher for CMU, making them a dangerous OT roster to go up against regardless of the opponent.
GVSU’s six players chosen were veterans Kevin Bailey, Dylan Fettig, Aaron Terenzi, Trevor Nordberg, and Austin Morley, as well as sophomore standout Tyler Kowalk. Grand Valley’s OT group might not be as proficient at catching, but they are six of the best “transition” players in the league. All signs pointed to a very exciting ending.
Overtime started well for GVSU, thanks to Trevor Nordberg. A seasoned vet for GVSU, Nordberg excelled early in the OT period, getting a few hits and helping drop CMU down to three players left on the court. While CMU was down a few players, Wes Peters and Brett Hadwin, two of the most recognized performers in the NCDA still were on the court, giving them a fighting chance to still pull the upset.
GVSU was able to get a team throw on Brett Hadwin and eliminate the star player after a shot clock violation gave the Lakers an enormous advantage by allotting them all of the dodgeballs. After Mike Heller was hit in transition on a high throw by Kevin Bailey, it was down to CMU’s Wes Peters against Grand Valley’s entire OT roster. Peters was able to avoid a few throws by GVSU and even out the ball advantage that GVSU had held for most of the overtime period.
The game ended when GVSU decided to back up all the way near their back line, forcing Peters to make long throws. Bailey ended up making a diving catch on a well-placed low throw by Peters to seal the victory for Grand Valley State in a very intense game to say the least.
Overall, this was a very exciting game start to finish. Does the result of this game mean Central Michigan is positioned to make a Final Four appearance for the first time since their 2011 championship season? That is yet to be determined, but one thing I am confident in saying is that this team is no joke.
The leaders of the CMU Dodgeball Club deserve credit for rebuilding this team from their 2012-13 version which never seemed capable of fielding a full 20-man roster. Central Michigan is officially back on the map as a team that should realistically compete for a national title come April.
CMU’s Jacob Leski put it best when he told me “It makes me happy to hear other people are noticing our potential. Being called the dark horse year after year gets a little frustrating.”