After successful events in both Milwaukee and Indianapolis, the Midwest Tour Series continues this weekend in Grand Rapids, MI. 107 teams will make their way to Grand Rapids this Saturday to take part in the first ever Spikeball Roundnet Association event in Michigan. Below are previews for both the Premier and Advanced divisions at the 2019 Grand Rapids Tour Stop:
Premier Division Preview
(Written by Kevin Bailey)
Great players from across the nation have traveled to the Midwest to compete so far this year, and Saturday will be no exception, as the 16-team Premier Division will be littered with talent from a variety of regions. Upon first glance, the favorite for this event is clear. Skidoosh (Peter Jon Showalter and Clark Marshall) will be the frontrunners to take home 1st Place in Grand Rapids. Showalter, of #1 ranked Cisek/Showalter, has been one of the top ranked players in the sport for a number of years. He has shown the ability to have huge success when mashing up with new partners (earning multiple pitchers last year on mashup teams). Marshall, of #6 Trippy Lizard, is a candidate for breakout player of the year in 2019, as he has shown his skill all spring, with top 4 finishes in Milwaukee, Lancaster, and Boston, as well as a tournament win at the most recent Midwest Tour Stop: Indianapolis. Showalter and Marshall on paper are the top team that will be in attendance this weekend in GR.
Beyond Showalter and Marshall, the likely order of finish is not as clear. This tournament may not be as loaded with top 5 teams as some other events this year (see: Seattle, Lancaster, Santa Monica), but it will be an intriguing event due to the number of teams who have the capability to make it into the quarterfinals or further.
Origin Invictus (Matthew Bohnen and Chris Wilkins) is certainly a team to keep an eye on in Grand Rapids. Bohnen was last seen winning the Boston Tour Stop alongside David Gonzales. That tournament title included a big semifinals win for Bohnen over clubmates Origin Vengeance. He and Wilkins finished on the podium in Indianapolis, and should be favored to do so again this weekend.
Another team that will likely challenge for a top spot in Grand Rapids is Subiquitous (Austin Rawlings and Josh Fragiacomo). Fragiacomo of #12 SubPar Team and Rawlings of #13 Ubiquitous, are both strong players who can take over games with their serves. This west coast mashup may catch some of the Midwest teams off guard with their level of skill, as both players look to reach their first Premier Division podium of the 2019 Tour Series.
Speaking of west teams making the trek to Grand Rapids, newly formed #16 Spikers Synonymous (Tyler Stokes and Taylor Church) will be in attendance. All eyes will be on this team from Utah to see if their win over Clem/Rouse in Seattle was a fluke or not. This tourney will be a big test for Church and Stokes, and will give voters a much better idea of where to place them in the Power Rankings.
Several other ranked teams will be in Grand Rapids on Saturday, including #15 Schweppes (Micah Zimmerman and Jesse Showalter). This team, known for their defense, has only one finish so far this year, and it was an underwhelming one (10th in Lancaster). Saturday will be a great opportunity for Zimmerman and Showalter to make a statement that they are still a top-notch team.
#19 Joey and Joey (Joey Pierron and Joey Hafertepe) is another team with a lot to prove this weekend. They too only have one tournament under their belt in 2019, and it was a T-5 finish in Milwaukee. Look for this squad to get one of the top seeds heading into bracket play (as they always seem to do at Midwest events), and make a run at a semifinals appearance.
The top ranked team in Michigan, #21 Team 7 (Spencer Weber and Thomas Hamilton) is poised for a strong performance in their home state. This duo will rely on their strong serving to get them through teams. Don’t be surprised if they earn a semifinal berth just like they did in Indianapolis earlier this month.
The team that rounds out the Power Ranking, #25 Coastal Empire (Harding Brumby and Brendan Ferreira), is traveling north to Grand Rapids. Empire landed at T-13th last weekend in Raleigh after falling to eventual champions, Anchored LI. This veteran-led team is hoping to get back to a top 8 finish like they had in Milwaukee.
Outside of the Power Ranked teams, Do a Barrel Roll (Ezra Dantowitz and Ben Dantowitz) is one to keep an eye on. Their only finish together this year was T-13 in Lancaster, but both brothers have found some success with mashup partners so far this year. DaBR won’t be an easy team to beat, and will likely be in a position to make the quarterfinals if they can do well in pool play.
Tbd (Caleb Royse and Patrick Drucker) should be a fun team to watch on Saturday. This duo of two 2018 Pro Division players will be the biggest wildcard at the event. Drucker has already podiumed at one Midwest event, so there is no counting these two out.
Lake Effect (Kevin Bailey / Cory Eash) is a (half) Michigan team making the short drive to Grand Rapids this weekend. They have two 5th Place finishes in two tries this year (Indianapolis and Boston), but may be hard pressed to do so again in arguably a deeper pool of teams.
