Another week, another coaches poll! We’ve had a bunch of matches since last Tuesday, including some showdowns between nationally ranked programs! The top 4 Midwest teams battled it out this past week in conference play, as Carthage took on North Central in the CCIW and Dominican played Benedictine in NACC play (more on that later). We’ve had some shake ups in the Coaches Poll, so let’s dive in.
- Springfield: No surprise here; biggest news regarding Springfield is that they will play an NECC regular season schedule for the season. Until they are beaten, they will be the consensus best team in D3, and the target on their back will only grow larger.
- SUNY New Paltz: Once again no surprise; they will be considered the foil to Springfield most of the season until either one of them loses or another contender emerges. SUNYAC cleared all spring sports to play, which hints strongly at the hawks returning to D3 play for the season (a schedule hasn’t been released yet).
- Vassar: The liberty league just cleared all Spring sports to compete, and so the Brewers made their return official on Instagram earlier this week. Rumor has it that their first official matches will occur midway through March.
- Carthage: I had Carthage in my top 5 last week (and continue to do so), and their win over a strong North Central Squad cemented this status in the eyes of the coach’s poll voters (a tight, but convincing, sweep in NCC’s home). They will most likely remain atop the polls amongst the Midwest teams until their late March matches, when they play NCC (again) and Benedictine within four days of each other.
- Rutgers-Newark: The Scarlet Raiders haven’t played since my last D3 review, and seem to have settled at #5 in the coaches poll psyche. They’ll have a chance to show they’re worthy of the top 5 tier this week, when they face off against Juniata on March 7th.
- Stevens: We get our first look at this years Ducks on March 6th, when they take on Misericordia.
- Benedictine: One of the first upsets of this young season; the Benedictine Eagles defeated Dominican in a grinding 5 set match on their home floor this past week. I wrote up my own thoughts on their match previously, but they followed up their win over Dominican with a 3-0 sweep over Rockford. For now, they are in the driver’s seat in the NACC. They will have a stiff matchup with Aurora this week to solidify their place in the landscape.
- St. John Fischer: With the Liberty League announcing Spring Sports could return to play, St. John Fisher is supposedly in the clear for competition. I don’t see them remaining in the 8 spot once they get to the court, as the team on paper has top 5 talent.
- Endicott: Still waiting on a schedule for the Gulls, but their conference gave Spring Sports the clearance needed to resume competition, and that is great.
- Dominican: I think if there is a floor for Dominican’s ranking, it is 10. I think a fall this large is a big overreaction to a 5 set loss on a conference rivals home court, but you have to beat the teams in front of you regardless of the circumstances. They have the pieces to contend, and their next ranked match will occur against MSOE on March 6th.
- Juniata: The Eagles won some hard fought matches this past weekend against Marymount and will seek to take down Elmira and CVC rival Rutgers-Newark this weekend.
- North Central: North Central threw everything they had at Carthage and then some. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, losing 3-0 to Carthage at home in that type of match was nothing to be ashamed of, as it says more about how good Carthage is than how “bad” NCC is. This young team is only going to get better, and they will have a couple CCIW matches before their next ranked match against Benedictine in mid-March.
- Lancaster Bible: Their last match was over Cairn on February 27th, and so far, they only have another 3 matches left on their schedule (more on scheduling nightmares later).
- Southern Virginia: SVU went 2-0 in conference matches this past weekend against Randolph-Macon, and their next matches will be against Eastern Mennonite on March 6th.
- MSOE: The first new entrant in the coaches poll this year, the raiders picked up a 3-1 loss to unranked Marian as I was writing this piece. Their next match will be against Lakeland Friday, but to remain ranked they will most likely need to win their match against Dominican on Saturday.
Best of the Midwest (Continued)
I’ve already written about the individual matches of Carthage/North Central and Dominican/Benedictine in prior articles, you can find them here (CCIW) and here (NACC). Carthage and Benedictine are firmly in the driver seats of their Conferences, standing as the top two programs in the Midwest for now.
