GVSU tops CMU, wins NCDA title

Mark Washburn

The Grand Valley State dodgeball club achieved a national championship three-peat on Sunday at the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association (NCDA) championships at Western Kentucky University.

GVSU, which entered the championships with a 30-1 overall record, upped its total national title count to seven after defeating Central Michigan in the national championship game.

Saturday kicked off the two-day dodgeball extravaganza, and the Lakers were hot from the get go. GVSU topped Wisconsin-Platteville (6-0), Kentucky (3-1) and Penn State (2-1) en route to earning the top seed in bracket play on Sunday. 

The Lakers played strategically to gear up for the tough competition during the single elimination Sunday tournament.

“On the first day we played some teams we didn’t usually play because they were not Michigan teams,” said senior Trevor Nordberg. “We saved our arms and didn’t throw as much as normal games to be ready for Sunday.”

Sunday brought much more excitement for the Laker dodgeball players.

In bracket play, GVSU topped Virginia Commonwealth 4-0 in the round of 16. Then the Lakers squared off with Wisconsin-Platteville in a weekend rematch, and pulled away with another victory (4-1). 

In the final four, GVSU met up with Saginaw Valley State.

The first half of the semifinal tangle with SVSU created quite the scene. GVSU senior captain Kevin Bailey and freshman Kurtis DeYoung were the last two Lakers standing against an SVSU assault, with the Cardinals close to securing the first point.

“I thought ‘here we go again’ because there was a similar 2-on-4 situation against MSU earlier in the season,” DeYoung said. “We were not too worried.”

Bailey threw a catch to SVSU, however, leaving DeYoung as the only Laker out on the court. Then, after DeYoung knocked two Cardinals out, the Cardinals pegged DeYoung with a solid throw. It appeared SVSU had won the point, but the head ref said SVSU called a timeout beforehand. 

DeYoung and the Lakers were given a second chance and, after DeYoung performed some agile dodges, he snagged a ball in midair, bringing in another Laker and starting the comeback.

GVSU won the first point to close out the first half, giving the Lakers more than enough momentum for an eventual 3-0 win. It appeared DeYoung was correct: There wasn’t much to be worried about.

In the national championship game, GVSU squared off with Central Michigan – the only team to beat GVSU during the regular season.

“We definitely learned a lot from the loss a few weeks ago at the CMU Showdown,” Bailey said.

Nordberg was also ready to take on the Chippewas again.

“We had a chip on our shoulder, and their win last time gave them sense that they could do it again,” he said.

Not throwing catches was a huge element for the Lakers.

“We didn’t throw many catches at all, we were being careful with throw placement, and we also played as fast paced as we could,” Bailey said. “This played into our advantage and not theirs, which allowed us to get a few more outs in transition and middle of the court.”

By a score of 2-0, the Lakers won their seventh national championship in program history.

“It is always a great feeling reaching the ultimate goal,” Bailey said. “We talk about this the whole year, and finally getting there and winning it all was a relief to celebrate that.

“It was different and more special because we had 11 players who had not played at a national tournament before, so new players played key roles and our older guys really stepped up.”

The seven wins at the tournament brought the Lakers to a 37-1 overall record for the 2014-15 season.

For a few Laker dodgeballers, the 2015 tournament marks the end. 

Nordberg, along with assistant captain Dylan Fettig, Jalen Gardner and Paul Hillebrand, stepped up to help guide the Lakers to a national championship.

“This feels fantastic,” Nordberg said. “Dodgeball has been a huge part of my college career and this is a surreal feeling to graduate and win a national championship.”

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