In their second year as an NCDA member, the JMU Dukes proved that they are far from a one-hit wonder. Playing in and travelling to a plethora of matches, they did not just establish themselves as the top team in the East Coast, but across the entire league. I recently talked with the clubs new president Ben Sizemore to ask him about what to expect in the team’s future, topics about their past, and a few other items.
SS: Coming into this year JMU has been ranked by the captains as the league’s number two team, what reason(s) do you think your team has done to earn such high praise and how do you think you can earn more this year?
BS: Well I think most of the hype about our team is coming stemming from all of our returners, we only graduated one of our players and most of our starters have been with us since the club started, so they’re familiar with the game and what it takes to win. We are also a very competitive team, as most the league knows, and our goal from day one has been to be the best. That fire in our team still has not died down.
SS: Leading off what you said about only losing one starter, how do you plan to integrate any new freshman to your team and not have them worry about making the team since you have such a big returning class?
BS: As I said, we only lost one starter but there are several members of the team who did not meet the requirements to stay an active member of the team, so they were removed. Our tryouts are next week so we’ll be taking about 15 new members. our top 20 is not set in stone so anyone who is proving themselves during practice and showing some real skill have a chance to break into the top 20.
SS: Fair enough, for those of us who don’t know, what does it take to prove yourself as an active member of JMU dodgeball?
BS: As defined by our constitution, an active member of JMU’s club dodgeball team must come to 50% of practices, 50% of fundraising events and log 5 hours of community service. there is always a few people who get too caught up mid-semester with school and other activities that they participate in so they aren’t able to meet these requirements. I know for a lot of members on the team getting those requirements is easy because we always have a good time when we’re together.
SS: Alright, now since we have a very male-dominated league I have to ask this one: JMU is very well known for the girls you bring to tournaments, is any part of that a strategy to distract the other players on the court?
BS: Hahaha of course, we’re always trying to be one step ahead of our competition, so during tryouts we look for the hottest girls and put them on the team regardless of ability in order to distract other teams in the league (I hope everyone knows that this is a joke). In all seriousness, our girls have proven themselves on the court and love traveling with the team and playing as well as supporting us.
SS: I only have two other serious questions left, one about the past and one for the future. For the past: coming into your first year as a team two years ago, JMU exploded onto the scene and shocked just about everyone they played, especially making it to the national quarterfinals. Following that up though I think it would be safe to say last year ended as a disappointment since your team ended the season in the same spot you did in year one. Is there any particular reason behind why the Dukes couldn’t make it to the semifinals or beyond?
BS: I don’t think there was a reason behind it, i just think it was bad luck. As everyone knows, we faced Grand Valley and beat them Saturday only to have to face them again the next day. I think our success against Grand Valley the first time was switching our tactics up on them; normally we’re a very fast paced, aggressive team that sends balls flying across the court as often as we can and do not let up until the game is over. However, we slowed down our game tremendously against Grand Valley, conserved the balls that we did have and picked them off one at a time. I felt that Grand Valley was surprised by this change and was not quite sure how to react to us, which gave us an advantage during that game. The next day they were ready for us and used the same tactic we did against them. having Grand Valley slow down the game affected a lot of our players as they became anxious waiting for action which caused them to expose themselves more trying to make plays happen, which eventually led to our downfall. Zac Brown came up to me after that game and told us if we had lost to Grand Valley on Saturday we would have been put away from them on the opposite side of the bracket, where I am confident we could have advanced into the finals, it was just in the luck of the draw. we just lost to Grand Valley on the wrong day haha.
SS: Alright, now looking to the future, JMU has easily been the class of the East Coast Conference, or whatever we are being called. Since your team is currently at least a level or two above any other EC team and you play them more often than you do anyone else, how do you plan to keep your team ready for the challenges that come from other top tier teams from around the league so you don’t have to worry about running into similar problems like you did last year at nationals?
BS: The best way to get the experience needed to beat the top teams around the country is to play the top teams from around the country and that’s exactly what we are going to do. Spring semester we are planning on traveling as much as our budget allows us, playing against as many teams in the Midwest and beyond as we possibly can.
SS: Very nice. And now for the fun question: celebrity crush then (childhood) and now?
BS: Hahaha jeez I’ve got too many. I guess childhood would be Jessica Alba. And now it’s a split between Melanie Iglesias, Jennifer Anniston, and Miley Cyrus.
SS: Alright I have to ask this since you said Miley, is it possible we could catch you twerking on Chris Hess like Miley did to Robin Thicke in the middle of a game?
BS: I definitely would not rule it out, if anything though it would be Chris twerking on me hahaha.
What does the 2013-14 season hold for JMU? That question will have to be answered as the year goes on. I can safely say though that I will be thoroughly entertained should the team come up with a player where half the team twerks on the other half while blocking for them.