Another exciting week of D3 action; let’s dive in!
- Springfield: This year’s Pride squad opened competition by defeating fellow ranked opponent Endicott twice in a home-and-home series. Their next match will be against Elms on the 24th.
- New Paltz: The Hawks make their long-anticipated season debut against St. John Fisher this Saturday.
- Carthage: The Firebirds continue to run rough shod over the CCIW, dispatching Augustana 3-0 this past Saturday. They have a tough stretch of matches coming up, as they play Loras tonight, followed by North Central (20th ) and Benedictine (24th). Carthage is currently second in the nation in hitting percentage and has fought to be the preeminent Midwest program up to this point in the season. If they come out of this stretch undefeated, they will have sole claim of said mantle until the post season.
- Vassar: The 4th ranked Brewers will begin their season Sunday, with two matches against Elmira. I know Coach Gary is excited to get his squad on the court, and I’m excited to see them play.
- Rutgers: The Scarlet Raiders are fresh off a convincing win over fellow New Jersey Program Kean and will return to play against the Cougars tonight in the second of their four consecutive matches. I had the Cougars on my upset list last night, but I was resoundingly mocked by my fellow contributors and the advisory board post game. I’ve since learned my lesson to stop underselling these Scarlet Raiders. They are good, they play hard, they play together, and they win. That is what you have to do as a top 5 team.
- Benedictine: Benedictine remains in the running for “Best of the Midwest”, as their head-to-head wins over Dominican and Aurora have cemented them atop the NACC conference rankings. The Eagles will face off against North Central College in one of the premier matches of the evening, and I suggest everyone catch it if they can. A win over NCC will provide a lot of momentum going into their upcoming match with Carthage, but they should not sleep on NCC.
- Dominican: The Stars continue their climb up the rankings, as their only loss for the season up to this point is to their conference rival Benedictine (a 5-set affair). They will remain the presumptive favorite to be the 2 seed in the NACC standings. They remain one of the best blocking teams in the country and will put up their walls again this Friday against new program Wisconsin Lutheran.
- Endicott: While Endicott may have lost both matches to Springfield this weekend, I’m beyond happy to see they were rewarded with a climb in the coach’s poll. This team displayed a lot of top tier talent, and I think as they get more polished throughout the season, they will be a formidable contender in our now confirmed NCAA tournament.
- Juniata: Juniata just recently came off a double-header with Elizabethtown, where they lost the first match 3-2 and rebounded in the night cap for a 3-0 victory. Any team can beat anyone in five, and kudos to Elizabethtown on a great win. The rebound sweep seemed to reaffirm the Eagles standing in among poll voters, and their slide was not too punishing. Their match against Southern Virginia has been postponed and will now have a week to prepare for another two matches with Elizabethtown.
- Southern Virginia: Sadly, SVU’s much anticipated matches against Juniata have been canceled/postponed this weekend. Looking to confirm whether they will be rescheduled as we speak. If not, they’ll next take the court on the 23rd against Eastern Mennonite.
- Lancaster Bible: Since my last D3 Review, the Chargers have added another match to their schedule, they’ll play Wilson tonight and PSU-Altoona on the 23rd.
- St. John Fisher: The biggest drop in the rankings since the fall of Stevens to Misericordia. St. John Fisher opened their D3 Season with an unexpected loss to Nazareth this past week. FrogJump contributor Bradley Schneider has been high on Nazareth since the beginning of the season, and the loss feels very similar to Dominicans loss to low ranked Benedictine early in the season. Time may reveal this not to be as bad a loss as we think. St. John Fisher returns to action this weekend, when they take on New Paltz.
- North Central: I still think this is a tad low on the board for North Central given their talent level, but they will have a chance to rectify it in a matchup with Midwest power Benedictine tonight. A win here will go a long way towards erasing their loss to Augustana.
- Stevenson: One of the biggest winners from the Stevens loss to Misericordia has to be the Mustangs. In my last D3 Review, I wrote about how the landscape seemed to forget how talented the program was (contributor Harvey Pepperjack kindly reminded me they had received the most votes of those teams not ranked so they couldn’t have been that far off of peoples radar). The Mustangs laid an early claim to be the top power in the MAC with a convincing 3-0 sweep of Messiah, and in my opinion assume the mantle as top team in the MAC until beaten.
