This past weekend, three teams joined the league. One team hosted their own event: St. Ambrose hosted DePaul Dodgeball and Wisconsin Platteville in a Round Robin. Troy Dixon and I traveled to help Officiate the event. In this article, we perform an in depth analysis based on our on site observations.
The Court and St. Ambrose University
Zigmas Maloni: Let’s start with the Court, location and any intricacies related to dodgeball played on this surface. Any thoughts?
Troy Dixon: The court was pretty much your standard college sized gymnasium. In the beginning we had to put tape down because the volleyball court lines didn’t equate to equal attack lines for both sides. Like you said earlier, it was good to have the President of the league and another experienced official on hand to ensure that things went smoothly during the St. Ambrose’s inaugural matches. Additionally, we could have used some additional lighting on the court, but luckily it was visible enough in the gym where vision was not impeded.
Overall, I like St. Ambrose’s location in proximity to other teams in the Midwest. A 2-3 hour drive allots for many teams to make a one-day trip out of a match with them. With this, they are able to conserve funding for trips that require additional money for hotel and lodging (such as the MSU Invite in November).
ZM: I do remember we had some whining from DePaul about the lights, I think we both know the whining of DePaul. But I feel like teams adjusted, and sometimes you have to do what you have to, with what you have at the moment.
The court is your standard NCAA size, 94×50, and there were padded walls about 6 feet behind the baseline, which helps for keeping balls in play. The sidelines were really open, so you definitely need Ball Shaggers in that respect.
In comparison to DePaul’s Ray Meyer, where the courts are only 80 feet long, the volleyball attack lines are the same as 30′ from the baseline. But in the Loman we had to use athletic tape to draw our new lines, which match up with the Coaching lines.
UWP def DePaul 4-1
ZM: UWP and DePaul matched up for the first game of the day, allowing St. Ambrose to watch. What did you think of this matchup? (the point duration data is in Sam’s results post if you haven’t seen it already)
TD: My initial thoughts on this matchup were not what I thought they would be when I made predictions a week ago. DePaul ended up bringing a squad that was full of first year players and inexperienced NCDA players. A lot of their top tier players dropped out at the last minute. However, UWP brought a team of 11 players to St. Ambrose so I believed that balanced out the matchup a bit more in that regard.
During the match, I liked how intensely DePaul opened up in the first point. You got the sense that there is a lot more learning as a team happening in Chicago, as opposed to individual development. They pushed the pace and played a little more cautiously than the normal balls to the wall play style that we’re used to. Another important factor was the need for game changing catches and that’s how DePaul was able to take the first point from UWP.
What we know from history is that no matter how tactfully you may play as a team, eventually a lack of fire power will catch up to you. After dropping the first point, UWP fired back and just picked DePaul apart for the rest of the match. That’s where having experience will play in your favor. It’s always good to have guys like Alex Swedowski (#3-C) Alex Higbee (#20-A), and Matt Bautch (#8) to help your team fire back after dropping one early.
ZM: I think that initial hesitation in the first point, the cautiousness, was probably due to the new DePaul players. I could see they were hesitant to play, wanting to see how the veteran players like Mario Romanelli and Alex Watkins handled the game. The shot clock isn’t much of an issue between either UWP, DePaul, or any of the other regional team. There was maybe two or three violations over the course of the entire event. The Shot Clock didn’t define the pace of the game, but I definitely agree that catches were key on that first point by DePaul. The on-court communication between DePaul helped a great deal as well. But UWP sprang back by throwing as a team, and blocking when DePaul made a retaliating push.
I think DePaul’s successes here were their numbers, their athleticism, and team cohesion despite bringing rookies on this day trip.
I think UWP’s success at this match was seeing what went wrong in the first point, and playing smarter in the following points. Good throws from the power players helped snap at feet. UWP’s throws bounced hard off DePaul’s hands when they tried to go for a catch.
TD: A point of criticism is for DePaul to get more active on the front line defensively. You want to make sure all of the players behind you are safe from the unsuspecting cross court sniper shot. Also, you want those back line players to increase their awareness and stay active even when they don’t have a ball. The easiest way to whittle a team down is to take out their players who aren’t paying attention. If UWP can exploit that fact when they are entering a match down four players, then imagine the competition that they could give a top tier team with a full roster.
ZM: Agreed. Any comments on the end of the Match? The Iron Curtain?
TD: Well that’s just classic DePaul right there. Statistically losing the match but showing the spirit of a champion by having fun regardless. If you’re not having fun while playing the game then you’re doing it wrong. You always can appreciate a team that will have fun and join in on the jokes once the game is already decisively over. We are a long ways removed from the power squads who would give strange looks at teams who would concede victory and resort to shenanigans. JMU likes to play Red Rover, GVSU helped introduce Lava Ball, and the entire league knows how to do Raptor Ball. It’s always a sight to see when a team can prove that they’re better than their opponent skill wise but retain them as equals when it’s time for the balls to stop flying and have a little fun.
DePaul def St. Ambrose 6-1
ZM: Lets move on to our first look at the new team in action, St. Ambrose v DePaul. When DePaul was helping Moody into the League, we got them to play at our regular dodgeball nights, teaching the game and the DePaul ways before Moody joined officially at the Chicago Dodgeball Open in January 2011. We weren’t able to accomplish that this time, but what do you think of the new squad in the west?
