Akron hosted the second installment of The War on the 10th and 11th, and the name could not have been more appropriate. The tournament featured 8 of the top 14 schools, a brand new team in West Virginia, and some hungry teams looking to climb the ranks in Miami and Akron. There were a total of 21 matches played and 10(!) of them were technical upsets. On top of that, coming into the weekend there was almost a perfect flip in teams ranked 3-7. We have described “tiers” in the past to describe the placement of teams, and the 3-7 ranked teams have established a tier that is nearly impossible to make heads or tails of at this point in the season. Let’s take a look at the specifics of what went down in the state of Ohio.
Without a doubt, the biggest winner of The War was SVSU. The Cardinals walked out of the event 4-0 and jumped up from #7 to #3 in the country over the two day span. They picked up big wins against JMU, Towson, and Kent which has shook the NCDA landscape. An interesting thing to note is the timeliness of each win against those three schools. JMU, Towson, and Kent were all favored against SVSU based on Gonzalez ratings which gave SVSU bigger exchanges for their wins. This played a big role in moving as quickly up the rankings as they did.
Coming into the event there was not a lot of attention around this squad, at least not positive attention. Many were upset by SVSU’s decision to forego the Michigan Dodgeball Cup in favor of The War. While it certainly wasn’t a popular decision, it appears to have been the smart one for the Cardinals. SVSU’s talent was definitely on display and they have a strong three headed monster in Putnam, Mize, and Hazergian. Going forward the goal for this team will be to maintain a top four seed in order to give themselves the best chance of making it to another Final Four.
If you had to pick a 2nd place team out of this event, it would have to go to Towson. The Tigers went 4-1 on the weekend, with the lone loss coming against SVSU. Their most notable wins were against Kent and BGSU, both of which were ranked ahead of Towson coming into the event. They also picked up convincing wins against Ohio and Akron.
A common criticism of the Towson team this year has been their ability to get wins against top level opponents, which was addressed in Bailey and Leski’s Power Rankings article. With wins against two teams who were in the top five of the Gonzalez rankings I’d say it’s safe to say they accomplished that goal. Some big keys in their victories were their discipline and well-rounded-ness as a team. While they certainly have some excellent players, no one player stood out more than the others this weekend. Against Kent, they put on an absolute clinic of what it means to play smart and as a team.
We’ll have to see if they’re able to overcome their recent hump with JMU. If they are, I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question for this team to compete for a national title.
On the note of JMU, this certainly wasn’t their best tournament. While a 2-2 record certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world, the two wins were against Miami and Ohio, two teams they were heavily favored against. The two losses came to SVSU and Kent.
Their match against SVSU was arguably the most anticipated matchup of the weekend. It resulted in an overtime loss to SVSU, who had just a little more talent when it mattered most. Against Kent it was a different story. While some of the points did come down to a few players for each side, it’s hard to consider a 4-1 match as being “close”.
To JMU’s credit, there were some good pieces missing from their team, most notably Evan Bosanko. That being said, they still had some familiar faces in Doug Schilling, Evan Eschenburg, and Gabe Whitten, which should have been enough talent to get wins against one of the two aforementioned teams. There were some good moments for them. They showed that they still have the arms to compete with anyone in the league and had some bursts of good individual performances. However, at times it felt like a group of individuals as opposed to a true team. It could have been a result of some missing players, but I think it was more so an indicator of their play style from this past weekend.
JMU will be fine, let’s not mistake that, but their reputation as one of the most dominant teams in the league this season has certainly taken a hit. They will have a chance at redemption when they play at home in a couple weeks for BEAST VII. I believe this tournament will be a better representation of the caliber of this team.
I didn’t have much of a chance to see Penn State play at The War. Based on past experience and the brief moments I did see, my thoughts are sort of reconfirmed: good talent, but inconsistent at times.
I’m going to call out my fellow writers here. To say PSU is the 17th ranked team in the country is comical to me, they are certainly higher than that. With that being said, it’s hard for me to see these guys making it past the first round at Nationals due to inconsistency. While they were playing Ohio, the turning point of the match came in the middle of a scrum in the 2nd half when balls were being exchanged everywhere. Even though PSU was able to get a couple people out, Ohio maintained their composure in that moment which lead to them retaining ball control and being able to pick off remaining PSU players from there to go up 3-1. As a result of that loss, PSU finds themselves 2 rating points behind East Coast rival VCU in the Gonzalez ratings.
In general I think this team has some pretty decent potential, but they need to go back to the drawing board to find a strategy that works best for them. Some more games and experience will certainly help them move in the right direction before Nationals.
