Coming in as the largest NCDA tournament before Nationals, Pink Out had some high expectations. Across the 11 Pinch teams on Day 1 and 6 women’s teams on Day 2, there were plenty of big-time performers and shocking results. We begin our breakdown with the Pinch division on Day 1.
Pinch (Day 1)
Pinkout was a mixed bag for BGSU on the day. Opening up with a 4-2 loss against Miami is not what they hoped for. Few bright spots were had by the Falcons in their first match-up outside of a couple of plays, including a highlight point-winning 1 v 1 catch by 2022 Women’s All American, Reni Kaiser. A 4-1 victory over Cleveland State came next. Despite the victory, captain Kalin Strawther did not think the group hit near their top gear and was very disorganized at times. The best result of the day by far was their OT loss to title contender Cincinnati. While it may not have been a perfect outing, the Falcons found out what they need to work on and that they can contend with the best on any given day.
Miami finished their day with one of the strongest performances of the tournament. Taking care of Akron-B, winning a very back-and-forth matchup against BGSU, and finally blowing the doors off a Penn State team that many people thought would be serious contenders this season. Top to bottom this roster is very solid, and the arms race in the Ohio region does not look like it’ll slow down anytime soon. Veterans like Max Edling, Connor Smith, and Katie Mei Williams will keep this team on the rise this season. Be on the lookout for rookies Davis Honroth and Dominic Dellapina as well to continue their progression this year. Overall, the Red Hawks were definitely the story of the tournament. Going 3-0 with a statement 6-0 win over top 3 Penn State is the the huge win this program was looking for.
The Bearcats put together their first 3-0 performance of the season, but it didn’t come without some drama. In their first match of the day, they disposed of the Penn State Nittany Lions 4-2, in a game that was never close. The Bearcats’ performance got shakier and shakier throughout the day though, barely holding on in regulation against Ohio 4-3 after being up 4-1 in the second half, and ending with an overtime victory against Bowling Green State, battling back after going down 2-1 with 8 minutes left in the match. The Bearcats looked more cohesive as a team than in tournaments past, getting big performances from All-American hopeful Matt Rosinski, Captain Will Hyatt, Assistant Captain Isaiah Montgomery, and noteworthy rookies Colin McCrone and Connor Buttari. UC plays next at the RedHawk Classic on November 11th where we expect them to continue to test themselves against high-level competition.
Maryland had a relatively strong showing at Pink Out. As a team that was fairly unknown by teams outside the East Coast, the Terps came out strong with a 2-1 performance that was nearly a perfect 3-0. A 5-2 win over Kent followed up by a back-and-forth, tight OT loss to Akron showed that UMD is no pushover. The third game of the day proved to be a great opportunity for the rookies to get some valuable experience in a 7-0 win over Akron B. It’s been a fairly solid season for Maryland thus far. The improvement over last season is significant. Shown by their back-and-forth matches against top squads, Akron and JMU, the Terps are here to compete in the NCDA’s top 10. Some notable performances at Pink Out were junior Adam Butz with his normal dominance on the right while also showing some catching prowess in the Akron match. Junior Caleb Dixon snagged his 100th catch in 2+ seasons vs Akron B and rookie Tim Stryker made some huge plays allowing the Terps to come back and send the game vs Akron to overtime.
Ohio got just what they needed at this tournament after their performance at the Buckeye Opener. They started their day with a massive comeback overtime victory against Penn State, followed by another close loss to UC, before finally winning comfortably against SVSU. The addition of Terence Checkett made all the difference for an Ohio team that looked much more confident throughout the day. Expect performances like this one to be the norm for this team going forward, as they’re looking much more like the team they were expected to be in the preseason.
Kent State came back to Earth a bit as they went 1-2 in their games. They suffered a 5-2 loss to UMD, followed by a 5-1 win over SVSU, and a 5-1 loss against Akron. However, it’s important not to solely judge the outcomes based on the scores. In the match against UMD, Kent was tied 2-2 in the middle of the second half before losing three consecutive points. Similarly, in the game against Akron, they had lengthy, intense back-and-forth points but faltered in crunch time. Overall, the Flashes have demonstrated substantial talent with the usual suspects of Mike Bilczo & Branden Stevens lighting up the stat sheets, but the team’s lack of discipline and experience hinders their full potential.
Cleveland State looked much improved this tournament with their full roster put together. They notched their first win of the season against Akron-B, and put together solid games against Akron and BGSU. Sky Thornsberry balled out as usual as a catcher, and veteran Jordan Jones seems to be coming back to form after suffering an injury that ended his season last year. New rookies such as Kishan Lakkireddy have also started to establish themselves as key players for this team. Playing in a loaded Ohio region should help this squad’s development in the future quite a bit. Even though they still have work to do, they keep getting better every time we see them.
