Three teams are prepared to join the NCDA this weekend, which is as many as joined last year total. It will also be the most in one weekend since the East Coast expansion happened, which added JMU, Towson, and Maryland. The teams that are set to join are Saint Ambrose from Iowa, Siena Heights from Southeastern Michigan, and Davenport in Grand Rapids.
Davenport is being started by former Laker Han Chittisane, who will likely try to recreate the GV magic at Davenport. Davenport is a NAIA school, just like the other two schools joining this weekend, and has 13,500 students. Their first tournament will be just down the road from Caledonia, in Allendale, MI. However, they will not face the host Lakers, or the Central Michigan Chippewas, but will rather get matches with Siena Heights and Bowling Green. This might save the Panthers a rough couple of games while giving them teams that they may be able to score on. Ultimately, the main thing this team, and every new team, must work on is strategy and teamwork. Even if there is talent there, the potential of a player won’t be realized for at least a few months. A solid plan and playing as a unit however is something that can be there by mid-October.
More so than any team, the Saints will need to build their depth quickly. That’s a lot to ask of a first year team, but everyone in the league knows their Captain, Mike McCarthy. Everyone genuinely likes him, but they also would love to take a shot at his head. Most, if not all, captains will likely try to force the other Saints to beat them by taking out McCarthy early. They also are going to GVSU on Sunday, but they will draw Grand Valley and Central Michigan, as well as Davenport. There a couple of things I like about the Saints moving forward: the fact that they have an All-Timer leading the charge who can teach them multiple skills, and the intensity of the schedule they’re looking to play. McCarthy is a fiery guy, which should be imprinted on his team’s DNA, and the Saints will definitely get better. Add in the fact that they’re actively trying to get into multiple tournaments, which only helps teams get better, and I think you’ve got a team that could get two to three wins over the Nationals weekend.
St. Ambrose represents a good expansion west for the NCDA. It’s not outrageously far away where they’ll never get matches in, but they do push the border a little bit which can only help adding additional schools to the Association. Led by Davis Elkins, the Bees likely do not have any NCDA experience. For all we know, this could be a good thing, since they can formulate their own strategies and ideas. Their location is great as well, most newer teams tend to play fast and loose, and the West Region is normally a less defensive oriented set of squads. SAU draws Wisconsin-Platteville (#10 in the Preseason Poll after a surprising Nationals appearance) and DePaul (#13 in the Preseason Poll, but filled with players who’d rather play in a quicker pace) which could be two of the best teams to play for a new team. SAU will be the underdog in both games this weekend, but those will be fun games for a newer team, with both matchups willing to run and gun.
In the end though, none of these teams should feel pressured to win right away. For every James Madison, or Grand Valley, or even Western Illinois, there’s a Towson, Henry Ford, Central Michigan, so on and so on. The key for these teams this weekend is to, first and foremost, enjoy themselves. Have fun on and off the court with your teammates. Meet some new people from opposing teams. Obviously you want to perform well in matches as well, and even if you don’t win any matches, any takeaways you can get about your squad is beneficial.
Welcome to the league this weekend.