I was feeling realllllllly good about the Golden Flashes going into this weekend, but now I don’t know what to think. They had the biggest roller coaster Saturday, starting with a bad 4-1 loss to Towson, followed by a huge 4-1 win to JMU, then finishing with a 3-1 loss to SVSU.
Against Towson, their biggest killer was losing ball control. In the first half, it was all Towson. They took a commanding 3-0 lead due to better ball control, and in the second half played stall ball to defeat Kent 4-1. In their following game against JMU it looked a completely different team. Both teams tend to play it out as more of a slug-fest, and while there was certainly good pace from both teams, Kent made much more timely and smart decisions to give them the edge over the Dukes.
The Golden Flashes certainly have the talent to compete with any team in the league, I hold firm to this. They tend to favor playing with a more free-form style and allowing players to make plays independently. Because of the nets at Nationals this year, this will favor teams like them since they have less concern of giving up ball control. But for a team with championship aspirations, they still have some adjustments that need to be made.
The Falcons of BGSU had arguably the most balanced schedule of the weekend with no “gimme” games at any point. They started the day with two wins against PSU and VCU before falling to Towson in a controversial finish.
It’s pretty easy to tell this is the most talented BGSU has ever looked in their program history. Their captains in Reid Manger, Tyler Wickham, and Max Kowalski are all top-tier talents and would certainly be qualified to make the All-Ohio team at the end of the year. They also got some solid contributions from Owen Sill at The War. The biggest takeaway from this team is that they have plenty of skilled catchers which is good for making deep runs at Nationals, especially when arm fatigue starts to become more prevalent. This team also plays with a ton of passion which is matched by few. If momentum starts rolling their way it is hard to stop them.
One thing that does concern me about this team going forward is their ability to gather points in a hurry. Over the course of 20 games this year they’ve outscored opponents 59-37 which translates to scoring 2.95 points a game and giving up 1.85. However, if you take away games against teams below .500 (MSU, CSU, BW, PSU, OSU) that spread is now an even 29-29. For BGSU this year, the goal should be Final Four. To get to that level, they need to find a way to score more points off higher quality teams on a consistent basis.
The next big tournament for BGSU will be the Ohio Dodgeball Cup (ODC). My initial gut feeling is it will most likely come down to BGSU and Kent, but we could see a surprise like last year. A dominant performance for the Falcons here would certainly quiet my criticism, we’ll just have to wait and see if they can pull it off.
The next team to look at is VCU. Overall, it was a pretty good weekend for the Rams who finished 2-1. Their day started with a convincing 4-0 win over host school Akron, then falling to BGSU 2-1, and finally ending the day with a 3-2 victory over Ohio in the waning seconds of the match.
I’ve talked about consistency issues with other teams, but that applies more to VCU than any other school in the country. In the first half of every game this season they have outscored opponents 20-11. The second half and OT is a different story, where they have been outscored by opponents 14-19. VCU is a team much like BGSU that comes out with a ton intensity and passion and momentum, but they have had trouble sustaining that this year. Speaking of BGSU, in their match against them this weekend, this exact situation happened. The first half was almost all VCU and they went into halftime with a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, they were unable to hold on and started making mistakes and getting fatigued, leading to a 2-1 win for BGSU. Against Ohio the same situation almost occurred. VCU enjoyed a 2-1 halftime lead, however they dropped the first point in the second half, before scoring their third and final point, thanks to some late game heroics from Wayne Shortt.
Next tournament they will face some big obstacles, with the chance to play the likes of Grand Valley and JMU for the first time this year. When the Rams are playing at their best they can be a competitive group, it’s just a matter of keeping the same intensity and focus from start to finish.
The University of Akron Dodgeball Club had a severely underwhelming showing at their home tournament. The Zips ended up 2-3 for the weekend, starting out with a 0-4 loss to friendly rival Virginia Commonwealth, and a dominant victory over West Virginia that ended up being 8-0.
The heartbreak of the day came against rival Miami, which ended up 3-2 in favor of the Redhawks. Miami outscored Akron 3-0 at first, with Akron making a quick rally in the second half to score two points, one of which took around 3 minutes, and ended with a dramatic play that had Akron’s Anthony Serapiglia bait the Miami player with a catch from less than 5 feet away, and then was able to toe tag the remaining player to secure the second point for the Zips. Unfortunately time expired as they tried to earn their third point and take the match into overtime. It was a hard fought second half, but Akron needs to learn how to score points in the beginning of the match and hold on to the lead. It seems like they can’t keep it together for a full match anymore.
On day two of the War, the Zips only had one task, but it was a daunting one for the young squad; Towson. Towson had a good weekend in Akron, gaining wins over Kent State and Bowling Green on day one. Akron had the chance to take the number one upset in NCDA history, but history tends to repeat itself. The Zips were able to take the first point in dominant fashion, with Colby Briceland and Joey Stack making quick work of the Tigers. However, the next two points were heavily in favor of the more experienced Towson squad, bringing the match 2-1 at the half. Akron did as they tend to do, and let the lead roll up, until it was 5-1 at the finish of the match.
