Note: Kevin Bailey wrote this preview.
With the last snowfall of the winter (hopefully) behind us, it’s finally roundnet season in the Midwest! We are three tour stops into the 2019 Spikeball Roundnet Association (SRA) season, with two of those events taking place out West, and one in the Southeast. With the SRA season almost in full swing, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at where the Midwest Region stands!
The 2018 season was a decent year for Midwest teams. 3 full-Midwest teams and 3 half-Midwest teams made the inaugural SRA Pro Division at 2018 Nationals in Santa Monica, CA.
Cisek/Showalter (Tyler Cisek and Peter Jon Showalter), as expected, were the headliners in 2018; this half-MW team dominated the roundnet scene, losing only one series all year en route to their second consecutive National Title. Origin Vengeance (Chris Hornacek and Dylan Fogarty) reunited in 2018 and had a great year: they landed on plenty of podiums, won Midwest Regionals, and finished 4th at Nationals.
Peter Jon Showalter of Cisek/Showalter spikes a ball at 2018 Nationals.
Half-Midwest teams Schweppes (Jesse Showalter and Micah Zimmerman) and Tetelestai (Jesse Throw and Logan Cornelius) had solid years that resulted in Pro Division bids. Tetelestai earned Spikeball Elite, thanks in large part to a string of third place finishes in the spring, while Schweppes put together enough solid finishes to end the year ranked in the top 10.
Origin clubmates Chris Wilkins and Patrick Drucker decided to form a team (Origin Worldwide) mid-season, and found their way into the Pro Division thanks to stellar finishes in in Columbus (2nd) and Nashville (4th). The last MW team to make the Pro Division was Joey & Joey (Joey Hafertepe and Joey Pierron). J&J scored a few 4th place finishes during the 2018 tour series before landing on the podium, in third, at Midwest Regionals. Beyond those 6 notable teams, the Midwest had no other player or team finish 2018 in the Post-Season Power Rankings. The lower half of the Midwest Premier Division was filled with up-and-coming teams that weren’t quite ready to be competitive at the premier level.
Starting at the top, Cisek/Showalter is the clear #1 team. C/S entered the season as the heavy favorite to win a third straight national championship, and they already have one tour stop victory under their belt. They took down Chico Spikes (Skyler Boles and Shaun Boyer) in the semifinals and Preston Bies and Dylan Fogarty in the finals to win San Francisco. We will surely see Cisek/Showalter come out on top at plenty of MW Tour Stops in 2019.
Origin Vengeance has yet to pair up this year, but both individuals have played at two tour stops already in 2019, with neither of them missing a podium thus far. When we see OV team up in Seattle, expect them to be as good, if not better, than they were in 2019. If C/S doesn’t attend every Midwest tour stop, look for OV to be the favorite to win the pitchers, just as they did at 2018 Midwest Regionals.
Chris Hornacek of Origin Vengeance follows through on a ball at the 2018 Chicago Grand Slam.
After those top two teams (ranked 1st and 3rd respectively in the April 2019 Power Rankings), there is a gap before we find another team with a Midwest player. Graham/Throw (Joel Graham and Jesse Throw) is a new team for 2019, and this half-MW team will be one to watch out for, as they debuted at #8 in the Power Rankings. Just below Graham/Throw is yet another half-MW squad, Schweppes. These two Atlas Roundnet Club teams will be fun to watch in 2019. Expect both to be in the Pro Division and remain top 10 teams throughout the year.
Joey and Joey return for a second year together as a team. Look for these two Midwesterners to continue to improve. Don’t be surprised when they once again find themselves in the semifinals at several tour stops this year.
There are two more teams from the Midwest who found their way into the first Power Rankings of the season, and both hail from the Chicagoland area: Origin Invictus and Origin Flow. Origin Invictus (Chris Wilkins and Matt Bohnen) will be an interesting team to follow in 2019. They have the skills to be a podium finisher in the Midwest and earn a Pro Division berth at the end of the year. Wilkins already has one 1st Place finish under his belt this spring; he won the Open Division at Chicagoland High School tournament with Patrick Drucker. Bohnen on the other hand, performed very well last weekend in Atlanta, earning a 2nd Place finish alongside clubmate Chris Hornacek. Look for Origin Invictus to challenge for a spot in the top 10 if they start the year hot.
