This past weekend the University of Akron held the 7th Annual Pink Out tournament and it did not disappoint! There were several good games and a lot of surprises that most were not expecting. This tournament gave us a better idea who the top teams are in the league and what we should expect at future events. Let’s take a look on how each team did on the day as seen by Kathryn Mays (OSU) and Ethan Lehmkuhl (OSU).
#1 Ohio (2-1)
Bobcats Undefeated Against Ohio Schools
Ohio University remains the favorite in the Ohio Region after a 2-1 performance at the Pink Out. Their only loss came in OT to a solid JMU squad, and after thrashing Penn State 6-0, they were able to come up victorious against another Ohio Region powerhouse, UC, 4-3. The entire match against JMU was extremely close, with one of their dropped points ending in a 1v1 situation that could have easily swung the match in favor of the Bobcats. Regardless, Ohio remains one of the most consistent teams in the league, and their combination of experience and talent makes them hard to beat in any situation.
#2 GVSU (2-1)
Is Grand Valley Finally Human?
For years, Grand Valley has been virtually unbeatable, winning 7 out of the last 8 National Championships. However, Grand Valley showed some susceptibility at the Pink Out. They were able to outlast Ohio State, picking up the game-winning point in the final 2 minutes, and they narrowly beat Penn State, winning in OT. The real shock came when they dropped their last match 4-2 to the Dukes of JMU. The Lakers were missing former All-Rookie Ryan Paddock, who will make key contributions upon returning to the court, but for now, any top-10 team could realistically expect to knock off GVSU. In order for the Lakers to get back to commanding the league like GVSU teams of old, they will need their rookies to step up to supplement their depth on the team in a bigger way than just talking on social media. While GVSU remains an elite program, there is still a lot to prove for the Lakers if they expect to repeat as National Champions.
#4 JMU (2-1)
Esch the Workhorse
After taking UVA and Towson into OT at Maryland, not many people knew what to expect from JMU coming into the Pink Out. The Dukes did not hold back, knocking off the Ohio and Michigan Region favorites in Ohio and GVSU. After these impressive wins, the Dukes proceeded to shock everyone (except for maybe a few Zip faithful), losing 3-2 to Akron. The loss raises questions about their stamina, motor, and ability to perform when reigning MVP Evan Eschenburg is off the court. This team looked nearly unbeatable at times, but picking and choosing when you want to show up to play hard is not a recipe for success. The Dukes’ swagger and arm talent will only carry them so far come April, and if they want to make a run at Nationals, they will have to refine their strategy. With NCDA Alumni Dan Shackelford even noting “That’s the same JMU team I remember playing.”
#5 UC (2-1)
Drama in the Queen City
The Bearcats were once again without coach Wes Peters at the Pink Out, raising questions about his status with the team. Even without their veteran coach, Cincinnati opened with a dominant 4-1 victory over Penn State and followed it with another win over Miami. They then went on to lose to Ohio. Despite having a schedule with 3 quality teams to play on Saturday, it still seemed that UC’s biggest opponent was themselves. There was loads of bickering amongst themselves on the court that was apparent even to an untrained eye. This doesn’t take from their talent and experience, and if this team can create some much-needed chemistry, they will be a National Title contender in the spring.
#6 Akron (3-0)
Zippin’ to the Top
After multiple rocky tournaments earlier this semester, the Zips have finally proven themselves as a top three Ohio Region team after taking wins against BGSU, PSU, and JMU on their home court. To no one’s surprise, Akron put quick points on BGSU and PSU, but their real feat comes from the close match against JMU. The Zips have finally put the pieces together to communicate effectively as a team and balance key offensive strategies across the court. If there’s one thing Akron has that other teams don’t have, it is a massive amount of depth between throwers and catchers, offense and defense, and rookie and veterans. They certainly took advantage of the Dukes’ inconsistency on the court to deliver a 3-2 win. Spring semester looks promising for the Zips, and they are going to ride out the high from Pink Out as long as they can.