The last match for the Zips were the Vikings of Cleveland State. This match went about as well as expected, with the more talented and experienced Akron squad walking away with the dub at 4-1.
The take away from the Akron Dodgeball club is that, while they may have a few very talented guys, the Zips are extremely top heavy, and have been for the past couple of seasons. Unless this changes, we will be able to expect more of the same from them in the upcoming tournaments.
Cleveland drew the short stick when they came to the University of Akron. They were scheduled to play SVSU, Akron, and DePaul, but sadly, DePaul dropped due to weather restrictions.
So CSU started their day against the winners of the War, Saginaw Valley State. That match went as expected with a 5-0 outcome in the end. There were some high spots for the Vikings, as they have a few talented guys. But couldn’t handle the experience and skill of SVSU.
Their last match was against the much more formidable Akron Zips, however the matches were very much the same. With the outcome being 4-1 against the favor of Cleveland. There was a highlight reel worthy couple of minutes for the Vikings where a player was able to Catch out Joey Stack, Josh Lyons, and Russell Bolender, three of Akron’s better players, before being taken out. Cleveland has a lot of talent and room to grow.
Miami impressed me the most this weekend. I knew that they were capable of great play, but this was something else. This young squad managed to put it together for the War, and their hard work paid off for them.
They fell to JMU 4-1 after successfully taking a point from the Dukes. Unfortunately, things started to go downhill for the Redhawks and the score got away from them a bit. This was to be expected from the top tier team that is JMU.
They then had a dominant showing against WVU winning by a score of 5-0. They were able to stretch a little and let some of their newer guys take the reins against the new West Virginia squad.
Boy, did Miami walk out onto the court against Akron and slap them in the mouth. Miami took a 3-0 lead on Akron before they knew what hit them. The Zips came back with two quick points in the second half, but the Redhawks were able to withstand the storm that was Akron, in order to take their first win over their in state rivals.
Miami improved tremendously over the season so far, and with the Ohio Dodgeball Cup this weekend, I can see them making more waves.
The Bobcats had a pretty tough slate for the War having to go through an East Coast gauntlet. On day one they faced off against PSU and VCU, followed by day two which featured JMU and Towson. Ohio finished 1-3, with the lone win coming in their first game against PSU.
Ohio’s best attribute this season is their sense of teamwork and discipline, this was evident in their matches against PSU and VCU. As mentioned before, the turning point in their match against Ohio was the scrum which turned to Ohio’s favor. Against VCU, they showed the composure and potential to come from behind, but just couldn’t complete it. The biggest thing holding this team back is a lack of power throwers. Kyle Smart and Adam Hynes fill this role for them well. The problem is they don’t have much after that, and with Adam Hynes continuing to battle a finger injury it is difficult for him to throw with full force for extended periods of time.
This team fell from 14 to 18 in the Gonzalez rankings, but with the Ohio Dodgeball Cup coming up they have good potential to climb back up. More competition against teams like BGSU and Kent will put this team in a good position come Nationals. Even while they don’t stand out physically or talent wise, they have few weak links, so I’m optimistic for this team’s future.
A new challenger approaches. That’s right, West Virginia University made their debut as the 51st NCDA member team! This team is in a good spot geographically speaking and will have lots of opportunities to get better as a group. I believe this tournament was a good stepping stone for the young squad and gave them a chance to see some of the top competition in the league.
Cory Nasiadka, brother of PSU’s Jake Nasiadka, is the leader of this team and it is clear has had a positive impact in teaching his team the game and getting the hang of things. I was surprised just to see some of them already working on or having a developed pinch throw, something which can be hard for new teams to grasp (pun intended). Let’s keep an eye out for these guys a couple years down the road. They have a lot of potential to grow and make a big splash in the future.
A Look Ahead
The East Coast and Ohio regions had the heaviest representation this weekend, and both have big tournaments planned for next weekend. On the east side, we have the seventh installment of BEAST hosted by JMU. This tournament will feature GVSU, Towson, JMU, VCU, Stevenson, and UVA. It will be a good opportunity to see the gap between teams on the East Coast, and will give us a chance to see how JMU and Towson compete with GVSU who beat them both last season.
In Ohio we will see the (roughly) annual Ohio Dodgeball Cup which is expected to have nearly every Ohio school in attendance. Last year we had a big surprise in Ohio overcoming the odds to win the championship after being winless at the event the year prior. There will be a lot of storylines to pay attention to at this event and will paint an ever clearer picture of what to expect for Nationals come April.