Hunter Ford: After what was clearly a rough start to the season at 1-8, BGSU has stormed back into national relevancy, especially while winning ODC. What caused the monumental turnaround to happen?
Max Kowalski: I feel we were missing some key players the first couple tournaments plus minimal practices. We turned it around by focusing on catching and communication.
Reid Manger: To me, there were 3 things that led to this turnaround.
1) There was an adjustment period after losing so much talent last year. We lost what was arguably 4 of our best 7 players, and I was still a month out of labrum surgery yet. You lose that many key pieces there is going to be a transition period
2) Not only was there that transition period, we also had some poor attendance early on from some of our key players due to some various conflicts. Once we re-inserted them into the lineup, along with some great progression from our freshmen, that’s when things began to get rolling for us.
3) We faced a lot of great opponents from the get go. Every one of those 9 teams we faced to begin the year are top 15 teams in the league. Miami, Kent, SVSU, GVSU, CMU to name 5 of those losses. Credit to all of our opponents for showing up to play.
HF: In the early stages of the year a top 8 finish seemed like a lost cause, but again, thanks to this huge swing you guys have tons of momentum heading into the last month and a half of the season. What would you say are your teams end of the year goals?
RM: An ODC title was a big goal of ours this year, that was the one milestone (aside from a championship of course) that the three of us felt we were lacking in our time here with the team. I personally feel a lot of the pressure is off of us now, but come time for Nationals we will be eyeing an elite 8 finish. Possibly more if our catching wills us there. This might not be the final 4 Bowling Green team from last year, but we’re more than capable to play spoiler if a team takes us lightly come bracket play.
HF: Recently there have been some choice words by an outside team who is very critical of the Ohio region and the teams this season. What are your thoughts on how your region stacks up against the rest and what you have to do to get that reputation turned around? ICYMI, I’m referring to the recent JMU interview.
RM: Every year I play in the NCDA, the more I feel like the talent gap between regions get closer and closer. JMU loves to talk, that’s nothing new, and they are entitled to their own opinions. I have a lot of respect for the teams in the East Coast, they have their own unique style of play.
If I’m being honest, though, I feel the Ohio region isn’t behind the East Coast by any means. Obviously the Michigan region is the class of the NCDA and controls a large majority of the final 4 teams, but in recent memory Ohio has been a little more successful at getting into that elite group of teams. We made an appearance last year and OSU made in appearance back in 2016. I believe the last East Coast team, and please correct me if I’m wrong, to be represented in the final 4 was JMU back in 2015. That’s quite a long time. I also think that Ohio has more depth as a region than what the East Coast does. I’d argue Ohio is home to 7 of the top 20 schools in the NCDA, that’s nothing to scoff at. Towson and JMU are traditionally two of the NCDA’s powerhouses, but I think more thought has to go into this region debate than that.
I would like to go on record, though, and say that I think Towson ends this dry spell of final four runs for the East Coast. I know our two clubs have a bit of history with each other, and they got some criticism post war, but they have an extremely talented team this year and I think they’ll make the most of it.
MK: I feel reid answered the last two questions well. I don’t have too much to add except to emphasize BG had a final four run last year and the gap between regions isn’t that great. JMU and Towson losing to us last year is proof of that.
Kevin Bailey: It’s no secret some people have a certain ‘perception’ when it comes to BGSU Dodgeball, whether that’s fair or not. Do you feel like your club is a bit misunderstood? How would you define the culture within the BGSU program? I think people would be interested to hear it from your side.
MK: I feel our program is misunderstood. Other teams were surprised by how well we did last year and their explanation was that was cheated. I feel that isn’t the case and that mentality carried over to this year. We don’t tolerate cheating and we want others to realize this. I feel our players call their outs and they respect the game. I’ve seen other teams not go out after being hit but they aren’t labeled as cheaters. The comments on live streams like to critique our play but they don’t have a better view than the refs. It’s hard to definitively see anything from our zoomed out video cameras.
RM: Yeah I do think there are a lot of misconceptions about our program, and it does eat at me a little bit because it takes away from the strides we’ve made and our accomplishments the past couple of seasons. A couple of controversial calls in high profile situations led to this reputation coming about, but I can assure every team and fan of the league that it’s a non issue for this current squad and wasn’t an issue prior to that. It was an overblown narrative that was ran with. We have a 0 tolerance policy for any form of dishonesty on this team and during that whole mess last year we had a team meeting and made that abundantly clear. Anyone who has a problem or questions about are squad are welcome to message any of the three of us. We love this sport and only want the best for the NCDA, and we’re not this bad group of guys a lot of people have hyped us up to be. We would love to get to know anyone in the league better who might have issues with us and possibly change your negative perceptions
HF: I noticed BGSU has been a bit more active on Twitter lately, care to share who’s the new person in charge?
MK: What’s twitter?
RM: Get out of the Stone Age, Max. Cole Geil is the man behind the screen. He wanted to make BGSU’s Twitter presence great again and hopefully he keeps at it.
HF: Will he be able to attain Sierra Middleton levels of Twitter jockeyness?
MK: We will see. Hard to keep up with that.
HF: I need to hear it out of Reid’s thumbs
RM: She has a Twitter personality that’s hard to keep up with sometimes haha. I’m not sure Cole will bring us to that level of greatness, but I can’t expect him to measure up to my girlfriend either.
