This past weekend, Towson University hosted the biggest event in program history when six teams gathered on Saturday, March 26th for the Michigan Versus the East Coast Tournament. At this dodgeball tournament were the usual East Coast mainstays: James Madison, Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth, and Towson of course. Along with these familiar foes, TU also was able to convince #1 Grand Valley State and #3 Michigan State to make the trek to the Baltimore area for a late season showdown.
This was one of the most exciting and telling tournaments of the year. I highly doubt anyone would have predicted all of these results correctly:
MSU def VCU 4-0
Towson def JMU 3-1
VCU def UMD 2-1
GVSU def JMU 2-1
GVSU def UMD 5-0
MSU def Towson 2-1 OT
JMU def MSU 3-2 OT
Towson def UMD 4-0
JMU def VCU 2-1
GVSU def MSU 5-0
GVSU def Towson 3-1
It is safe to say that this tournament continued the trend of absolute chaos that has plagued the NCDA’s 2015-16 season. Favorites are never safe in the current NCDA, and this weekend proved that once again. Several upsets took place at Towson, and many other interesting final scores were a result of the MVEC. Here is a brief list of takeaways that I had from the wild Michigan Versus the East Coast Tournament.
Towson is nothing to mess with.
Wow. Just wow. Towson finally beat James Madison. The monkey is finally off their back. This wasn’t just a win over JMU though; it was much more than that. The Towson seniors were able to walk off the court at their final home tournament knowing that they had a dominant performance against the East Coast’s top squad.
Ever since the East Coast began playing in the NCDA, JMU was the top dog out east. UMD was able to squeek out a win a few years ago when JMU brought very few varsity regulars to a tournament, but this win was so much more meaningful. TU won a late season showdown over JMU, with both teams having the majority of their starters in attendance. After a year of struggles for the Tigers, this win could possibly springboard them into a historic showing at Nationals. For the first time ever, I can confidently say that Towson is a Final Four contender.
Jon Shaw had a solid game against JMU, catching everything that came his way. Sean Smith might not be known to have a lethal arm, but he played better in the second half of that game than I have ever seen him play. He made a number of low throws that clipped JMU players toes, decisively ending their chances at a comeback during the first two points of the second half.
Michael Hinely is a power arm just as advertised, and Joe Rindone (#44) is the hardest thrower I’ve seen in a while. My teammates watched Towson warm up and they started chuckling nervously watching him throw. Todd Givens Jr. is a serious athlete, and he would make the OT roster on just about every team in this league. Nick Cerdeira is not afraid to dive across the court trying to make a catch. Every team needs a guy like that.
Jonny Soward (the guy with the dreadlocks) was actually a very dangerous player. He made a number of clutch catches vs. JMU, and after the game my teammates mentioned him as a guy to be aware of. You have never heard his name in an article before, but he is a solid player. David Guare was one of the main impact players in my opinion this weekend. He helped dictate the pace of the game with his speed and instincts.
Lastly, Jeremy Brown is a solid all around player, and someone who will surprise some opponents at Nationals. Towson is not short on talent this year. Let’s leave it at that.
Oh by the way, TU also took MSU to overtime on Saturday. Yes that MSU. The one from the mighty Michigan Region. I’ll just leave that there for you…
JMU still has some serious talent.
No, this is not the same James Madison that many of us remember. There is not much remaining from their 2013 squad that took the college dodgeball world by storm at Nationals when they beat GVSU on Day-1. I’m not going to talk about JMU of old though, because the new JMU still is impressive.
The most obvious place to start is with Doug Schilling. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past year or two, you have heard this guy’s name. The sophomore for the Dukes has emerged as one of the top players in the league. His overtime performance against Michigan State (two to three catches and at least one thrown out) ranks up there as one of the best individual OT performances in league history. He has a strong throw with solid movement and catches as good as anyone on his team. I’d argue that Schilling is one of the most talented players in the NCDA, and if he can play more strategic in mid-point situations, and not leave himself vulnerable to get hit in transition, he will be the best player in the NCDA by next season.