Two more Michigan squads who will be competing in the Premier Division will be Slice the Mango (Dawson Morgan and Max Billinghurst) and Flicy (Nic Dewey and Hunter Greer). Slice the Mango is a rapidly improving team, but they have yet to find much success in bracket play in 2019. Look for them to have a breakout performance on their home turf. Flicy earned Premier status earlier this year, and, with one Premier tournament under their belt (Indy), they will look to surprise some teams in Grand Rapids.
Strong Flush (Marc Etienne McLaughlin and Simon Brisebois) will be making the trip from Montreal. This Canadian duo was power ranked earlier this season, and with a good performance could be vaulted back into the top 25.
Busta Rim (Henry Weinberg and Chris Kaptur) and Simply Smashing (Olivier Laurin and Guillaume Jomphe) round out the Premier Division. Both teams have the opportunity to exceed expectations if they can do well in pool play and potentially win a series in bracket play.
Overall, this should be a very interesting event. Yes, there are a few top contenders, but as a whole, this field is more balanced than many Tour Stops. Pool play will be crucial as teams jockey for position heading into bracket play. There are guaranteed to be some very close matchups in the early rounds. Make sure to tune in on Twitch to watch bracket play from Grand Rapids on Saturday. The first SRA event in Michigan is setting up to be an exciting one!
Games can be viewed here: https://www.twitch.tv/spikeball
Advanced Division Preview
(Written by Solomon Berry)
Front Runners (Expect these teams to dominate the podium)
Church’s Children (Chandler Hertzler/Bryant Karratti)
Chandler is the bigger name here, having traveled to a multitude of tournaments already this year, and coming away just short each time against loaded fields. He has three third place finishes so far, as well as a fourth place finish, mostly against stacked fields including multiple half premier teams in Seattle and Santa Monica. Bryant is a little more of an unknown, but as evidenced by their team name, he has had a lot of experience against premier competition in Utah and that will definitely pay off. Team chemistry will be important early on, but barring a complete train wreck, Church’s Children should cruise to premier qualification against a decidedly less stacked Midwest advanced division.
Secret (Michael Rogers/Brad Hotovy)
This Michigan squad will be one of the favorites to take home 1st Place in Advanced at the GR Tour Stop. Hotovy, a Premier player who was on 'Flight' the past few seasons, has teamed with Rogers (Advanced) in 2019 to form a very dangerous duo. Their Wicked Spikes counterparts 'Flicy' got Premier in Milwaukee, but Secret wins a vast majority of the time against Flicy when the two teams practice. This team has had two deep runs in Advanced already this year, losing just short of Premier qualification in Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Expect Secret to rely on their strong serves and athleticism to get them through the day. They will most likely be a top seed entering bracket play with a chance to win it all.
Gock City (Lance Shock/Andrew Shock)
The longest tenured team coming to Grand Rapids from any of the divisions, Gock City was actually on the power rankings back in August of 2016. They have not played a tournament together in an unnecessarily long time, but Drew got third place in the Atlanta Advanced Division with Lucas Hill. When they have played together over the last few years they have consistently been on the brink of qualifying for Premier, with consistent play and few mistakes. Look for them to break through that barrier with the type of chemistry that only comes from playing together for years and as brothers.
LOL (Andrew Gasaway/Brooks Anderson)
Brooks has had a few deep runs in Advanced this year with other partners, including a third place finish at Indy with Kyle Ackerman as “Slippery When Wet”. He has an unlucky track record of losing to a team that either wins the tournament or at least qualifies for Premier. Andrew qualified for premier at Regionals last year, but also has not played at an SRA event since Nationals. In several smaller tournaments however, he has continued his strong serving, especially in gaining consistency with some of his widest cut serves. When given a good set, he will consistently put it away so low there is no chance to run it down. Brooks and Andrew can certainly run the table in Grand Rapids if they are serving well.
The Contenders (One of these teams will probably make semifinals with a good run)
Tan&Thicc (Ethan Datwyler and Solomon Berry)
This is a mashup of two very different players. Ethan has been around for a long time, has a lot of experience and qualified for Premier at Regionals last year. He has not had a consistent partner this year while alternating between the advanced and Premier divisions, but has finished very well in Advanced including a fourth place finish in Milwaukee with a partner who was at his first tour stop. Solomon finished in the middle of the pack at the Dallas Tour Stop, losing to the eventual champions in the second round, but has seen a lot of improvement in his serves and serve receive since then. In the Arkansas state tournament two weeks ago, he and Jacob Lueckenhoff took game one off of Harding Brumby and his mashup partner before eventually falling in three. If he can consistently land his best serves, expectations for this team should be top four.
Kyle Ackerman and Ian Timan
Depending on chemistry and how invested they are, this will be a dangerous team. Kyle got third with Brooks Anderson as “Slippery When Wet” in Indianapolis, and will be out to do just a little bit better this time around. He’s a tall lefty with a strong serve that will present difficulties for anyone who hasn’t had practice receiving with their left before. Ian has hard serves, but the key for him is going to be making sure to get clean putaways so that they cannot be run down on the grass. They should have a solid chance of breaking through to the finals this time around, but as with any team that has not played together recently, chemistry starting in pool play will be key. If they can start out strong and claim a top seed, this will be a fun team to watch.