The Zips had a great day going 4-0 with wins over UMD, Kent, SVSU, and CSU. While all these games they were expected to win, Akron took care of business with 3 blowout victories and a tight OT win over UMD. Playing for the first time without 2022 1st Team All-American, PJ Antalek, some of the supporting cast took major roles. Carter Crawford and Jeremy Faircloth picked up much of the throwing burden on the corners while Kyle Vonscio, Alexis Schultz, and Cooper Sites made all sorts of plays out of the middle. Despite losing a lot of production from last year, this Zips team may even be deeper than what they had previously. If the whole team can maintain their performances shown at Pink Out when Antalek returns, watch out for Akron.
SVSU seemed to struggle this tourney in the post-Joe Barber era. 2022 2nd team All-American, Cole Machiela, was an all-around threat as always but the rest of the group showed their inexperience. There seemed to be a lack of identity in this group. Given that the Cardinals were missing half their OT-6 and that it was their first tournament of the year, some of that is expected. This will be an interesting group to watch this season as there are so many unknowns. It will help them greatly to get Owen Folsom healthy and playing 100%.
Penn State had about as rough of a tournament as you can have in this league. Dropping their first game to Ohio after being up 3-0, followed by a loss to UC, and a blowout loss to a Miami team they were heavily favored against. While this was a rough schedule, this team was projected to have top 5 potential in the preseason. The talent is there, but Penn State has some serious work to do before they can get back into the contender discussion.
The Host’s B team performed decently well. Although the scoreboard did not show it, tons of valuable in-game experience was gained for these young Zips. Many players on this roster had never played in a tournament beforehand. Zoe DeLand and Abby Emery proved to be very strong catchers in their matches and made play after play to keep Akron in points late. Returners Clay Carpenter and Alex Acevedo helped control the pace shouldering much of the throwing load for this otherwise very inexperienced group.
Women’s No Sting (Day 2)
Pink Out VIII also brought us the season’s first women’s tournament. With 3 A-teams, 2 B-teams, and a mixed team made up from other schools, it’s safe to say the women’s talent pool around the league has never been deeper than it is now, and it will only continue to grow.
The hosts of this tournament came out of the gate looking like the team to beat, as Akron continues to be the gold standard in women’s recruiting around the league. Abby Emery might’ve been the MVP of the tournament, making countless unbelievable catches. The Dodgettes won a hard-fought overtime game against MSU, before running through both MSU-B and NCDA Mixed, and finally dropping their last game to a CSU squad that was down a player all day. Regardless, this team looks every bit as sharp as expected, and I would easily expect this success to continue throughout the season. With a B-team to pull talent from as well, the Dodgettes don’t seem like they’ll be going anywhere soon.
Led by rookies Jayna Hagar and Mary Mullen, Akron B consisted of 5 girls who had never played at a single tournament. However, they put up a strong showing taking a point from MSU A and tying CSU 2-2 going into halftime. With a full roster of 6 going forward and taking with them some valuable experience, Akron B could very well be a force in this Women’s Division.
MSU looks much improved from last season, with women’s All-American Allie Pohl leading the charge, and developing a monstrous throw. MSU went 2-2 on the day, getting wins against CSU and Akron-B, and dropping 2 close overtime games to Akron and NCDA Mixed. The only thing holding back this squad is simply experience. They’re a young team that doesn’t see much pinch play compared to the other women’s squads of the league, so they’ll need to perfect their craft to consistently compete with the household names we see topping the women’s AA lists every year. The talent, however, is undeniably there.
MSU B went 1-3 but still held their own on a lot of points. It was rarely a blowout for a point. They showed a lot of improvement from the beginning to the end of the day on communication, counters & catches. Rookie Lizzie Rheaume was a standout on the day with several really good catches & hits while maintaining a strong court presence. Paige Misner was the captain and played like it with clutch catches throughout the day and showed a lot of versatility on the court. Veteran Ava Boley also had some good counters/catches & played a strong left corner.
NCDA Mixed featured an assortment of women from Miami, BGSU, Kent, and GVSU. For a team made up of miscellaneous parts, they looked great. Reni Kaiser took the primary leadership role on the team and grabbed countless acrobatic catches. GVSU veterans Jasmine Hill and Danielle Swett looked vastly improved, and Kent rookie Ally Golubski had an incredible NCDA debut as well. NCDA Mixed went 3-1 on the day, winning against both B-teams comfortably, losing to Akron, and finally getting a thrilling OT win against MSU. This team was a blast to watch all day, and hopefully, all the schools that made up this team can form their own full women’s squads soon.
CSU played a woman down all day. Having a last-minute drop and playing with 5. Despite this, CSU had a great tournament performance. Going 3-1 with their only loss being against MSU, and giving the Akron Dodgettes their only loss at the very end of the day in a thrilling buzzer-beater scenario. Kathryn Mays and Sky Thornsberry are household names around the league at this point, and they did not disappoint here either. Sophomore Zee Sweeney also had a great performance, being called on to throw countless times and keeping her looks deadly accurate. It’ll be exciting to see what this team can do with a full 6 or more this season.