Origin Flow (Mike Priller and Nick Daub) made it into the Power Rankings for the first time this April, landing at #22. Flow will start the Midwest season as a top 3 team for Origin Roundnet Club. So far this spring they took Origin Worldwide to 3 games a few weeks ago at a Chicagoland High School event, and finished in 9th Place at the Atlanta Tour Stop, with a respectable loss to Bohnen/Hornacek in the Round of 16.
Over the years, players from Chicago, with a few exceptions (some top players from Ohio and Wisconsin), have carried the Midwest Region. A quick look at the April Power Rankings shows Chicago still dominates the Midwest, but it will be interesting to follow the development of players/teams from other areas this year.
Outside of the power ranked teams mentioned above, the teams worth noting come from areas other than Chicago. Michigan’s Team 7 (Thomas Hamilton and Spencer Weber) will be on the rise in 2019; they may be the most underrated team in the Midwest. Team 7 has two 2nd Place finishes to their name already this spring, most notably at the Chicagoland event a few weeks ago where they lost to Worldwide in the finals.
Slice the Mango (Max Billinghurst and Dawson Morgan), another Michigan squad, started the 2018 season in the Intermediate Division, but steadily improved and earned Premier at the 2018 Chicago Grand Slam. “Slice” had a poor showing at the Atlanta Tour Stop last weekend (17th), but are poised to improve rapidly as they gain more Premier Division experience.
A Michigan tournament podium featuring Lake Effect (center) and Team 7 (right).
Lake Effect (Kevin Bailey and Cory Eash), from Michigan and Indiana, is another Midwest team to look out for in 2019. They won a Michigan State tournament in early April, but will not debut together on the SRA Tour until Indianapolis.
At the Advanced Division level, there are plenty of strong teams from the Midwest who are looking to make their way into the Premier Division. First and foremost, keep an eye out for Advanced Veterans (Andrew Shock and Lucas Hill) from Indiana to make it out of the Advanced Division early in the season. This duo is as strong as any Advanced team in the Midwest, and earned 3rd Place in Advanced in Atlanta over the weekend.
Ohio State’s Closed on Sundays (Ian Timan and Brooks Anderson) had a decent showing in the college scene this year. Most notably, they landed the 55 seed after a poor pool play at college nationals, but upset the 10 seed to make the round of 32. With plenty of tournaments on their calendar in 2019, they should remain a fun team to watch.
One last Origin team of note: in the second half of the 2019 season, look out for Michael Zagone and Jack Matthews. They have experience in the Premier Division and will be looking to get back there and make some noise.
Michigan’s Flight (Brad Hotovy and Hunter Greer) and Icy Spikes (Mike Rogers and Nic Dewey) are swapping partners for 2019, making two half-premier teams in Hotovy/Rogers and Greer/Dewey that will have a shot to make it far in any Advanced tourney. Lastly, Superior (Nate Wilson and Ryan Marino), another Michigan team, surprised many with a podium finish above many premier players at Michigan State this month. They will be looking to take the leap to Premier in 2019.
2019 looks to be exciting in the Midwest. The usual suspects are again at the top of the rankings, but this year the lower Premier teams and top Advanced teams should give the Midwest the depth it lacked in past seasons. With 5 Tour Stops on the docket, and plenty of teams from the region looking to travel elsewhere for out-of-region tourneys, the Midwest could take a step forward and become a much more competitive region in 2019.
The Rally’s Picks
- Best Team
- Half-Midwest Team: Cisek/Showalter (Tyler Cisek and Peter Jon Showalter)
- Full-Midwest Team: Origin Vengeance (Chris Hornacek and Dylan Fogarty)
- Peter Jon Showalter (Cisek/Showalter)
- Team 7 (Thomas Hamilton and Spencer Weber)
- Nick Daub (Origin Flow)
- Thomas Hamilton (Team 7)
- Origin Invictus (Chris Wilkins and Matt Bohnen)
- Advanced Veterans (Andrew Shock and Lucas Hill)
- Schweppes vs. Graham/Throw
- Chicago Grand Slam (8/17/19)