It is only fair that we post this promo picture twice, and just like the poster, this should certainly be an exciting tournament. There will be 7 teams representing 3 states in a tournament that could create major changes in the league rankings. I will be taking a look at each team and going over some expectations and things to watch out for over the weekend. So with that being said, I’ll get started.
Schedule: Ohio, VCU, WKU, UK
First, we’ll start with our hosts this weekend, Akron. Akron gets the added benefit of being the home team this weekend, which means they will have their full roster locked and loaded. Look for them to have competitive games against every opponent this weekend.
Some players to watch out for this weekend include Adam Pfeifer and Joshua Lyons (also known as Harry Potter). Also, the famous “anonymous source” has told me that there will be a player making their Akron debut and surprise return to the league this weekend. This team focuses a lot on their all-around game which will be important for them this weekend. I would expect Akron to have a good showing this weekend and give a lot of teams a run for their money.
Schedule: Kent, WKU, Ohio
BGSU will look to avenge their losses from the Buckeye Invite in September, especially against Kent who they lost to 3-1. The Falcons will have some good matchups for the weekend and could find themselves finishing above .500 for the Pink Out tournament.
People already know about guys like Tyrell Smith and Marc Ritz, but the real strength of this team might come from their younger members. The rookie class of BGSU has shown that they can catch well, and they are willing to put in the work to become better players over the course of the year.
Schedule: BGSU, UK, VCU
Kent is the statistical favorite going into the weekend, bringing with them a 5-1 overall record and #5 overall ranking in the NCDA. They will be playing BGSU and UK for the second time this season, but just their first matchup with VCU for the year.
Kent and UK will probably have the most exciting matchup of the day. Kent was able to walk away with a 3-2 victory over UK at the Buckeye Invite after mounting a furious comeback to win. The key players going into the tournament are going to be Ryan Hinman and Logan Baird. This team has a very strong top half of their lineup, and in order to walk away with three wins this weekend they will need a strong performance from those players.
Schedule: Kent, VCU, Akron
Kentucky will have the opportunity to avenge their 3-2 loss against Kent from the Buckeye Invite, and pick up some other quality wins during the tournament. Aside from the matchup with Kent, their game versus VCU might be one of the more intriguing games during the tournament. The Wildcats will bring a lot of experience to Akron, and that may be their key to going 3-0.
Guys like Brandon Engelman, Colin Hiatt, and Ricardo Menchacha are sure to have big performances, and will be very important to Kentucky’s success. Another player to watch out for will be Zach Parise. He is probably one of the more underrated players in the league and is sure to have an impact this weekend.
Schedule: Akron, WKU, BGSU
Ohio has already shown improvement from one season ago. During their first tournament at the University of Pittsburgh, they were able to walk away with a 3-0 win over Pitt, and narrowly lost to Akron 2-1 in overtime. They will get the opportunity to play Akron once again which should make for a fun matchup.
They key centerpiece for Ohio has to be Caleb Arnold. He was able to show off his ability as a skilled catcher at Pitt and should look to continue that trend going into this weekend. Admittedly, I do not have much experience with Ohio’s players outside of seeing them in action at Nationals 2016 at BGSU, so I will be curious to see how they perform with a full season under their belts and a fresh set of recruits.
Schedule: Akron, UK, Kent
This tournament is going to be a major test to see VCU’s development into a competitive program, and fun fact, it is VCU’s first tournament outside of the East Coast region besides Nationals. Overall however, this weekend is going to be an uphill battle for the Rams as each opponent is expected to be tougher than the last. VCU comes into this tournament with two weekends already to their resume, so they are already getting comfortable working together as a team. That being said, VCU will be bringing some new players this weekend as a decent chunk will be out for various reasons.
If VCU hopes to succeed this weekend, they are going to need big games from all of their captains. This includes Hunter Ford, Matt Bosco, Torao Ota, and Wayne Shortt, the latter of whom has already impressed teams on the East Coast and will now get the chance to show out against the rest of the league. VCU’s key on Saturday is going to be playing smart and efficient against teams that will have more talent. They have the potential to come away with some upset wins this weekend, but only time will tell.
Schedule: BGSU, Ohio, Akron
WKU comes into this tournament with the least amount of games played. Their two games this year were in a double header against UK where they split. The Hilltoppers may have the chance to walk away from this tournament 3-0, with favorable matchups throughout the day.
Josh Wynn, Wilson Horner and Mani Weston are expected to play well this weekend. Them, along with Nick Johnson will be the ringleaders for the group, and I expect them to have big performances. The real question will be seeing if WKU’s less experienced and skilled players step up this weekend. If they are able to, then this will be a good Saturday for the Hilltoppers, if not, then they will be clawing for every single point.