Dodgeball eyes fifth-straight title at nationals

GVL Archive / Nicole Lamson
The GVSU Dodgeball team will be competing in the nationals

GVL Archive / Nicole Lamson The GVSU Dodgeball team will be competing in the nationals

Derek Wolff

If you can dodge a wrench, then you can dodge a ball, but will the Grand Valley State University dodgeball team be able to dodge a talented field of opponents en route to a fifth-straight national title.

The Lakers (7-3) will look to repeat with a fifth-straight title as they travel to Western Kentucky University this weekend for the 2011 National Collegiate Dodgeball Association Championship. The 20-player squad will feature 12 newcomers who will get their first look at championship dodgeball when the Lakers square off against Northwestern State University (La.) on Saturday.

Despite the lack of experience in the younger players, the team is confident and excited to be going back to defend its title, said senior co-captain Greg Trippiedi.

“It’s very exciting,” Trippiedi said. “We’re only bringing back eight (players) from last year, so for most of our roster this is a new experience. For the rest of us, we’re trying to go out one last time and do the best we can.”

The Lakers got off to a shaky start during the regular season, but three straight wins, including a crucial 3-1 decision over rival Saginaw Valley State University on March 27, have given the team a confidence boost heading into the tournament.

“Going in, we have a high level of confidence after winning four in a row,” said junior Brian Savalle. “We are all really excited for it and ready to play our hearts out.”

The Lakers’ title defense will start with three pool play games on Saturday. They open with newcomer Northwestern State at 1 p.m. and follow with National Collegiate Dodgeball Association doormat DePaul University at 2:45 p.m. The last pool play match-up will be a rematch of the 2010 NCDA title game as the Lakers will take on the Buckeyes of Ohio State University at 5:45 p.m.

As a fifth-year senior, Caleb James has been on the national title team every season of his college career. While this years’ squad is younger than those of past championship seasons, he remained confident in his young team’s ability and said they had a fighting chance.

“This national championship will be a lot of fun,” James said. “I know the younger guys are going to fight for it starting on Saturday and hopefully will get to do it over the next few years.”

The best dodgeball teams have historically been from Michigan, and this year has been no different. Michigan’s big four – GVSU, Central Michigan University, Saginaw Valley University and Michigan State University – will all start in a different pool.

Progressing undefeated through the pool play games will be imperative as it will spare the Lakers from likely meeting CMU, the nation’s No. 1 contender, until a potential championship match-up..

“We want them,” Trippiedi said. “That’s the team we want in the championship. Frankly, we wouldn’t expect anything else, and as far as we’re concerned, they’re going to be there waiting for us, and we just have to take care of business to get there. We want to play them because they’re the best.”

The championship game will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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