A Week in Review: D3 Matches have begun

Matches are picking up and what a few days we have had! I’m not able to see every game due to my own schedule, but I do try to see as much as I can. We’ve had a few performances of note that were worth highlighting this week!

Carthage Asserts Dominance

The Redmen emerge as a standout power this week in the Midwest, with convincing wins 3-0 wins over Lakeland and Aurora. The team’s level of play is higher than it was last year, and that should scare every reader suffering from East Coast bias. I’m a firm believer in how good this year’s Carthage team is, and only wish we could see them match up against Dominican like we normally would.

Carthage was fairly in control of every moment of their matches accept set 2 against Aurora, when the Spartans were keeping them out of rhythm. There is always a chance for any team to win a game despite whatever probabilities exist, and as I was watching this match, I thought Aurora would take this set. But, in times like that, every team needs to have a go to player who can clean the slate and put you where you need to be, and Carthage has that in Matt Slivinski.

Slivinski essentially took over the match against Aurora and displayed exactly why he might be in consideration as the top outside in D3. He was launching bombs from the service line (6 aces…) and hit .567 for the match: 19 kills – 2 errors– on 30 attempts.
Carthage has a couple more matches in February, but the one I have my eye on occurs February 24th, as explained below.

North Central downs Aurora in season opener

Photo credited to Steve Woltmann Photography

North Central lost to Aurora in five last year and would ultimately get its vengeance in their covid season opener. The friendly rivalry between these two programs was palpably evident during the first set of the match, as each team came out throwing haymakers.

I am fairly high on both of these programs this season, but I do have to commend Coach Exline for the marked improvement of his Cardinals in this win. Jared Moser is still a top 5 outside, Jeremy Cardenas is likely to be a top 5 middle, Jake Miller had the best offensive game of his career, but the player of the night had to be Matthew Nealon. A transfer from UCSC, Nealon (Junior) joined the Cardinals this season and seems to have firmly claimed the starting role. His 30 assists lead NCC to a .400 hitting percentage: 39 kills – 9 errors – 75 attempts, while adding in 5 aces.

NCC has good pieces, and they serve the way I like every team to serve (hard and for the fences). Their next match against MSOE is another quality game to gauge their current ranking in the coaches poll: a win over them gives them a lot of momentum as they finish their out of conference matches. They’ll play Carthage on February 24th, and that match will have implications on who’s the best in the Midwest.

Fontbonne defeats Mount Union in back-to-back action

The MCVL’s present collided with its future, as the top ranked teams of the conference played twice in one day this weekend.

Fontbonne swept Mount Union 3-0, then finished the day with a 3-1 win. The team’s outside Ryan Lively is making himself known in the conference since his transfer from Purdue-Fort Wayne. He’s largely been unstoppable, as he’s averaging a hitting percentage over .400 in matches so far. Granted, the play of Mount Union is not to go unstated, especially libero Steve Grenier who seemed to have a golden platform in the afternoon match.

The MCVL remains one of the weaker conferences in the D3 landscape, but what excites me the most is that the level of play of both these teams has increased since last season; this is both good for the MCVL and D3VB. The more quality programs playing good volleyball, the stronger our sport becomes.

Mount Union is an incredibly young program, but they are on the right trajectory to building foundational success in the landscape. Fontbonne’s play looks more like its 2019 performance than its 2020 season, and if they maintain this they should be the heavy favorites to win the MCVL. 

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