Another week of matches, another week of hot takes! This week we asked our followers on Instagram to submit questions they wanted answered based on the results of this past week. Dive in as we give our takes on the questions below.
Question 1: Given their rough start to the season, has Carthage “fallen off”?
Ramius: Short answer, no, at least not in the way people think. Carthage started their season playing three of the top ten teams in the country (two on the road), whereas the majority of the landscape did not. Their match versus Dominican was easily one of the best matches I’ve seen in years, and had all the makings of an NCAA final. Rough patches happen, but they don’t last.
Anyone who has paid attention to anything we’ve written since this summer will remember the contributors and I have constantly said this season is going to be the most competitive D3VB season we’ve had for a while (I would say going all the way back to 2016). We’ve been very clear upsets are going to happen A LOT this year, and no team whether they are ranked in the AVCA or the FrogJump Top 20 is safe. Carthage is no different, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the best teams in the landscape. The 2017 New Paltz Hawks lost 9 times before returning to the finals, the 2019 National Champion Hawks lost seven times and had to win their conference to even go to the tournament, I think Carthage is going to be just fine.
Bradley: Have they fallen off the high horse as National Champions? Yes. Have they fallen off as a competitor to win the title this year? No. Many teams that have won the championship went through rough patches throughout their season. I experienced this first hand in 2017 and 2019, so it would be foolish of me to count them out. It’s good for the Firebirds this is happening to them early in the season rather than later (as we have seen in the past). Keep in mind, NYU, Stevens and Dominican are all solid squads. None of those losses are really “terrible”.
Harvey: Carthage challenged themselves not only with the quality of opponents, but also by changing coasts. Losing their “warm-up” matches at Lakeland certainly didn’t help and then squaring off with an ULTRA experienced Dominican squad.
The Firebirds are still loaded with talent even after reaching the pinnacle of the sport- they are an even bigger bookmark on every schedule. David Markes seems to be a huge upgrade at the M2 spot from an offensive perspective and can provide them with a new dynamic. I still expect Carthage to be a major player in late April.
Johnny: Absolutely not. Carthage has played an extremely tough schedule so far. The Firebirds made an East Coast swing without Slivinski on the floor versus NYU. When you’re playing without a 5th year leader on the court, that’s an extremely important intangible (and tangible because he’s a huge point scorer) to take into consideration. The Carthage and DU rivalry is super exciting. Each team is going to ball out whenever they meet, anything can happen in rivalry games.
Question 2: Based on what we’ve seen so far, what teams could be on upset alert next?
Ramius: I went through the next two weeks of matches and identified three with the most “upset” potential in my eyes; Marymount vs Stevenson, Dominican vs NCC, and MIT vs Benedictine. Of them all, I think Stevenson and MIT are the most likely to pull upsets out in these matchups, though I wouldn’t count out a rising NCC against Dominican either.
Bradley: I’m going to go with Messiah over Juniata as the next upset alert. These two are competing on Tuesday (2/1) at Messiah. Juniata is coming off of a high against SJFC, and Messiah is hungry to get their national attention back.
Harvey: NYU. The Hall of Fame Morgan Classic is always chalk full of talent. Vassar and Springfield may be the main event on 2/4 but I could see Endicott clipping NYU if their big arms get hot from the service line.
Johnny: Looking at the national picture, I really don’t see anything within the next few weeks. The DU vs NCC game is at home for DU. If it was away, I would agree with Ramius. That has trap game written all over it. I’m looking at a team that could cause a ruckus in the national spotlight, and that’s Marymount. The Saints are in prime position to be the single team in the country to determine the fate of at least 6 teams. They have Stevenson twice, Misericordia, SVU, and Cal Lu just in the month of February.
Question 3: Over the summer, you did a Podcast talking about “Field or Favorites”, discussing whether the returning champions of each conference would win their AQ again or if another team from their conference field would take it in 2022. Have your field of favorite picks changed?
Ramius: I think the most obvious change I’d have to make is my CVC pick. Harvey and I discussed over the summer how the field with Rutgers and Juniata had the edge in the battle for the CVC crown over SVU. Based on what we’ve seen this year, I’d say Southern Virginia is clearly still the favorite in the CVC at this moment.
Harvey: No. All my picks were perfect. I’d still take the field in the CVC but I think SVU is a much bigger player than initially anticipated.
Question 4: As of this moment, what teams have exceeded your expectations?
Ramius: I think Southern Virginia, Marymount, and Dominican have exceeded my expectations coming into the year. Southern Virginia has rebounded nicely during a summer in which we expected them to take a step back and Marymount has just been on a tear since the beginning of the season; but Dominican starting the season 4-0 after traveling east and winning an epic 5-set match versus Carthage in Kenosha, call me impressed.
Bradley: There are many teams that could be named here. I’m going to go with NYU and Southern Virginia. Truthfully, I was not expecting NYU to do much this year after not competing last year due to covid. They proved me wrong. Haag and the Violets got after it from the start by taking down the defending national champions and NEARLY beating Springfield in 5. From what I’ve seen out of SVU, I think they’re going to make some serious noise this year. I’m projecting SVU to take the CVC and make it to the national championship. Yes, I said it. I have not seen a team that has served as tough as SVU and I think many squads will struggle to hang with them for that reason.
Harvey: North Central. While their schedule hasn’t been a murderers row – they’ve taken care of business against everyone in front of them and they’ve done so efficiently. Teenage Mutant Ninja Moser (peep the headband) is playing with more poise and composure, and when you combine that with the other arms on NCC has on the court- I think they have the opportunity to enter the top tier of the Midwest this year.
Johnny: I’m looking at the East Coast on this. Marymount is having a team of destiny year so far. They’ve been solid for a few years now, but they’ve been clicking and have had some huge wins recently.
I also want to give a sleeper shout out to Concordia U- Wisconsin. They have been playing exceptionally well, finishing up a West Coast stint with a split against UCSC. I have February 9th circled to see how they do against Carthage. That will be a great litmus test for their season.
Question 5: Who is the “way too early” D3 MVP?
Ramius: I think Old Man McGuire (despite the ugly box scores) and Kevin Duffy might have the best cases given what they do for their teams long term but Raymond Tarasi has very clearly been the most impactful player on a team through the first few weeks of the season.
Bradley: I’m going to reach quite far on this one, because this team has only played 3 matches thus far and truthfully I did not watch one point of any of them. My choice is Andrew Kim. The explosive OH for Vassar is the focal point of the Brewers offense and they are projected to be a top dog in the UVC. The UVC is by far the toughest conference in D3VB (again), and the value that Kim brings to Vassar is unmatched.
Harvey: 5th & 6th Year COVID Eligibility. Far and away the easiest answer of this Pond Talk. The amount of talent in D3MVB is through the roof with student-athletes exercising their additional eligibility. This has lead to greater parity and huge quality of high level matches. Easy pick.
Johnny: The Setter on the best team in the country, Jack McGuire. Its like, how do you not give the QB the MVP?
Who is your top 5 as of this moment?
Ramius: 1) Springfield 2) Vassar 3) Dominican 4) Southern Virginia 5) Wentworth
Bradley: 1) Springfield 2) Dominican 3) NYU 4) Vassar 5) Southern Virginia
Harvey: 1) Dominican 2) Springfield 3) SVU 4) Vassar 5) NYU
Johnny: 1) Dominican 2) Springfield 3) Vassar 4) Southern Virginia 5) NYU