Derek Pierce the captain for JMU really impressed me. He is a strong thrower who plays strategically but what impressed me most was his leadership. The first year captain for the Dukes got his team to bounce back after a loss to TU and a 2-0 deficit to GVSU at Halftime. At that point most teams would give up, but he got JMU to nearly tie the game before the end of regulation, then following that game they beat #3 MSU in an overtime thriller. If JMU listen’s to Pierce’s every commend at Nationals, the Dukes will be a dangerous squad.
Beyond those players, I was impressed with Tanner Weaver as I always am when I watch their team. He is a talented thrower, and certainly a top 15 draft pick in the All-Star Draft. Evan Bosanko is a young gun for JMU that many of you may not recognize, but let me tell you, he is a solid player. He has a deceptively strong throw, and plays the game as fast as anyone on the court. If I had to guess, I’d say he will earn an All-American honor before his career is up at JMU.
Bottom line for James Madison is this. When they are on, they are a great team. When they are off, Towson can beat them with ease. Good JMU is a Final Four team, bad JMU loses early on Sunday at Nationals. Only time will tell which we see.
UMD and VCU are a few pieces away from being a contender.
I only got to see each of these teams for a very limited amount of time this weekend. So I don’t have any specifics on them, or any names to drop (sorry guys). What I will say is that James Madison and Towson have raised the bar this season, and UMD and VCU have more improving to do to get to that level.
I am impressed by the fact that VCU has now beat UMD twoce this year. That is a step in the right direction for that program. UMD obviously has had a difficult year, but there is still some top level talent on that roster. If they can stick together and round out the bottom of their roster with good recruiting next year, they should be back to being a top-10 level program.
MSU was not their normal self at MVEC.
Yes, I know MSU lost two games at MVEC. I know they lost to a JMU team that was coming off defeats to TU and GVSU earlier that day. I know that Towson forced overtime against them. I know that GVSU took their match 5-0 against the Spartans.
What I want you all to know is that you should not look to deeply into these results. MSU is a much better team than this tournament indicated. They did not have their full varsity roster, and they were worn out by the time they took on JMU and GVSU.
The Spartans will be ready for Nationals, and will be in position to make some serious noise on Day 2, especially now that everyone is doubting them. Keep in mind that MSU has two wins each over CMU and GVSU this year! Sure, they played poorly at the MVEC, and they need to improve before Nationals if the plan to compete, but it would be a very poor choice for any team to overlook the abilities of Michigan State.
The impact performers for MSU were the usual: Colin O’Brien, Noe Galaviz, Alex Zajac, Lucas Salinas, etc.
I have to give props to the one and only Wes Peters for having a monster overtime performance vs. Towson. He had a handful of clutch plays in OT, saving the Spartans from a loss to the Tigers.
GVSU proved they deserve their #1 ranking.
Lastly, I’ll talk about my own team: GVSU. The Lakers, as most of you know, have a young team this year. The good news for the Lakers is that the inexperience is disappearing before their eyes. The rookies on the GVSU roster are not only talented, but are now equipped with enough in-game experience to be smart, dangerous dodgeball players.
GVSU brought 18 of their top 20 to MVEC, and left no doubt in anyone’s mind that they deserve the #1 ranking. The Lakers jumped to a 2-0 lead on JMU, before the Dukes scored a second half point to make it the only close match of the day for GVSU.
Then they took out UMD 5-0, with their captains sitting out over half the game. After that they ripped off a 5-0 win at the hands of MSU (as previously mentioned, do not doubt MSU based on one score). Lastly they dismantled Towson in a 4-1 game that never had any real drama.
In a tournament where every other team had two losses or more, GVSU drove home with an undefeated 4-0 record and all the momentum in the world heading into Nationals. A lot can change in the next few weeks, but as of now, it is safe to say GVSU earned the right to call themselves favorites for the 2016 title.