Northern Kentucky to Host First Dodgeball Tournament

This weekend we’re set to see a series of tournaments around the league. We have the East Coast Dodgeball Cup, where James Madison or Penn State are favored to win. We’ve also got the tenth edition of the Grand Valley Gauntlet, featuring three of the top five teams in the country in Michigan State, Cincinnati, and Grand Valley State. Finally, we have the Highland Heights Classic, which features first-time host Northern Kentucky facing off in a quick round-robin series with the University of Kentucky and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

These three teams are hungry to bask in the glory of victory, as wins have been tough to come by all season. In fact, the Wildcats haven’t played a match and the Illini have only played three (winning one). The Norse have played a respectable eleven matches in their inaugural season, and do have a win to their name. But again, two wins all year long between three teams makes for an interesting tournament only two weeks before Nationals. Let’s dig into how each team is set to look this weekend.

Can the Norse Notch Two Victories?

As mentioned, the Norse have won but one match all season. To double that number in a single weekend would be impressive, regardless of the inexperience of their competition, especially considering the Norse themselves are a first-year club.

With the home-court advantage and playing the tournament in the very gym they’ve practiced all season on, fortune does seem to favor the Norse heading into Saturday. Another factor favoring NKU is that home-court advantage generally means they will be able to rely on fielding as good of a roster as they have all year, and it looks like that will be the case this weekend. Per sources (Shout out Stumpo News Network), the Norse are expecting approximately 14-16 players this weekend, by far their biggest roster thus far in their program’s short history.

Names to look out for for Northern Kentucky are of course Captain Will Strong and Assistant Captain & Ohio University alumni Jacob Fleck. They are the team’s two most experienced and developed players by far. Beyond that, however, look out for a plethora of guys who can eat a dodgeball, including Sahil Bachwani, Sam Ghimire, and Matt Graf. The Norse have also added a couple of absolute athletes in the past two weeks alone in Jacob Robbins and Jason Noe. While they are very raw, they’ve already shown the potential at practice of what they may grow into, and this weekend is an excellent opportunity to jumpstart that development.

All of these words and fluff (written by their own coach) are meaningless, however, if the team cannot get the job done come Saturday. This weekend is their best opportunity to get out on the court and start showing the league what they can expect going forward for the Norse, let’s see if they can handle being favored for a change.

Wildcats to Play First Tournament of Season

The University of Kentucky Wildcats are a complete unknown coming into Highland Heights Havoc, having not played a match since last season. Heck, they’ve only played 19 matches total since before COVID, and several teams have nearly as many wins this season alone.

It may be safe to say the expectation for Kentucky is to have fun this weekend and learn a bit about the sport of competitive dodgeball, only boasting 3 returning players from last year’s 0-9 campaign, and featuring 9 (possibly 10) players this weekend overall. Fortunately, they may be on equal footing in that department against the Illini, but it is downright difficult to achieve victory in this league when you aren’t able to bring a full 12-player roster to a tournament in this league.

With that said, there are a lot of bright spots to note for UK (including their themed practices! Pretty creative way to engage a small, young team honestly). First, the fact that they’re making it out to this tournament at all when they could’ve easily gone the entire season having not played a match. The league is better off with the Wildcats in the fold, and it’s exciting that they’ll be able to see live action this weekend. A few faces to look out for this weekend for UK are John Patrick Phillips, Dane Coleman, and Mark Anthony Ribbot II, who are the three Captains of the team, two of whom return from last year.

It’s been a grind for UK since COVID, and they haven’t quite been able to bounce back yet, but all it takes is one solid-sized rookie class to stick around for things to quickly turn for the better. If Kentucky can recruit 8-10 players (and ideally 3-4 of them be athletes/good throwers) in the fall, watch for this club to blossom.

Illini Looking to Lock in Before Nationals

With Nationals on the horizon, the Illini had a decision to make, as they wanted to get more matches in prior to the big finale of the College Dodgeball season. They could either go to Grand Valley and face the likes of Central Michigan, Bowling Green, and likely one of the top 5 teams in the nation, or they could come play two matches against relatively evenly matched teams, one that both Captain Charles Cardenas and Coach Wes Peters have been wanting to get set up all year in UIUC vs. NKU. The Illini (thankfully) chose the latter.

So how exactly does UIUC look this weekend? Well, they expect to have a similar roster size to UK, featuring 9, potentially 10 players. This writer would reiterate the point that it is difficult to win in this league playing 9v12. With that being said, UIUC is the most experienced team playing this weekend with Captain Charles Cardenas playing a full season in the National Dodgeball Association (NDA), and a few other Illini having played at the NCDA’s Alumni Tournament back in January. That could end up tipping the scales of the weekend in favor of Illinois.

There are certainly some names you should know for Illinois, starting with of course their aforementioned Captain, Charles Cardenas. Charles is a great athlete and has no doubt worked hard to develop his players both individually and as a team throughout the year. Beyond Charles though, the Illini have a slew of players they’re excited to showcase this weekend including Ehis Eromosele, Deven Rea, and Alec Sellers. When we spoke to Charles earlier this week, he was confident and pleased with the club’s progression as a cohesive team since the last tournament, citing the increase they’ve had in communication and overall coordination. They may not be perfect, says Charles, but the team is coming together.

It’s A Great Weekend for Dodgeball!

Regardless of how things shake out, this tournament should turn out to be a great day of dodgeball for everyone involved. The Wildcats will get some much-needed competitive experience, dipping their toes back in the water to collegiate competition (hopefully they can make it up for Nationals as well!). The Illini are very similar, looking to get a good warm-up for the big dance, having not played a match since November. Lastly, the Norse play with something to prove. They have been put through the ringer all season long, really only playing matches against teams better than them at the behest of their coaches & advisor.

This weekend is a win-win-win no matter how the results shake out, and we hope you’ll tune in Saturday at 12pm ET (NKU Dodgeball on YouTube)!

2 thoughts on “Northern Kentucky to Host First Dodgeball Tournament”

  1. Really excited for all three programs, I’m truly impressed with NKU and what they’ve accomplished in their first season.

    Would love to see UK rise like a phoenix, and I’m equally rooting for Illinois to shape up so the Central Region can start taking form.

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