Pond Talk: The Plot Thickens

Question 1: What should the selection committee do about Springfield? They have to apply for a waiver this year due to the number of matches played to be considered for an at-large selection. Should they be granted the waiver, and if so should the committee grant them an at-large bid?

Harvey: The committee has an interesting case on its hands with Springfield. It has been great to see the Pride add two more dates and four matches against Lancaster Bible and Lassell. Aside from adding Wentworth to the schedule- I’m not sure what else they could have been able to do and who else to schedule.

Bradley: Springfield is doing everything they can possibly do to be eligible for postseason play this year. They have applied for a waiver, added matches to their schedule, all while having to stay within MA. I don’t think that anybody in the country doubts that they are a contender for the national championship. With that being said, I vote let the boys play. It feels natural to have to run through Springfield to get the title. Put them in the tourney.

Ramius: Since we posed this question Springfield has added 4 matches to their schedule with both Lassel and Lancaster Bible. They will in all likelihood go 4-0 in those stretches (I won’t sleep on any team but probabilities are kind of my thing). They’ll need the waiver to be considered for an at-large bid, and the committee should grant it to them. Anyone arguing Springfield hasn’t done anything this season can have their case, I’m still going to call them a coward.

You have to beat the best to be the best, and winning an NCAA title without this Springfield team in the tournament is going to have an asterisk attached to it until the end of time. Let’s just save the arguments and be proactive, because this Springfield team will most likely be 7-0 and sitting atop the regional rankings by the time the committee is asked to make their decision. 

Question 2: Nazareth has shown to be a tough out for many UVC opponents this year, and through their play has carved out a spot for themselves in the top 15. New Paltz swept the Golden Flyers fairly handily twice this Saturday, are the Hawks flying or is Nazareth cooling off?

Harvey: Probably fair to say a bit of both. New Paltz is definitely finding more of their groove at the proper time of year, but I wouldn’t stretch to Bradley’s level of saying the Hawks are back. Caark is heating up and Spulnick has been scoring at a consistent rate. Nazareth was able to blitz the UVC competition early on from having a bit more preparation time in the gym, but those rates seem to be evening out. 

Bradley: The hawks are flying baby. I knew back to back sweeps were coming for these two matches (ask Ramius or Harvey for receipt). Look, simple as this, it’s April. The Hawks know how to play April volleyball and they’re peaking at the right time. If I was Richard Gary watching that match I’d be scared for Monday’s matchup (and UVC’s). New Paltz is playing good volleyball and there is still room for improvement coming into the UVC tournament.

Ramius: I’m definitely right in the middle on this question between Harvey and Bradley. I had a strong feeling with their full roster available the New Paltz team would be a shade closer to their former selves. Nazareth is still a good volleyball team for sure and they match up better against Vassar and St. John Fisher based on their playstyle, but New Paltz is simply better when it’s pieces are on the floor.

The hawks still have a lot of polishing to do and are a ways from the offensive juggernaut they are normally expected to be. But they’ve played themselves into a position to get the number 1 seed in the UVC tournament with a win over Vassar tonight, and if you can win the UVC you can win the NCAA Championship. 

Question 3: Who would you rather face in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Carthage, Springfield, or the winner of the UVC. 

Harvey: If I were an opposing coach, I would prefer the winner of the UVC. Springfield is Springfield- I’m not sure anyone would be jumping for joy at the chance to square off with them in a NCAA Tournament match.. Carthage has been the most impressive team on the court and on paper this year. With almost 20 matches under their belt they will be the most well-seasoned and experienced team from this particular season. Regardless of who the UVC champions is, they will have a maximum of 14 matches under their belt. Most of them played in the last few weeks. That sprint to the finish could have some of these athletes burnt out when it is time for the tournament push.

Bradley: Easy answer; Carthage. All 8 years since the NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball championship was established (after Molten), the winner has been either Springfield or the UVC champion. I believe that once again, history will repeat itself. Carthage is known for struggling in the postseason. *Insert Stephen A. Smith meme “WHAT CAN GO WRONG,  WILL GO WRONG”* 

In addition, I would not want to play against #1 Springfield nor the team that comes out of the UVC. Whoever wins the UVC will be coming off of two extremely difficult matches against top-10 teams in the country. They will be peaking at the right time and playing their best volleyball. Carthage will receive an at-large bid and will have minimal competition in their CCIW tournament (which doesn’t even mean much since there is no bid). Give me Carthage.

Ramius: Honestly, I wouldn’t want to play any of these teams in the first round. The winner of the UVC will have survived a round robin schedule of 4 of the top 15 teams in the country on top of a heated conference tournament. Springfield is Springfield, their culture is about the NCAA tournament, they don’t have a conference fail-safe and are always laser focused. Carthage, well this is the best Carthage team in years and they have a player of the year candidate who is capable of taking over games when they are in tough spots. Give me anyone else, not picking any of these teams.

Question 4: We’re in the endgame of the season now, and with conference championships underway we have to start looking towards the NCAA tournament. What three teams, in your mind, have the most legitimate shot of reaching the national championship based on the season of play we’ve had?

Harvey: Springfield – Carthage – Kean. Springfield has a talent level that no other program can match, I don’t think there is much argument there. Carthage (as mentioned above) has been the best program on paper and court this season. Kean is certainly a team that is peaking at the correct time. They have 3 guys who can take a match over at any time in Capp, Milnazik, and Ray. Their pressure from the service line and ability to score at the pins is something that will make them a dangerous team to square off with in April.

Bradley: New Paltz, Vassar and Springfield. These are the teams that I see as the top three teams in the country. Springfields talent is not the question, the question is if they will be allowed to compete. If they’re allowed in the tournament, they belong in the top three. In my eyes, the UVC championship is comparable to an NCAA semi-final matchup. I see New Paltz and Vassar as the top two threats in the UVC, therefore those two teams have a higher likelihood of making it the distance. Unfortunately, the way it seems with the regional rankings, one of these teams will not be dancing this year.

Ramius: Springfield, Carthage, Kean. Springfield is Springfield, they are always ready for the tournament and have played in all but one NCAA Championship. Carthage is undefeated and firmly atop the regional rankings. Even if they lost in the CCIW Tournament, they are essentially guaranteed a spot based off their season’s resume and they are simply better than a majority of the schools who will get Conference AQ’s. Kean has an inside track to the CVC Championship and are peaking at the exact moment they need to be. Jared Ray is a top 5 outside in the division, Capp and Milnazik are as advertised, the team is good. 

The only reason New Paltz is not in my three above is because a) I often have to temper my own love as an alumni b) the two early season losses to SJF have possibly put New Paltz into a must win UVC scenario and c) the Hawks, while improving, are still polishing their game. If they win the UVC, they instantly become a favorite. 

Question: As always, who are your top 5 teams in the landscape?

Harvey: Springfield – Carthage – Kean – Dominican – Vassar

Bradley: Springfield – Carthage – New Paltz – Vassar – Kean

Ramius: Springfield – Carthage – Vassar – New Paltz – Kean