Our Final Four is Set! Bradley breaks down the Carthage vs Dominican matchup and I take a stab at Benedictine vs SVU. Let’s get after it.
#1 Carthage v. #4 Dominican – Bradley
Carthage: Let’s be honest, early in the Messiah/Carthage matchup, it was a slow start for Carthage. I can admit, I was thinking to myself, “here we go again.” Then Matt Slivinski happened. Halfway through the first set, his immense physicality from the service line and on the court was the difference maker for Carthage. He provided a spark that enabled his team to settle in and play comfortably. Slivinski finished with 11 kills (.526%) and the rest of the team combined for 20 kills (.180%). Despite the numbers, this Carthage team gained confidence under the bright lights, which is exactly what the program needed. Slivinski, Schmidt and Cohan all did a fantastic job adapting to the aggressiveness of Messiah’s jump serves. In addition, the Firebirds managed to shut down both Nissley and Bowman, and proved that they can play at the highest level of volleyball (even to East Coast standards).
What do they need to do to win? They will need better efficiency from players not named Matt Slivinski.
Dominican: Wow, what a statement this team made today. Dominican took down #2 AVCA nationally ranked Vassar in straight sets. If you look at the box score, neither side was pretty. Offensively, Dominican hit .188% as a team. The difference maker was at the net. Dominican finished with 11 BLOCKS in 3 sets, with Kates leading the way at 6 BA. Dominican’s size at the net will be a tall task for the Firebird offense to fly through. Talk about peaking at the right time, this Dominican team has all of the momentum on their side.
What do they need to do to win? They will need to serve as tough as Messiah did in the beginning of the first set vs. Carthage. This pulled Carthage out of system and forced them to make errors. In addition, they need to mitigate Slivinski’s efficiency just as they did to Andrew Kim (14 kills, .226%).
This matchup is going to be a war between two of the best teams in the country. According to the AVCA poll, these two teams are the best remaining. This means one thing… “Midwest Bounce’s” are on the way. Despite both schools both being from the Midwest, they have not faced off yet this year, which makes this matchup that much more interesting. In my personal opinion, the winner of this match will be crowned National Champions. Grab your popcorn folks, this is going to be an entertaining one.
SVU v. Benedictine – Ramius
Southern Virginia: I know it’s fair to say that I personally slept on this Southern Virginia team for the majority of the regular season. Their CVC pool play schedule had them hidden against weaker teams while Kean Rutgers and Juniata all battled each other in highlight matches each week.
These Knights beat Rutgers in 5 in the CVC semis, then beat Juniata in 5 in the finals for the AQ to the tournament. Rutgers and Juniata are tough opponents, and Wentworth is just as strong as those two programs… it didn’t matter. Southern Virginia just bodied Wentworth for the better part of three sets and was never really in a position to lose the match. Their offense hit .444 (which is absurd) against Wentworth (doubly absurd).
What do they need to do to win the match: I honestly think the Knights are very favored against Benedictine coming into this semifinal contest. People here at the pond know I try not to speak in absolutes, and often temper my message by saying “x can still likely happen”.
Southern Virginia simply doesn’t have the same holes Benedictine has on their roster right now, and Southern Virginia can play the fast tempo offense that has given Benedictine trouble all season. Likewise, the SVU hitting core is versatile enough to hit from multiple positions. They have shown the ability to run routes to create mismatches against specific opponents this season, and I see them attacking Radomski when he is front row relentlessly. I wish I could say it was a little bit more complicated, but if Southern Virginia stays in system the path to victory is theirs for the taking.
Benedictine: The Eagles have come a long way this season, and have consistently shown the ability to grind out tough wins when needed. Even when their offense isn’t executing, the Eagles ball control and defensive grit has been able to drown teams in deep rallies (first match against Dominican and Aurora this season comes to mind). Like SVU, the Eagles have proved me wrong often this season, and while I don’t have them favored in this match, an Eagles victory wouldn’t surprise me either (never speak in absolutes everyone).
What do they need to do to win: There are two situations I see the Eagles being able to overcome Southern Virginia on the court tonight. The first one is a little bit more in their control then the second.
Consistent production from the OH positions is going to be key. In total the OH positions for Benedictine are only averaging a .163 hitting percentage in their two tournament matches, which is allowing opposing teams to focus more on Grygo to clamp down the Eagles offense. Benedictine’s system doesn’t run through the left pin, but if their production increases to the .250 level that will open things up for Legros to facilitate. This is a tall task as the OH’s averaged a .217 hitting percentage for the season, but if you’re going to defy expectations you might as well do it in the NCAA tournament.
The second scenario is when both teams’ offenses slow down. As evidenced in their matches against Rutgers and Juniata, SVU is capable of having rough moments where they just can’t put the ball away. If Benedictine can turn the match into a battle within the Complex II phase of the game (where teams are rallying and defending within transition), the Eagles have the edge in my mind.
Get After it Everyone.