This past weekend was easily the best the East Coast has ever had in terms of dodgeball. Six teams from the region, including NCDA newcomer Stevenson University, were at the same tournament, breaking our previous record of four. Not only that but two teams, Penn State and VCU, picked up their first ever victories in the league. This tournament raised some new questions, but also had the people there learning a lot about each other here on the EC.
What we learned: We already knew JMU’s depth was solid, but this weekend showed just how good it really is. With only a few of their “top” well known guys (Sizemore, Cardella, Ford, and a couple others), JMU was missing some key players such as Brent Gromer, but still came in and handled business. They may have a good amount of learning to do, as I saw Ben Sizemore doing a lot of coaching while there, but there wasn’t much of a drop off in talent if there was one at all.
Question: The same old question remains for JMU in regards to this season. It is evident that they’re still the top team on the East Coast, but how do they stack up against the other schools? Particularly the ones from Michigan.
What we learned: So we already knew Maryland had a sound strategy, but if they go against a strong catching team they seem to struggle more than they do against a strong throwing team. Catching isn’t Maryland’s issue, it’s having the arms to match their catches. They have Rohan Mittal, Dylan Allred, Tyler Wieland, and a couple other decent arms, but the back half of their roster doesn’t have the arm strength or accuracy to get to where they need to be.
Question: How would the Terps stack up against a catch-heavy team like CMU? Both MD and CMU appear to have catching as their top trait. If both teams were able to eliminate the others top end throwers it’d be very interesting to see how the matchup would go. With no teams out here being as catch happy as the Chippewas though it’d be hard to see an accurate matchup until the two play each other.
What we learned: Towson’s young guns and “role players” have made more progress than anticipated at this point in the season. While it was clear that we really missed our big gun in Joe Tobin, we had a lot of backup players show us a lot of positive things this weekend. Most of these guys won’t get name recognition around the league so I’ll put them in here (Scott Delawder, Josh Tope, Jonathan Soward) to name a few, showed that even though Tobin is irreplaceable, that these guys can do a solid job of covering up that missing piece.
Question: Can Towson put together a full 50 minute match? We Towson showed a lot of good things, our biggest weakness was staying in the match mentally for the full time. Admittedly, we did have a fairly gruesome injury happen to one of our players that may have distracted some of our guys during the day, but we’ll have to be able to stay sharp mentally if we want to make any noise at Nationals.
What we learned: Penn State may not have the same guys they’ve had the last couple years, but they do have a good amount of talent. I didn’t get to watch their match against UMD to see how they pushed it to five points, but knowing how deliberate Maryland’s pace can be that’s very impressive in my mind.
Question: Where is the strategy? Maybe it’s because I caught them at the end of the day, but PSU seemed to almost have a “let’s make it up as we go” sort of mentality. Maybe they were just exhausted from a full day of play, but they will definitely need to come up with a higher level of organization for future tournaments.
What we learned: VCU has absolutely improved in terms of team unity compared to years past. They have some pretty decent top-end talent, but after the first few guys there is definitely a drop-off that they will need to make up for down the road. The other thing I noticed was that most of they’re players we’re either good at catching or throwing, and no particular combination except with maybe one player who I currently can’t recall his jersey number/name.
Question: How do they put more wins together? Right now VCU doesn’t seem like they know the best way to capitalize on any form of positive momentum that comes their way. If one of their players makes a clutch catch, or a nice kill, the Rams seem to struggle in taking that and creating more out of it. If they can fix this then it will certainly help VCU in future matches.
What we learned: Stevenson was brand new to the NCDA, and it definitely showed. The team is talented, but extremely raw. They have arms, but not much of a mindset for things like catching. Also, like many new teams in the past, SU does not have much of a set strategy just yet. It’s hard to say much else on what we learned though, as I’m sure the Mustangs are still learning a lot about themselves.
Question: Will this team become a mainstay in the NCDA? If they do, they will definitely need to get proper practice facilities and equipment as a racquetball court is too small and using foam balls really hinders the transition into a rubber ball tournament. There are a lot of questions about this team that won’t have an answer until they get more playing time though.
Big Question of the Weekend: How do we get teams like PSU, VCU, SU and RIT (they were originally supposed to attend, but their travel plans got messed up) to continue to attend tournaments like this so the EC can continue to grow?