(Hunter I don’t appreciate you trying to get me in trouble, we’re here to talk about dodgeball not my personal life haha)
KB: Alright, the three of you seem to be the most recognizable players on BG, but who are some of the younger players who have stepped up and deserve some recognition?
MK: Im happy to see owen getting some well deserved recognition. Weston and tyler tanner have really shown to me they can catch and shine when needed.
RM: We have a really strong sophomore class too. The “Goon Squad” consisting of Tanner Bower, Max Vincent, Cole Wilson, Cole Geil, and Carson Ford really are the future of this team from both a playmaking and leadership standpoint. On a lighter note, anybody getting attention that isn’t Max is welcome in my book. I’m tired of him telling me about how much better he is than me so quit feeding his ego (Love you buddy)
HF: Does anyone call Carson, Carson Chevy? Asking from one Ford to another.
RM: No, but I look forward to calling him that every day for the next week
KB: As you know, college careers can only last so long. Eventually you each will no longer be able to make an impact on the BGSU Dodgeball program. What would you each define as ‘success’ for this team moving forward after your playing days are over?
RM: First and foremost, I just want the club to exist after we’re gone. I don’t think there will be any issue with that, I have a lot of faith in the next people up to take charge and ensure that the program thrives over the next few years, but that should always be the #1 goal of leadership within this league in my opinion. It’s always a shame when you see a club go defunct, especially when we’re trying to expand so rapidly, and I never want to see that happen to this program no matter what talent runs through it. Past that, I really want this organization to be a perennial elite 8 team from here on out. Bowling Green Dodgeball was a doormat for the league for the greater part of 10+ years. Now that we have a solid nucleus of talent, I think the program should make it a priority to sustain success and bring respect to our program.
MK: Success to me is seeing the new members having the same passion for the sport as I do. I want everyone to push each other to be better and gain every experience they can from the league.
KB: In terms of college dodgeball, where do you see the sport going in the future? Any ideas for how the NCDA can continue to grow its footprint?
MK: I’d like to see the league become better about building up each team. We all want to see high quality games so everyone needs to improve. Instead of calling a region trash, social media needs to have constructive criticism. I understand the game is competitive but leave that on the court. More cohesiveness between teams will lead to a better experience and allow the league to grow in more ways than one.
RM: I completely agree with Max. I think in large part the league gets along with each other, especially within regions, but there is still too much tearing each other down. There’s a lot of immaturity among some teams (and even some alumni) that leads to a lot of unnecessary drama that should have been left in middle school.
On a different note, I think the NCDA should aim to expand to 100 active teams in the next 10 years. It’s ambitious, but the more teams that play the more popular the sport will naturally become. The ultimate goal would be for it to become a collegiate sport I would think, but that’s really far down the line.
HF: Kevin is very adamant about some potential rule changes, including a shortened throw line. As guys who have played in leagues with shorter throwing distances, what are your thoughts on that potential change? Are there any other rule changes you would like to see as well?
RM: Initially I was a huge proponent of the shorter throw line, but as wall ball has become more and more of a necessary strategy to win in this league, I’ve gone against that change. Any rule change that promotes or makes it easier to play wall ball shouldn’t be passed. Wall ball is a cancer to this league, in my opinion, and isn’t the point of this sport. The point is to throw dodgeballs at people, not the wall behind them. Games become much more boring and lopsided this way. Nationals 2018 and ODC 2019 are to great examples of how exciting and unpredictable this sport can be when you take away the walls. Before we explore a shorter throw line, we need to explore some kind of mandated netting (easier said than done) behind the courts. This is a much bigger issue in the NCDA than the distance of our throw lines. For what it’s worth, Kevin, I do think that a 27 ft throw line is where the league should trend to. I think in a vacuum that’s a positive change. It’s just that I think we need to tackle this issue first.
MK: I’m a fan of the shorter throw lines but I think that will just encourage more wall ball because it will be easier. If there are nets, Id even vote for 25ft throw lines, but not with the current wall ball play style. I also understand people want to ban gloves as well. I am against that because I believe it does not help with catching as much as people think. Most catches are made using their body and not only the hands. Gloves help hold tape on fingers and help prevent blisters than just tape alone. Yes on the shorter throw lines but we should be able to use gloves.
HF: Who you wanna play at nationals?
MK: Penn State is on the list because they are a fun team and we haven’t played them this year yet
RM: We would definitely like to play some different teams at Nationals that we don’t normally get to see. That’s a big part of the fun of going to Nationals. It adds a bit of fun to the game when two squads face each other with little to no idea of each other’s play styles.
KB: Any bold predictions for nationals? Also any bold prediction on which school(s) have the best shit to end the Michigan region title streak either this year on in the future?
RM: Miami is gonna take home that title next year. I’ll be a Miami hype guy next year. No one is beating GV this year, even though I think Towson is the closest team that could. I think they’re gonna have a hard time doing it, though, without walls at Nationals
RM: Oh, I have a bold prediction for you Hunter
RM: I’m 4-0 against you all time
HF: That’s…not a prediction?
RM: Not really a prediction, I just wanted to remind you
Owen Sill: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” – Marshawn Lynch