The 2022 NCDA season was always going to be one with a lot of mystery heading into the year. With a significant hiatus away from the court, questions about which teams and players would step up and push their way to the top remained at large until finally everything came together with a fantastic showing at this year’s Nationals. Since 2017, the NCDA has honored the female competitors who have dedicated time and effort to their craft. These women erased all the doubt, the mystery, and questions through their excellent play and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt they were some of the best athletes college dodgeball had to offer. This list recognizes both the athletic achievements and amazing leadership these women have brought to their respective clubs.
Leading into Nationals, we look to spotlight as many teams as we can in hopes of shining a bright light on standouts from participating teams. These glow-ups include up to 2 of each team’s standout rookies as well as a handful of core contributing players that have gotten their respective team to where they are going into the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association’s annual finale. Lastly, we get a glance into each participating team’s mindset and expectations going into Nationals.
The following article was prepared by Kevin Bailey, Wes Peters, and Kathryn Mays.
With the March 2022 Power Rankings just released, the top 5 teams in the NCDA deserve a deeper dive. It seems at this point in the season, the top 5 teams in the league have separated themselves a bit from the rest of the pack.
With Cincinnati winning the Ohio Dodgeball Cup, Michigan State winning the Michigan Dodgeball Cup, James Madison putting the hammer down on the rest of the East Coast, Grand Valley State boasting a 13-2 overall record, and Ohio State chugging along as a title contender and up to #3 in the Gonzalez standings, these 5 teams all have had stellar campaigns thus far.
Let’s take a closer look at each team’s resume to get a better understanding of where each squad stands heading into the final month of the collegiate dodgeball season! We will cover these teams in the order in which they were ranked in the March 2022 PR:
The long wait is over! Derrek Kemper of THE Ohio State University is your Baller of the Month for December. The Rookie sensation for the Buckeyes is a Power house thrower, and already has the catching ability and court awareness of a multi-year veteran. Derrek has proven himself to be a huge asset to the talented Buckeye roster thus far. We talked all things Dodgeball, including his go-to tournament meals!
For the first time in two years, the Ohio Dodgeball Cup will be played this Saturday, February 5th, on Bowling Green State University’s campus. There will be five teams in attendance on the fifth; Akron, Bowling Green State, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Ohio State – all vying for a chance to take home the hardware Saturday afternoon. This could work out to be a great opportunity for those around the league to understand who the true top team in Ohio is this season. Or, we could be left with even more parity than we ended the fall semester with. Regardless, only one team can take the Cup home, and all five want it.
We asked each of the five teams what they think of their matchups this weekend, if they are bringing any young/lesser-known players they feel could be poised to make an impact, and how significant they felt winning the Ohio Dodgeball Cup would be for each of their programs. Here’s what they had to say:
This year, the league is witnessing arguably some of the most balanced skill sets within the top 8 teams that it has ever seen. In a neck and neck dogfight for the top spot in the rankings, there has been quite some uncertainty on where to predict the final standings for each team. With 4 of these top 8 teams competing in this tournament, we were hoping to clear some of that uncertainty, but all we got was more of it.
Each Ohio team, coming off of their own respective dominant performances, was surely excited to play a hot MSU, who just celebrated a huge technical upset over GVSU. Mixed into these matchups are both UK and WMU, both competing in their season inducting tournament. As the league eagerly looked for the results of this tournament to shine some clarity on the true hierarchy of the league, the results this day struck an existential blow to the concept of clarity: Akron defeated MSU, MSU defeated OSU, OSU defeated UC, and UC defeated Akron and MSU. What do we take away from this? Are any of these teams the technical winner? The transitive property rests in an infinite loop, so we asked each team to give us their thoughts on each matchup to help us debug these results.
The second annual John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza showed us where a lot of teams stand at this point in the season. With most teams having played a match throughout the league as of the conclusion of this weekend, I think we are finally starting to get a good picture for how each team compares to one another. While there are still a lot of lingering questions (IE – how does the majority of the East Coast stand up to the rest of the league? What does Michigan State look like? Is Towson still truly a top team in the NCDA? Are Grand Valley and Cincinnati actually that good?), we did get some real answers this weekend. Yes, Grand Valley is still a force to be reckoned with. Yes, Cincinnati is a legitimate title contender despite the loss to the aforementioned Lakers. Yes, the league is in overall good health with impressively large rookie classes for a lot of teams who hadn’t played prior to this weekend such as Ohio and Saginaw Valley.