Lost in Quarters (Emerson Dean/Ari Rosen)
Emerson Dean, from Windsor, Canada, practices with the Livonia, Michigan crew often, and will be looking at the Grand Rapids Tour Stop as basically a home tourney. He has been a solid Advanced player this year, earning a top seed in Lancaster before falling early in bracket play. Ari competed at the Santa Monica Grand Slam, and despite his inexperience he made it all the way to the quarterfinals, where he lost a tight three game series to the Hertzler brothers. This duo has high potential if they can get a fast start in pool play.
Superior (Nathan Wilson/Ryan Marino)
This Michigan team from Livonia, MI is poised for a breakout tourney in Grand Rapids. Nate and Ryan started the season with two tough finishes in Milwaukee and Indianapolis; they were knocked out in the second round at both Tour Stops. Wilson is a consistent player with very strong serve return skills for an Advanced player, thanks to him constantly practicing with the Michigan Premier players. Marino is a tall, lanky player that has some really good serves, and is very hard to read when he spikes. If Superior can improve their offensive consistency, and defensive positioning, they will be a fun team to watch in bracket play. Outside of their Tour Stop troubles they’ve had good finishes in smaller tournaments in Michigan and Canada. Most recently they placed second at the Port Stanley Tournament in Canada and will be looking to ride that momentum into the Grand Rapids Tour Stop.
Wing Dings (Chris Rossi/Caleb Cavendish)
Another half premier (Rossi), half advanced (Cavendish) Michigan team, Wing Dings will be their second Tour Stop together in 2019. They were knocked out early in Indianapolis (round of 16) after going (4-1) in pool play. Caleb is a strong all-around player who has potential to take over games when his serves are hitting. If this duo can achieve more consistent serve return / offensive play than in the past, they could make it much further than they did in Indy.
Dark Horse (Watch for one of these teams to make quarterfinals or further)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Nate DeRuiter/Julie Haselton)
Nate is an advanced veteran matching up one of the top female players in the nation. Julie plays with the Origin Roundnet Club and has performed extremely well against her clubmates in the past. Her strong mid game and clean hits on offense combined with her practice against top competition will surprise anyone who faces her unprepared. Their combined experience should help carry them at least to the quarterfinals.
123net (Ben Naber/Hudson Ford)
Ben is a veteran who has been playing for over four years, and has played a lot against top competition in Michigan. Over those four years he has also attended more than ten Tour Stops, and as an advanced veteran with a solid cut serve he’ll be sure to catch some opponents off guard. At Indy he had a rough pool play and ended up with the 28th seed, but still managed to take the five seed to three games in the opening round. This tournament he is playing with Hudson Ford from Toronto who is a bit more of an unknown. If they click together, and don't shoot themselves in the foot with their sets, this team could go far.
Sweet Cheeks (Jacob Lueckenhoff/Wes Huhman)
This team from Missouri is newer to the competitive scene, though Jacob has been playing in Tour Stops off and on since Chicago in 2016. In their first tournament together in the 2019 season they finished in the top half of the advanced pool at Boston after a rough start in pool play. Wes is more the complementary type, with consistent on the net serves, and good sets, while Jacob is more dynamic, and the key to how far/well this team can do. Jacob absolutely crushes the ball, so if he consistently lands his serves and goes on a few runs, then watch for this team to surprise some people.
Someone I Haven’t Heard of
No this is not a funny team name, it’s me betting on the field of almost twenty teams that we have not heard much about. I see at least one of the teams below to make the quarterfinals, but I don’t know enough about them now to say that definitively, so play the field ladies and gentleman.
New to the Scene/There To Have Fun (These are teams I haven’t heard of or just don’t have any analysis for. Sorry if you’re on this list, prove me wrong at the tournament!)
Spiketastic (Michael Kettwich/Randall Moore)
Spiketastic is another Michigan team, but one that doesn't compete together as frequently as some others. With that said, they could turn some heads on Saturday with their great defense, and consistent serving.
Tweenie Hut Juniors (Dean Wasil/Myles Aucamp)
Myles is one of the leaders of Michigan State's Roundnet Club. He has a strong serve, and experience against some strong competition.
Special K (Shinnosuke Koyama/Kavi Sadasivan)
Kavi is a player from Michigan State that has some tricky serves in his arsenal. Shin, also from Michigan State, is a less powerful server, but a strong defensive player who will be consistent on offense. This Spartan duo may surprise some opponents on Saturday.
Top Four Prediction
Now after all that optimism about so many different teams, the smart money is on Church’s Children and Gock City. Their experience against high level competition should carry them through the field and help prevent them from faltering. With that said, my top 8 are in order below.
- Church’s Children
- Gock City
- Lost in Quarters