James Madison is getting ready for the big trip West to the Chicago Dodgeball Open next weekend, and they’re going to get their money’s worth out of the games. The #4 Dukes (6-1-1) will get games against #6 Grand Valley, #11 DePaul, #3 Michigan State, and #17 Nebraska as they look to improve their record and put away the other East Coast schools in their regional rankings. They’re also looking for more national recognition. The Dukes burst onto the scene by having a great first regular season, and capped it off by upsetting Michigan State at Nationals. They reached the National Quarterfinals before being knocked off by Kentucky 3-1.
JMU was the best first year school since GVSU, and they are looking like they’re going to continue that through their second season. While it is unlikely that the team will become a back to back to back to back champion, or have a perfect season like the 2008-2009 Lakers did, they very well could be one of the new powers of collegiate dodgeball. JMU has a full arsenal of players, between some great catchers, some power arms, and good captain in Chris Hess (#5-C). They also have a talented JV squad and are a huge club, meaning they’ll have more players to draw from once this group of Dukes are gone.
James Madison has only lost to two teams in their two years of being a competitive team- Kent State and Kentucky. They are 1-6-2 against those two schools, but are 16-0 against every other team in the league. Besides Michigan State, Kentucky, and Kent State, JMU has not gotten a chance to play some of the bigger named schools, such as GVSU and SVSU. With big games at the CDO and some more at the BEAST II, this could be an opportunity to change that. James Madison is hosting the BEAST II, and will get some more quality matches in that tournament. Captain Chris Hess says in regards to playing the Michigan schools:
We are going into every Michigan game like it’s the National Championship game. We take that approach because we know that every one of those teams could be a championship contender, and we could (and probably will) see them in latter portion of the bracket at Nationals. Not saying that we won’t take our other matches seriously. But our focus is taking on the traditionally exceptional teams in the league. That said, we like our chances against these teams, because we feel like some of these teams don’t know how we play, and may have to adjust to our style during gameplay.
James Madison will be making a 716 mile drive to DePaul for the CDO, a drive that’s over 11 hours. It’ll be interesting to see how the Dukes handle a trip of that magnitude. With 4 games on the schedule on JMU, they can pick up some valuable experience along with some points to try and reach the top three in the standings.
Our goal at the CDO is to really make some noise. That was our goal at Nationals 2012, and I felt like making it to Quarterfinals helped, but we have to do a lot more in order for teams to realize our legitimacy. Ideally, anyone would agree that their goal that weekend will be to go 4-0, but I truthfully say that if we want teams to know exactly how good we are, a 4-0 appearance would be the quintessential weekend for us.
So how has JMU turned into a dodgeball power in just one year? According to Chris, it’s because of a certain team spirit.
At JMU, we feel like we have created a ‘family first, team second’ atmosphere that has made a really special bond between every member. We spend a lot of time with each other throughout the week. Whether this might be practicing 3 times a week, going out on the weekends with each other, or just simply going out to eat dinner, we have created that big family feel that helps us rely on each other on and off the court. It encourages all the members to come to practice, improve on their skills and become a better player. This has translated into some key wins over last season and this season. We hope that this carries into this spring and for the years to come.
Expect JMU to carry that mentality, and their tenaciousness, into the future, as they’ve certainly become one of the top dogs in the NCDA.