I do not see Carthage losing until the week they play both NCC and Benedictine, and even then, the odds are in their favor. They will have their second match with NCC at home; with a 3-0 win over the program already makes them a heavy favorite to sweep the regular season series. Further, Benedictine has tough tests against Aurora, MSOE, and North Central… all before they play Carthage in Tarble Arena; once again favoring Carthage. By the end of March we’ll have the final pecking order of the Midwest established. I counted out the Eagles against Dominican too soon, so I’ll definitely have my eyes on them moving forward to shake up the status quo again.
Beasts of the East Return
Since my last write up, the SUNYAC, Liberty League, and NECC all cleared their Spring Sports for competition. This is fantastic news for D3VB, as it primes the return of several top programs into the fold. Springfield (NECC regular season), New Paltz, Vassar, St. John’s Fisher, and Endicott returning for competition makes the Division stronger, and gets us one tiny bit closer to a possible NCAA championship.
Thoughts Moving Forward
- Kevin Duffy (MB) of Juniata is playing like a man on a mission, as he continues to bully every team put in front of him. Through 4 games he is averaged a .556 hitting average and 2.69 kills per/set, statistics that are crushing his averages from last year when I had him as the 5th best middle in D3VB. He is showing himself to be the premier middle in the CVC as of now, and that should put the division on notice. This Juniata squad is strong, do not let their close wins over a much-improved Marymount team fool you into thinking otherwise. Their first ranked test against Rutgers-Newark should be on everyone’s radar, as both programs are young and represent the future of the CVC.
- I had Messiah as a team to keep an eye on this year in my summer landscape series, and boy was I right. This team is closer to the top 15 than most of the other bubble teams, and honestly it might be between them and conference rival Stevenson with Marian’s sweep over #15 MSOE. Matt Knab (11.36 assists/set) and Mason Nissley (.393) are both playing at a high level, accelerating the rise of this program faster than I expected.
Mason Nissley put on a show this weekend against a strong Arcadia team, ending with 45 kills on 82 attempts with 12 errors across 8 sets of play. Nissley has taken a huge step forward in his sophomore campaign, showing not only a wide variety of shots in his arsenal but the ability to swing deep line. I will not anoint him the best player in the MAC just yet, but he is making early claims for that end of year title so far.
- I’m a tad concerned with the scheduling nightmares I’ve been seeing throughout the landscape. Many programs have only recently been given clearance to play, many were only operating under the assumption they’d be allowed to practice. Some programs have given up on the season altogether (MIT, CUNYAC).
I understand we’re in a Pandemic and the safety of athletes, staff, and people come first. But if the NCAA is serious about attempting to run a season such as this, they need to consider expanding the regular season dates. Some programs right now will not be starting matches until halfway through March… and to make matters worse many programs are not allowed overnight travel privileges until after May 1st…. when do NCAA’s occur again? A serious look needs to be made into pushing back the post-season this year. My sources tell me a proposal for such a move has been made, and I will keep my fingers crossed that is gets ratified for the betterment of D3VB this season.
- I’m just a D3VB fan, and don’t have voting privileges in the coaches poll (for the better). But I’m happy to see some shakeup in the rankings after play this week. I ended my review last week with my current top 5, and I think it is only fair to do it again.
- New Paltz
- St. John Fisher
I had Dominican in my top 5 last week, and still believe them to be a program capable of playing to that level, but a loss is a loss. St. John Fisher might be the most talented unknown yet for the season, as many people (including myself) had them pegged as dark horse UVC candidates this year under normal circumstances. Another year of development with a good recruiting class has set the bar high for this squad.
I could easily see Rutgers-Newark being more worthy of the distinction of the top 5, but I am not completely sold on them yet; I’ve been holding out until I see them in action against higher tier opponents. A win over Juniata will go a long way towards silencing me and anyone else who may doubt the talent of the Scarlet Raiders this season.