By Rylan Close
We are quickly approaching the start of the 2023-24 season with the Buckeye Opener on 9/17. From the top to the bottom of the standings, there’s no shortage of storylines and rivalries all around the league. Here we’ll be taking a look at some of the most exciting matchups to look for this year.
MSU v GVSU v OSU
These 3 teams all enter the preseason power rankings among the top of the league, and all of them are locked in an arms race to a shot at the championship once more this season. Obviously a championship rematch is a no-brainer on any list, but many people forget just how close OSU was to knocking off GVSU before they even made it to the final four. Losing a close match in overtime of the quarterfinals.
All 3 of these teams also have some important losses to their rosters, and seeing how these teams bounce back from those losses could have massive implications for the way the season (and future of the league) shakes out.
PSU v JMU
JMU has been the face of the East Coast region for essentially as long as the region has existed. But that might finally change, as Penn State looks to run it back this year as one of the top teams in the league. These teams saw each other twice last season, and PSU won both matchups. But JMU ended the season with a final 4 run, while PSU exited quietly in the round of 16. This will be the number 1 matchup look for in the East Coast region, as there may finally be a changing of the guard at the very top.
UC v Ohio
While Ohio State tops the preseason power rankings in the Ohio region, these two teams are still fully capable of taking that spot from them. There’s questions that both programs need to answer as they both lose some key players, but both programs retain high expectations going into the season. UC got the better of Ohio at Nationals last season, sending them home after a 6-1 win. But UC also lost a massive chunk of its core to graduation this season and Ohio will be eager to get their revenge at the Buckeye Opener.
WMU v SVSU
This is a relatively new rivalry in the league, as WMU started to hit a stride in the Michigan region and just had the best season of their NCDA tenure so far. The matchups these two schools played against each other were incredibly entertaining, and frequently found themselves coming down to the wire. There’s no shortage of smack talk between the two programs either, as you can commonly see playful banter exchanged between their players. Expect this rivalry to continue, and to produce some very fun dodgeball this season.
BGSU v Akron
This matchup was rather one-sided last season, with Akron going 3-0 against the Falcons. However, with some key losses to Akron coupled with BGSU having a relatively light graduating class might end up closing the gap between these two teams. Expect some fantastic matchups, and for these two teams to see each other a lot this season. There’s a lot of potential for the Ohio region power structure to shake up quite a bit, and both of these teams are looking to capitalize on that.
Kent v CSU
These are two teams that are in a very similar spot developmentally speaking, and share a pretty friendly rivalry. Both found themselves in a rebuilding year, with Kent specifically playing most of the year with less than 12 players. The two teams split their season series at 2-2, with CSU notching some wins early on, and Kent getting the last two in the spring semester. Both of them look to continue their recruiting and move up in the standings. There is much potential for these teams to go back and forth with each other all year once more.
CUW v Illinois
A matchup we were unfortunately not able to see last year, these two brand new programs enter their sophomore seasons and look to continue building themselves up and becoming legitimate forces in the league. CUW was able to secure their first ever win in program history against the UNG Nighthawks at Nationals last season. Illinois was only able to come to one tournament, but showed huge flashes of potential during their matches. Geographically these schools are a very reasonable distance away from each other, so this matchup has a high likelihood of finally happening. It’ll be entertaining to see how these clubs enter and approach their second seasons in the league.
Ole Miss v UNG
In a similar vein to CUW v Illinois, a new school has joined the league in the Southern region. Ole Miss joins the ranks of UNG and UK to begin their program in the NCDA. UNG may not be a “new” team per say, but they’re a program in a heavy rebuilding phase coming off of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were able to get their players to nationals, and get them some much-needed experience for this upcoming season. Ideally, this could be the start of not just a great rivalry, but also a new era for the Southern region.
Some of these matchups we won’t have to wait very long to see, as the Buckeye opener will showcase almost the entire Ohio region on September 17th. So be sure to tune in to see how some of these matches turn out!