What hasn’t been answered, however, is what each team thought about their own individual performances on the weekend. The participating Captains and Presidents minced no words when it comes to how they felt about their teams’ performances this past weekend. Here’s what they had to say:
With the return of dodgeball comes the return of what I can only assume will become a time honored tradition for Ohio University, and that is hosting the annual John Betters’ Bobcat Bonanza in the fall semester. Not only will this year’s iteration feature eight talented dodgeball teams, but we will also witness the retirement of the great John Betters’ jersey as well as the ceremonial first throw – a welcomed new addition to the tournament.
Silliness aside, Ohio University will be host to some of the hardest hitting, most impactful matchups the NCDA has to offer since before the pandemic started in March of 2020. The teams in attendance will be Bowling Green State University, the University of Cincinnati, Grand Valley State University, James Madison University, Miami University, hosts Ohio University, [the] Ohio State University, and Saginaw Valley State University.
There are a lot of intriguing storylines to consider and questions that need answers as we head into Saturday’s tournament. To shine some light on some of those, we’ve asked the leaders of each team to provide some insight into who some players to look out for are, what they think about their respective matchups, and what they need to do to have a successful day Saturday. Without further adieu, here is what each team had to say:
With the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association [finally] returning this weekend, we would be remiss if we did not preview the first competitive collegiate dodgeball matches in over 18 months. Indeed, the Buckeye Opener on Sunday, September 19th will feature the host team Ohio State Buckeyes and their B-Team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and the Akron Zips. These teams were ranked 2nd, 4th, and 10th respectively in our 2021 Preseason Power Rankings, so we should be in for three quality, competitive dodgeball matches this weekend.
We spoke with Dylan Greer – former captain and president of Ohio State, Wes Peters – coach of Cincinnati, and Colby Briceland – coach of Akron, about their teams’ expectations for not only this tournament, but also the season as a whole. Lastly, as always, we have gathered predictions from numerous Content Team members and distinguished alumni for how they believe each match will play out as well.
Without further ado, here is what each team’s representative had to say..
Ohio State’s Expectations
At the end of the 2019-2020 NCDA season, the Buckeyes’ expectations were straight forward; Win the National Championship. As we return to a new season, these expectations remain the same. I believe our team’s combination of strong returning talent and an extraordinary recruiting class will put us well in a position to do so.
While the pandemic shut down our team’s best season performance since 2015, we plan to return this year without skipping a beat. The long off-season resulted in the loss of All-American Star Ben Johnson, but out of the ashes rose a whole new board of captains: Ben Dardia, Ryan Ginsberg, Evan Utterback, and Elijah Thomas. These captains have shown early on that they’re capable of picking up where we left off and help our team advance in the rankings without a flinch. Elijah, our team’s only recruit from the 2020-2021 off-season, will finally be able to showcase the effort he’s put forth into developing his talent during his first NCDA match on Sunday. Sharing the spotlight with our new leaders are returning players Sam Palumbo, Matt Thomas, Evan Luikart, and the 2019-2020 Women’s MVP Kathryn Mays. These core players standing beside our captains on the court will create a storm that won’t go unnoticed throughout the year.
With our returning talent already in full bloom, we see the bees lining up at the sprouts of our young players, waiting to pollinate the rich flowers they will become. Derek Kemper, Ethan Lehmkuhl, and Will O’Malley are only a few names from a long list of new players that show great encouragement for the future success of this team. After taking part in a roster which could barely field 10 players nearly 3 years ago, being able to support a B team feels like one of the greatest accomplishments our team can make. In addition, supporting a B team with such enthusiasm for the sport makes the feeling even better, and I can’t wait to see them grow. After the long off-season, I believed the team who would have the most success in this upcoming season would be the one who recruited the best, and I believe our team has done just that.
While our team’s expectations are high, we don’t expect our road to success to be handed to us. This upcoming Sunday we know we will have to put forth a solid performance to beat top Ohio teams UC and Akron. This season, UC suddenly became one of the most experienced teams in the league with their astounding number of returning players. Facing them at the end of the day will hopefully give our team time to adjust after the time off, and give our new players time to settle in. Separately, Akron’s mixture of returning players and new recruits makes them a dangerous mystery, as we don’t know what to expect going into their matchup. Nevertheless, I think this new Akron team and UC’s veteran team will lead to a great weekend of matches as we get to showcase the Ohio Region’s talent in Columbus.
