Previewing the Ohio Dodgeball Cup

Saturday marks the 10th annual Ohio Dodgeball Cup, and boy are there a lot of questions and storylines heading into this weekend. This year, there will be 7 teams competing for the cup: Akron, Bowling Green State, Cincinnati, Kent State, Miami, Ohio, and Ohio State. These teams will compete in an interesting bracket style tournament where each team is guaranteed to play three matches with the exception of Ohio (thanks Cleveland State and Marietta), who as the highest ranked state-of-Ohio team, has drawn a first round bye. With that being said, it is impossible to determine exactly which team will play who in most rounds, we do have the bracket handy for your viewing pleasure.

What we do know is that the winner of Akron and Bowling Green will match-up against Ohio in the second round. Likewise, the winner of Kent State vs. Miami and the winner of Cincinnati vs. Ohio St. will face each other in the second round. The winners  of those second round match-ups, will meet in the finals with the Ohio Dodgeball Cup Championship on the line. Additionally, the losers of their respective semifinals matches will play for 3rd place. Last but not least, the three losers of their respective first round match-ups will play in a round robin against one another to determine 5th, 6th, and 7th places – barring a 3 way tie.

Got all that? Great! It’s going to be a fantastic mess, but it will be interesting to see a number of different storylines play out regardless. So, as promised, here are some of the most intriguing things to watch for this weekend.

Will the real top team in Ohio, please stand up?

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go with an Eminem quote here, whilst still maintaining our PG-rating. Seriously though, after last weekend’s three-way tie, who exactly is the best team in the state of Ohio?

Is it Miami, the team who knocked off previously-unbeaten Ohio University, on Ohio’s home court less than two weeks ago? Miami has only lost to three teams: Ohio, Saginaw Valley (who Miami demolished in a subsequent rematch), and now Ohio State. Overall, a very strong resume for the RedHawks, who look to potentially avenge their loss to Ohio State, and make it two for two in the spring against Ohio. You know captain Tom Morand will make sure his team comes into Saturday prepared for a long day of dodgeball, ready to battle it out until the bitter end.

Might it be the aforementioned Ohio University, who looked like world beaters all fall semester? Ohio played a different team every single one of their 12 matches, and didn’t lose a single one. That’s championship material right there folks. After their first loss of the season to Miami, the Bobcats followed up with a come from behind victory against Ohio State and a blowout win over upstart Cincinnati. I believe Noah Ourant and company will take this as a wakeup call, and realize that their team is not invincible. It’s pretty clear by this point that the Bobcats have high aspirations this season, and so they need to keep working hard if they want to be raising the Ohio Dodgeball Cup trophy at the end of the day Saturday, let alone the national championship in April.

Or will it be the Ohio State Buckeyes – perhaps the most surprising team this season? The Buckeyes have also had a very strong season, recently defeating Miami in overtime, holding a lead over still unbeaten Grand Valley State University as well as once-beaten Ohio University, along with a myriad of other victories which have helped them rapidly ascend the Gonzalez rankings.

The title of “Best Team in Ohio” is very much up in the air and ripe for the taking this weekend, though considering the schedule you’d probably still have to consider Ohio University the favorite to take home the cup. Regardless, each of the three teams have played each other well all season, and find themselves in a three team deadlock after the John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza, so I wouldn’t count Miami or Ohio State out.

Can Cincinnati continue their rapid growth this season?

This year’s Ohio Dodgeball Cup marks the first anniversary of the Cincinnati Bearcats’ inaugural matches in the NCDA. After struggling to scrape together 8 or more players for the three tournaments they played in last spring, Cincinnati now boasts a roster of more than 18 fully committed, team-due-paying team members. Cincinnati’s sophomores did a lot of the heavy lifting in the fall semester, but we are starting to see some of this year’s two freshmen classes begin to pull their own weight. We know the future looks bright for UC, but how far can captain Brett Liming take the Bearcats this year?

