Club looks to prove its dominance at Nationals
Some teams rebuild. Others simply reload.
After losing eight players from last year’s national championship team, the SVSU dodgeball club has set its sights on silencing the doubters who have tabbed it as a rebuilding program.
After going 1-3-1 in its first tournament at The Ohio State University, the team has rebounded and has only lost two games since – both of which were taken to overtime.
Torrie Peplinski is one of the team’s four captains. The veteran said that the early issues were due to the lack of team chemistry.
“In the beginning we just struggled,” he said. “I think the chemistry wasn’t there after losing the eight players, and when you take eight people out of a 15 man roster there are some spots to fill and we just didn’t know how each other played yet.”
Zach Phelps is another team captain. He agreed that having so many young players led to the team’s rough start.
“In our very first tournament we had six of our projected 15 playing and nine were incoming freshmen or brand new players to the program,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener to go down there and to play like we did.”
Max Siler is in his first year as the team’s head captain. He says that although there was a lack of chemistry in the beginning, the team has rebounded nicely and other players have made the most of their opportunities.
“We didn’t only lose eight players, but we lost eight top players,” he said. “When we came into this year everyone was thinking, ‘Oh, they’re just going to go into rebuilding mode,’ but we’ve been proving people wrong because those second-tier players are now moving into the first tier.”
The captains credit the team’s turnaround to more time together and learning everybody’s strengths and weaknesses.
The team’s latest performances were back-to-back shutouts of Central Michigan and Bowling Green.
Despite the winning effort, Siler saw room for improvement before the team competes in the national tournament.
“A 5-0 score is definitely what you shoot for, but watching the game, you wouldn’t be able to tell,” he said. “There were definitely a lot of things that we need to work on but luckily we have a month until Nationals.
“We need to work on our communication between team members and getting everybody to work together.”
Peplinski agreed that the team could do even better.
“The scoreboard looked like we smoked them but there were some points where we didn’t play as well as I thought we could have,” he said.
Former captain Spencer Jardine was impressed by the team’s performance and said that despite the occasional loss of focus, the team played really well.
“I was very impressed, and I liked what we did,” he said. “There were some point where I wondered what we were doing, and you just want to put your hands up, but putting up 0-0 scores on teams in this league is pretty impressive.”
He also wanted to thank the fans for doing their part.
“We just want to thank the fans for being there,” he said. “That was a packed house and everybody was into it, and it was entertaining.
“I think the best quote about our fans is as someone from MSU said, ‘It’s like playing in the Swamp in Florida’ because it’s that intimidating.”
In mid-April, the team will head to Lexington, Ky., to play in the national dodgeball tournament. The club has competed in the tournament several times before, including last year when they won it all at home.
Siler says that the players experience in past national tournaments will benefit them in this one.
“Just like in every other sport everybody wants to talk about the big game experience that the guys from last year can carry over into this year’s season,” he said. “We may have lost eight top guys from last year’s team but that leaves us with seven starters who played in the National Championship and who played in the final four game against Grand Valley that went into overtime.
“They have the experience and they know how to pull it out when it comes to big games.”
Despite the influx of new talent, the team expects to be ready for the national stage.
“With the roster we have and how we played this weekend we just have to keep the momentum going,” Peplinski said. “We struggled in the beginning of the year, but here at the end of the year I don’t think we’ve given up more than two points.”
“We know we’re the best team in the nation, we just have to prove it,” he said.