- Nazareth: Owen Wickens and Trent Caviness swept the UVC conference awards this week as they propelled the Golden Flyers to a significant 3-1 win over conference, and regional, rival St. John Fisher. It is great to see Cal back on the sidelines, and great to see the Golden Flyers taking off again. I am not too sure what the programs ceiling is, but they have a solid group to build from.
As I said earlier, I have a feeling their win over SJF is very similar to the Benedictine win over Dominican. They could theoretically climb the ranks further, and their schedule has them playing 3 of the top 15 teams in the country multiple times. They will have plenty of chances.
Thoughts Moving Forward
- The biggest news in the D3VB Landscape has be the announcement that NCAA DIII Spring Championships will move forward as scheduled based on current participation numbers. Meaning as of now, we currently have an NCAA Championship. The significance of this cannot be understated, and I for one am beyond excited to see some of the teams who have assembled this year get a chance to compete on D3VB’s biggest stage.
- The Springfield vs. Endicott matches brought to light something that I have noticed the last few weeks. Many East Coast programs have only recently been given the go ahead to begin 6-on-6 practices. As a fan of game-like practice (block practice is not my style) I know how much of a detriment this can be to getting a team ready for in person matches. Programs like New Paltz and Vassar have yet to begin play, while programs in the Midwest and the MAC have been going on for almost two months. The programs just beginning to play do not have too much time to waste, as they’ll need to approach something close to mid-season form incredibly quickly.
- I touched on this a little earlier in my pond talk this week with the other contributors, but from the matches I saw this weekend with Springfield I want to give a shout out to Endicott. I slept on this program over the summer coming into this year, even when I said in my landscape article that I would not.
The lack of 6-on-6 practices affected them, as both they and Springfield looked a tad rusty. Regardless, as this team gets deeper into the season, they will be a force reminiscent of the 2019 Endicott Gulls team which had Championship caliber talent. They serve hard, they pass well, and their offense will most assuredly not hit the .058% it did against Springfield. This team is closer to the top 5 than the coaches poll gives them credit, but you must beat the best to be the best, and Endicott won’t get another shot at the best until April.
- For those who did not catch the match, Paul Hackford (St. John Fisher Setter) went down with an injury in the opening moments of SJF’s match with Elmira. Mr. Hackford has been the starting Setter at SJF since its inaugural season; he, Bigford, Cerqua, Cox-Bagley, Thurston, and Terroso have built a program and culture from the ground up under the guidance of Coach England into a national power. I know firsthand how devastating that moment can be both on the court and in the locker room. From all of us here at the pond, get well soon Paul Hackford, we wish you and the Cardinals nothing but the best as avid D3VB fans.
- From a fan’s standpoint, I love seeing a good block just as much as the next person. But the FrogJump advisory board is getting very angry with me highlighting players swinging low seam directly into the block, or the “Midwest Bounce” as I’m going to label it at this point. To that I say keep swinging… the advisory board will get over it, blocks do not exist if you swing hard enough. Break their fingers.
- As I expected last week, Stevenson reminded the landscape they have not gone anywhere. With a convincing win over previously ranked Messiah the team is currently 7-0, hitting .328%, averaging 13.3 kills/set, 2.04 blocks/set and 1.48 aces/set. The sample size of matches is not against the best quality, but even a small regression to their mean from last year is enough to make them the presumptive favorite in the MAC. They will play Messiah in a rematch tonight, and that will be a match I have my eye on.
- This weekend we will be blessed with a bunch of great matches, but the two you should pencil in to watch if you’re a casual fan are easily SUNY New Paltz vs St. John Fisher and Carthage vs. North Central College. You all know which one I’ll be watching.
As always, I end my review with my personal top 5. Until next week D3VB fans.
2. New Paltz
5. Benedictine (I was very tempted to put Endicott here, and I very well may soon).
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