Last weekend was huge for the Bearcats as they defeated the very athletic West Virginia University, and finally avenged their previous two losses to Akron University with a 5-2 victory. Can they maintain that momentum heading into the Ohio Dodgeball Cup? Their first match of the day is against Ohio State University, who have much higher aspirations than just beating the Bearcats. Can UC even hang with Ohio State at this point in the season? Both teams have continued to improve immensely, but Ohio State is considered to be in a higher tier than the Bearcats. Just look at the rank differential in the Gonzalez – UC is #16 while OSU is sitting up much higher at #9.

UC may also draw a third match of the season against Bowling Green State University, who the Bearcats also went 0-2 against in the fall. If that matchup were to occur, it will absolutely be a match to tune into. While it is highly improbable for the Bearcats to win the Ohio Dodgeball Cup this season, another strong 2-1 showing and potentially a massive upset victory over the Buckeyes would be nothing short of a phenomenal result for the Bearcats this weekend.

Akron and Bowling Green: Going through an identity crisis?

Akron and Bowling Green, where to begin? Two teams not exactly sure what they want to be. Akron had a very up and down fall semester, quickly climbing the rankings and hanging tough with or defeating a few teams they did not expect to beat (2-1 loss to Ohio State, OT Loss to Penn State, tied at halftime with Towson, OT win over SVSU, OT win over Cleveland State, 2 multi-point wins over UC). Then again, they also had a 3-0 loss to Kent State and a 4-1 loss to Cleveland State.

Akron has had to deal with the departure of several star players from last season, though captain Jacob Weber has kept the team afloat and more or less on track to make the Championship bracket at Nationals in April. He has done as good a job as can be expected developing the many new & young players still on the roster for Akron, but as other teams have continued to develop and grow throughout the season, perhaps the overall lack of talent in relation to last season is starting to show for the Zips. A strong showing this weekend for Akron would have to be a first round win over Bowling Green and, assuming they lose to Ohio, a strong third place tournament finish over whichever makes it from the other side of the bracket.

I’ve been a very vocal critic of Bowling Green State University this season, it’s no secret. I wouldn’t say I’m in the minority population in thinking this team should be playing better than they have so far this season. BGSU’s strongest wins are against MSU in the first tournament of the year, CSU in OT, SVSU, and the two they have over UC. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t point out they also have narrow, 1 point losses to JMU, CMU, and Miami in OT on their resume.

To say this team is underperforming is, in my mind, completely fair. They aren’t far off though. Despite losing to Akron at the John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza, this team could be potentially on the cusp of putting it together. Bowling Green finished in the final four at Nationals just two years ago, can they make another run at it this year? I would say they have the capability, they just need to show it and win a few big matches. With Owen Sill returning for one final semester at Bowling Green, it’s now or never, starting with the ODC. Likewise to Akron, a third place finish at this year’s Ohio Dodgeball Cup would be a step in the right direction.

Kent State once again starts from scratch, how long of a rebuild are they in for?

Similar to Akron, the Kent State Golden Flashes lost a large number of their starting roster to graduation after the 2018/2019 season. Thankfully, their club still boasts a large membership overall. The talent and experience just isn’t there for the Golden Flashes as of yet.

Coming into Saturday, Kent State is probably the odds on favorite to finish last, though three more matches worth of experience will be beneficial in the long run. I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility for them to find themselves leaving Oxford, Ohio with a win, but their freshmen will have to show a lot of progress since November at the Summit Street Slugfest, where we last saw them compete, and actually upset Akron. Taking home a win and not finishing in last would have to be considered a success for Kent State going into this weekend, but the real victory for them will be the continued development of their incredibly young team.

Will you be watching?!

There is a whole lot of dodgeball to choose from this weekend, whether it be the Ohio Dodgeball Cup – hosted by Miami, the BEAST IX – hosted by JMU, or the Viking Cup – hosted by Cleveland State. I’d personally watch all three if you’ve got the screens to spare, but regardless, we’re all in for a treat. For my money, however, the Ohio Dodgeball Cup will be where it’s at. Will Ohio resume their undefeated ways by going undefeated and winning the Cup? Can Ohio State shock the world and take it home? Will Miami win on their home court? Will those three teams even finish as the top three in the tournament Saturday? Two things are for sure – there’ s a lot at stake this weekend, and it will be exciting!

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