The Bearcats were in the middle of their second season as a club, standing at a respectable 10-8 when the entire world suddenly shut down for the pandemic. With the imminent transfer of now club president Jacob Weber, 2020/21 was shaping up to be their year. Things change real fast.
Fast forward to fall 2021 and the Bearcats are still poised to make a lot of noise, perhaps even more than they would have a year ago. Given the amount of talent that has graduated around the league over the past year and a half, Cincinnati is in great shape. The Bearcats will feature a lot of familiar faces at this tournament, as they only lost a handful of 2019/20 freshmen and one Assistant Captain. Expect Brett Liming, Cory Heitmann, and Jacob Weber to be the faces of the team, but this team is budding with talent when you get past those big names. Cincinnati has high expectations for Brannon McGinn, Matthew Rosinski, Ryan Engelman, and Ian Bartholomew who each bring something unique to the table. The Bearcats will actually feature two transfer students, including Kevin Skiba, formerly of the Ohio Bobcats. It was difficult for Skiba to stand out on a loaded Bobcats roster in 2019/20, so he will be looking to make a name for himself this year as a core player for UC. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see what the bottom half of the lineup can produce for the Bearcats. The talent doesn’t necessarily fall off the table after their top 8, but Cincinnati will need some unexpected performances from their remaining roster, and a new fall rookie class.
As for this weekend, it’s pretty simple – The Bearcats are looking to make a statement to the league. They want everyone from out west in Nebraska, up to Michigan, and down to Georgia to know that this team is the real deal, and they are here to stay. A 2-0 performance would set the expectation around the league that it is Final Four or bust for the Bearcats – not to mention this team is already one of the early favorites for the Ohio Dodgeball Cup.
That being said, it won’t be easy to beat both Ohio State and Akron. OSU is still loaded with most of the talent they had in spring 2020, and the same goes for the Akron Zips. In fact, these three teams may boast the most returning starters of any other team in the NCDA. One thing is for certain: this weekend will feature some quality matchups to welcome us back to dodgeball.
Despite the losses of multiple starters before the 2019-2020 season the Zips reloaded in a big way and boasted a great recruiting class for that season. Unfortunately, it was cut short and they weren’t able to recruit last year. Despite these losses, I don’t see that being a problem now, since this year the club captains have had great success in retention and recruitment thus far, and attending their first tournament of the season should cement this class of recruits to the roster.
Captain Clay Egleston has put a lot of work in the off season in preparation for this upcoming year, and it shows. The new recruits are honing in their skills and that is thanks in part to Egleston’s effort and time spent teaching and grooming them for match play. I also expect big plays to be made by the assistant captains Brandon Snyder, and KC Franz, who now have a few seasons under their belts. Their veteran experience will be the key to Akron’s success this season. Other stand outs for the season will include PJ Antalek, Reece Bowman, Nathan “Howdy” Houdeshell, and Tommy Masteller, who need to be on top of their game if the Zips are going to climb the ranks this season.
The real test will be the rookie class this year. How will they adapt to game speed and awareness? As always, my expectations for the first tournament are to just get your sea legs and experience, but this class seems to have a good handle on what that would entail. They’re organized and eager to learn, and those are the two traits that will set them apart from opposing team’s rookie recruits. The captains and assistants of Akron have done a great job in fostering the talent of the new recruits, it’s now up to them to take the first steps into joining the starting roster.
The expectations are high for this team, since they’ve had a few weeks of practice and drills, I fully expect to see some great gameplay and skill being executed on Akron’s side of the court. This tournament will be a great gauge of where our returners and rookies are at, and where we need to improve on as the season progresses. As always, the Ohio Dodgeball Cup and a good seeding at nationals are on the horizon, but in our immediate future we have an immense challenge. Ohio State and Cincinnati are going to be tough first matches for these new recruits, but I always say the best way to learn is to play the best. And in the Ohio Region, these two teams are the best. Go Zips!
As per tradition, we solicited predictions from numerous esteemed alumni to weigh in on how they think the matches this weekend will play out (B team matches excluded).
On November 17, 2018 at the IM Sports East (804 E Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48825) some of the top teams in the country battled it out at the Spartan Invite, hosted by Michigan State University. There were several close matches and several teams that surprised. Let’s take a look at the results for the day. Continue reading “Spartan Invite- Recap”