#7 OSU (2-1)
Another 2-1 Record
Another tournament, another 2-1 record for the Buckeyes (and spoiler in case you haven’t read the Dr. Peter Broe Recap, that’s five 2-1 tournaments for the fall semester). Ohio State’s first matchup was a nail biter. The Buckeyes and Lakers went back and forth, and in the final 2 minutes of the game, the Buckeyes dropped the last point, losing 2-3. Despite the loss, it’s worth commending the Buckeyes on integrating their rookies into the roster and figuring out a rhythm of counters that works for them. Rookies like Nick Kemer and veterans like Elijah Thomas have shown point and point again that they can survive and outlast opponents. If not by skill, then by endurance alone. The Buckeyes went on to beat Akron B and BGSU, with the latter ending a little closer than what was expected. That being said, these opponents were utilized as an opportunity to work out lingering communication issues and get rookies valuable play time. Heading into the spring, anticipate the Buckeyes to make their case for a spot in the top three Ohio Region teams – they did beat Akron twice this fall.
#9 PSU (0-4)
Tough Day for the Nittany Lions
Penn State came into Pink Out with a lot of hype around their team. With an undefeated record and top 10 rank, many people expected PSU to be a new powerhouse within the league. With a slate of UC, GVSU, Akron, and Ohio, everyone would find out if those expectations became a reality (spoiler… they didn’t). While Penn State undoubtedly had the toughest schedule of any team playing on Saturday, their performance still left much to be desired. To be the best, you have to beat the best, and Penn State simply just isn’t there yet.
#13 BGSU (1-2)
Falcons Flying Up and Down
Bowling Green is perhaps one of the biggest unknowns as a team in the Ohio Region. They took UC to overtime at the John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza earlier in the fall, and they managed to take OSU to overtime at the Pink Out. The Falcons certainly have the talent to push on top teams, but something is still missing between these players. BGSU has a history of fostering strategic throwers and sneaky catchers. As displayed at Pink Out, the team seems to be composed more so of individual players as opposed to a cohesive unit, which ultimately led to losses against OSU and Akron.
#14 Miami (2-1)
Slow and Steady Wins the Game
It appears the RedHawks are finally on their way back up. They have patiently been waiting for wins and a rise in rankings, and the Pink Out was a great opportunity for Miami to hone in on their game. The RedHawks beat CSU and Kent, and despite the score, they had a close game against UC. Miami plays slower and more controlled than most teams are used to. They communicate during transition, and they take advantage of opponent slip ups and distractions as was the case against UC, who loves to move fast and play hero ball. RedHawk rookies have stepped into a unique team with exponentially more playing time, and they will no doubt be instrumental to their success next semester (expect more wins).
#22 CSU (1-2)
The Vikings are Struggling to Stay Afloat
Cleveland State’s Pink Out performance was less than ideal. For a team with a large roster and months of rebuilding, they would have liked to see closer games with Miami and BGSU. Despite having a win over Kent, the Vikings are not where they want to be. It sounds like the same story tournament after tournament: no communication. Cleveland State knows how to take points. They know who should be making throws and how to keep presence on the court against opponents. But rarely this season have we seen them execute this effectively. Oftentimes, we see one player attempting hero ball. We see throwers run up with no protection. And we see dropped catches. All pieces that when figured out will finally help the Vikings take some points and rise in the rankings.
#25 Kent (1-2)
Quick history lesson: Kent State is the oldest active team in the league. So how does a team with 20+ years of experience and growth continue to find themselves so low in the rankings? Kent played two closely ranked schools at the Pink Out, CSU and Miami, but lost to both. They only took 1 out of 11 points played between the two matches. Their only win of the day came from Akron B, and quite frankly, this was a game with strong communication and strategy. Even though they have the team relationships necessary to deliver wins, Kent still hasn’t honed in on all the technical aspects of the game. Point after point their captain, Vanessa Hudson, leads in throws and catches. It’s time some other teammates step up so Kent can be known not only as the oldest team in the league but the one with the most depth and skill.