The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: Central Michigan University, #19

In addition to our preseason rankings, The Eighth Man staff will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the top 20 teams, counting down from 20 to one. Each article will be written by two members of the staff, one who believes the team will live up to or exceed expectations and one who thinks they will come up short. 


A REPEAT PERFORMANCE
By Daniel Daugherty

In its two years of existence, Central Michigan University (CMU) has yet to feel the sting of losing key pieces. In fact, they have experienced the opposite—their best have only gotten better.  This year, however, this steadily improving team will lose a slew of stars. How they handle these losses will prove to be a pivotal point in their program’s growth. Losses aside, I believe there are plenty of reasons to expect them to overcome adversity and be a top 20 team in the USQ.

The gap left behind by the loss ofthe team’s beating core—Team USA’s Ashley Calhoun, Andrew Derry and Tom O’Neil—will be difficult to fill. Returning beaters will be tasked with the job of stepping into some huge shoes while also teaching and molding first-year players. For that role, look no further than Becca Bennett. Bennett was Calhoun’s back up this past year and, therefore, flew under the radar receiving little to no recognition. Expect that to change this year. She gained valuable experience working with Calhoun and has gained plenty of knowledge and experience to go along with her raw talent. Nobody is walking through the door and replacing Calhoun from the start, but Bennett is the closest they are going to get.

In addition to the losses at beater, CMU will also be bidding adieu to seeker Jeff Fisher.Usually teams look at their departing players as a loss of experience and talent. With CMU, however, this “loss” could allow for the richer talent to step into the game. Fisher got the job done occasionally and they will definitely miss his experience, but other seekers outplayed him when they were given the chance. Booth is one of those seekers and now, without the feeling of owing Fisher playing time, the team can explore some different options at seeker and potentially be more successful in the ever-important SWIM situations.

Losses aside, CMU will retain its key piece. Keeper David Prueter was and continues to be the backbone of the team. As the talent around him grows, Pruetercontinues to demonstrate the ability to improve his consistently solid performance. With his strong leadership, desire to be the best and ever-growing knowledge of the sport, CMU is in a great position to continue moving upward.

Alongside Prueter, Brandon Booth, Seve Moralez, Adam Landis, Amber Harmon and David Wilber are the returning offensive players that will need to and should make an impact. New recruits aside, CMU already has some of the biggest, fastest and talented players in the Midwest. Booth and Prueter are both top-five keepers in the region while Moralez, Landis and Wilber could all make a case for the same distinction in the category of male chasers. Then there is Harmon, who is making her own case to be considered a top-five player at female chaser and her stock is only going up.

The core quaffle players of this team will continue to improve their already outstanding chemistry. Overall, CMU is a pretty polarizing team with their high intensity and tremendous ways of pumping themselves up. It is important that they are retaining many core players that are use to this atmospherebecause it will encourage the whole team to jump on board with this positive mentality. If they can get their whole team to match intensity and play within their system, this is a team that can make waves beyond just regional play. Time will tell, but I expect them to be right around where they were last year, which definitely should garner them the recognition of being in the preseason top 20.


A LACK THEREOF
By Luke Changet

CMU has some serious work to do if they want to replicate last season’s success, which, at its pinnacle, included four tournament wins in five weeks. The part of their team the requires the most work? The beater core.

CMU did not only lose captain and Team USA member Ashley Calhoun, but also her two strongest beating partners, Tom O’Neil and Andrew Derry. Without these three, it is difficult to see CMU being able to replicate its success in the beater game, especially considering that none of their replacements have ever seen significant playing time.

There is a strong case to be made for their chasers maintaining their form from last season. CMU built one of the most efficient passing games in the Midwest last year, and it’s very likely that this will be the case this season. However, defensively, CMU’s chasers have never been impressive. Captain David Wilber is a big, physical presence on point, but he lacks elite lateral movement speed, making him easy to juke out in the open field. Without the beater support he had previously, the majority of ball handlers may find CMU’s defense much easier to dice up.

This leads to another problem—will captain David Prueter still be effective on defense? Prueter is a gifted ball-handler, there’s no denying it. He has excellent hands, great vision and a great touch shot. However, defensively, he has always relied on his ability to stop long shots with his reach rather than stopping players with physicality. Prueter’s defensive style relies on his beaters being able to keep opposing chasers away from the hoops. Without the imposing beaters of CMU’s past, Prueter will either need to increase his physicality or turn the starting reins over to Brandon Booth, a much more physical keeper.

Also plaguing CMU is the loss of seeker Jeff Fisher. Even though Fisher was never talked about as one of the elite seekers—or, really, talked about period—he worked wonders for CMU in his final season, and he was far and away the best choice CMU had for a seeker. In the first season without off-pitch seeking, this may not be as big of a blow as it once was. However, seekers are still pivotal in the game, and, right now, CMU’s seeking game is a giant question mark.

CMU has not just lost a couple of beaters and a seeker, they have lost their entire defense. They have lost their ability to control and catch a snitch. They have lost a significant part of their leadership. Every key component of the CMU game, except for their offense, has to undergo some serious restructuring, and even the offense was less than ideal.

It is hard to see how CMU managed to sneak their way into the top 20, but it is even harder to imagine that they will be staying there for too long.

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