Dodgeball looks to capture fifth straight national title

Junior Brian Savalle launches a ball as teammate Ryan Abrahamson prepares to throw another.

Nicole Lamson

Junior Brian Savalle launches a ball as teammate Ryan Abrahamson prepares to throw another.

Garrett Pelican

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When it comes to dodgeball, Grand Valley State University’s club team reigns supreme.

Following four consecutive National College Dodgeball Association titles from 2007-2010, the team primes itself for another National Championship run this year.

Owing to the team’s success in previous years, junior Brian Savalle said the team’s expectations remain unchanged.

“Every year you go into it, and Grand Valley is the team that everybody wants to beat and has been the best team for the past four years,” said Savalle, the club’s co-treasurer. “So it is our expectation again this year to go to nationals and be able to come home with a fifth-straight title.”

Team captain Jimmy Stokes said GVSU’s successful reputation has led to scheduling problems. The team was slated to go up against Ferris State University, one of the newest members to the league, this past Saturday, but the match had to be changed to a scrimmage since the Bulldogs could not field a full team of 15 players.

GVSU ended up filling the remaining open spots on Ferris State’s roster with members of its junior varsity team.

“We’ve had a bit of trouble trying to get teams to play us,” said Stokes, a junior. “None of the kind-of-new teams want to play us because we are four-time national champs, so they think we’ll just completely dominate them.”

In addition, Stokes said the team faces growing pains after graduating several of last year’s members. The loss of these key components coupled with the growth of other programs has led Stokes to change the team’s play style to incorporate ball advantage, a tactic that involves only throwing two balls at a time to retain six.

Leaving the other team outgunned with the remaining four balls, the ball advantage allows the team with more balls to immediately capitalize on any aggressive plays by its opponent.

“We play more of an aggressive, in-your-face kind of style where we do a lot of running and try to get them out in transition.” Stokes said. “Because over the years, we’ve always been the most athletic team, so you’re able to do that. But we’ve been kind of changing our game style a little bit now that other teams are catching up to us. We’re trying to utilize a little more of that ball advantage strategy.”

The team practices three times a week – two hours on Sundays and Tuesdays and three hours on Fridays. While practices are not mandatory, the team’s leaders take attendance, scout talent from newer or improving players and refine strategy.

“Most of the time we’ll go in, our captain will talk to us a little bit,” Savalle said. “You know, ‘Hey this is what we need to work on,’ and we’ll split up into two teams and we’ll play each other working on those things that our captain has designated beforehand as something he would like us to work on.”

Like most student organizations, the club relies on Student Life Night for its primary recruiting effort. The rest of the recruiting is done by word-of-mouth advertising through club members. The relatively low cost of membership also aids recruitment efforts.

“We’re the cheapest club among sports clubs,” said co-treasurer Greg Trippiedi. “Right now it’s $20 per semester. That will get you into the club and that covers all of our travel and all of our practice fees and home games. And then players that want to play the intercollegiate competition have to buy their own jersey. It doesn’t cost very much. We usually get jerseys for about $40-$50, so people are pretty happy with that, which helps us maintain one of the larger active sports clubs on campus.”

The team will kick off its season Nov. 20 at Saginaw Valley State University. Trippiedi said Saginaw Valley plays with a similar style to GVSU, a quality the team hopes to use to its advantage in preparation for the game.

“We have three practices between now and then,” Trippiedi said. “We’re hoping that the best way to prepare for Saginaw is to play harder against ourselves. That’s going to give us the experience we need to go out there and beat what I would consider to be a tough opponent.”

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