TD: St. Ambrose is definitely a project team. Having just learned many of the rules the same day of their first competition, they seemed to grasp the main concepts pretty fast. It was good that they spent time on the sidelines and watched DePaul vs UWP. They also weren’t afraid to ask questions about boundaries, clean catches, trap rules, and if headshots do in fact count. In their first match, they were pretty much wild and lacked a team strategy. They pretty much got the balls, dodged, and charged the line to throw individually. After the first St. Ambrose vs DePaul point, I pulled Davis Elkins to the side and told him to not blitz the line just to give the balls back to the other team. Instead, methodically push forward after the opposing team throws in order to control the neutral zone. In the next game, you could see the difference in their mentality. They worked harder and implemented strategy to their attack. Surprisingly, they were able to steal a hard contested point against the far more experienced DePaul squad.
ZM: I think that point stolen against the more experienced DePaul was a genuine one. From what I could tell, for that point, SAU made some smart throws and DePaul failed to capitalize on a couple of catches. Granted, most of this match was pretty easy going.
I did enjoy seeing St Ambrose with uniforms, legal ones with their St. A logo and numbers on the front. That’s always a good sign because good threads really brighten your mood and are a good recruiting tool. I remember Davis saying that he had a bunch of new recruits too, and will have to put in an additional jersey order.
TD: That win was indeed genuine. I remember going up to Sam Murphy (#51) of DePaul and jokingly telling him that if they dropped another point to St. Ambrose that there will be suicides to be run as punishment. Truthfully, I was actually really happy to see St. Ambrose get their first NCDA point for a game on their first official day as an NCDA Member Team. And it’s not as if they were completely pounded on by either team on Sunday.
UWP def SAU 3-0
ZM: How about SAU v UWP? We officiated 3 points in the first half, then the game was called and they mixed up teams.
TD: This was the game that all of the content writers wrote off as a being no contest between the two teams. We all saw it as a big win for UWP. Even though it ended after the first half, a 3-0 score is nothing to sneeze at. SAU continued to improve point after point. Eventually their matches began to last longer and they were hard fought, grind it out points for UWP. There were two guys I mentioned earlier from UWP that stood out, Alex Higbee and Matt Bautch. These two are really good players with a lot of snap to their throws. With their throwing ability, they were able to keep SAU within their control. Since SAU entered the day with no clue how players grip and pinch balls, naturally they were confused at how balls were dropping at their feet and curving all over the court. Once they picked up the speed of the game, points were not as easy to come by. Eventually, the game turned to a trick shot barrage from UWP. And that’s when Matt Bautch began to showcase his between the legs throw against SAU. It’s a phenomenal thing to watch.
ZM: It definitely seemed to me that as the day went on, there was less focus on competing, and rather playing dodgeball, from all three teams. Do you think Ambrose could have taken a point or two in the second half?
TD: Possibly. There was a taller guy for SAU (I wish I could’ve gotten his name) who seemed to have a good grasp of the game by the time the games had slowed down. This led me to believe that it was starting to click for some of their players. With some hard practice they can continuously improve.
A team like Moody was fortunate three years ago to have a team like DePaul that was only a ten minute train ride away to come and learn from. By the time it came for them to attend Nationals, they were ready to compete at a high level. St. Ambrose is not as fortunate being the only team in the state of Iowa. They will have to learn the game and fast by watching old NCDA footage of matches, continuously asking the advice of veteran NCDA teams, and willingly throwing themselves into the fire against teams that they aren’t so sure what to expect from. A lot can be observed about the way to play the game after a loss, so I’m expecting them to play a much better brand of dodgeball by the next time we see them.
ZM: Agreed. I think the key to there success will be traveling and hosting more events. If they can do it, I recommend attending the CDO, or traveling to Nebraska for UNL’s invite. They will be able to play teams like North Texas and UNL. Maybe even K-State or WIU will make a resurgence with a closer option. Dodgeball clubs there are still listed as active, they just haven’t played any matches.
TD: Well I’ve already give all the praise in the world to the guys from UWP. I’d like to give special recognition to Alex “Mittens” Watkins (#90) and Niko “Agent 0” Nodal of DePaul for taking their game to another level this season and providing an extra spark for their younger teammates to learn from. Additionally, Davis Elkins and his teammates at St. Ambrose deserve recognition and a warm welcome to the NCDA. For not knowing much about the game and the league, they hosted their inaugural games and proved to be a really good group that’s willing to learn.
ZM: To UWP, I really love these people. They always have a positive attitude and love to rub the “bubbler” regional slang in peoples faces!
I’d like to say welcome once again to St. Ambrose and their crew. They started off the day looking anxious, but they were really excited to play. They asked questions, paid attention, and had some fun with two great and established teams. Again, I only hope that they play as often as they can! More dodgeball over less dodgeball.
And to DePaul Dodgeball, its great to watch them play dodgeball. I still feel honored to have been a part of it, and to still play shenanigans with them monday and thurdsay nights.
It was great officiating for all these teams, and as one can probably tell, I really enjoyed writing this crapload of website content!