Light of the Seven: Pepperjack’s Top Middles

Hi all – long time no chat. As the 2023 season approaches (2 Months!), I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the nation’s top returning student-athletes. As I began this exercise- it reinforced how talented Division III is, especially with so many graduate students taking advantage of their “COVID” years. Middle Blockers are plentiful this year, with a tremendous amount of depth in this group. Now it is time to highlight my Top 7 middles in the country.

All selections are listed in alphabetical order. While these are the Top 7 middles in my opinion- there is no particular order to how I feel about them (at least not a publicized order).

Zach Bulthuis – Carthage

A man who needs no introduction. Two Time National Champion, Two Time All-American, and Elite 90 winner. Bulthuis is an absolute unit at the net, both offensively and defensively. Scoring over 3 points/set for his career at an insanely efficient clip (.473)- Bulthuis had double digit kills in 6 matches last year including 3 of the 4 NCAA Tournament Matches, highlighted by a 11-0-12 line against Wentworth in the National Semi-Final.

Jeremy Cardenas – North Central

A mammoth of a man for Coach Exline’s Cardinals, Cardenas had a breakout season in 2022, scoring just under 3 points/set (2.96) at an extremely high clip (.429). He did so by playing his best in their biggest matches, highlighted by 28 Kills against Carthage across the 11 sets they played this past season.

Kevin Duffy – Juniata

Arguably the country’s best offensive middle, it is no surprise to find Duffy on this list. Another middle above the 3 points/set clip- Duffy is doing this as featured piece of his team’s offense (not just a cog in the machine) and still doing it with great efficiency (.447) – he was rewarded with a 2nd consecutive All-American status for the star middle. Duffy had 10 matches with double digit kills as well as another 9 matches with 4 blocks or more. Duffy’s standout match came against Randolph-Macon where he 16-2-26 against the nationally ranked Yellow Jackets.

Connor Feulner – Stevens

Undoubtedly, the best defensive middle on this list- Feulner enjoyed a breakout season in 2022. This Florida Man was honored with an AVCA All-American selection (and robbed of MAC Defensive Player of the Year).

Feulner had 8 matches with 6+ blocks, including a combined 17 blocks in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. I would say Feulner’s best match came in his regular season finale against Messiah where he went 13-1-21 with 4 Solo Blocks and 5 Block Assists.

David Markes – Carthage

The 2022 AVCA Newcome of the Year, Markes cannonballed into the proverbial DIII swimming pool. Markes joined teammate Bulthuis scoring over 3 points/set hitting an equally insane (.465) The offensive threat of a 2nd middle made the Carthage offense much more dangerous with the BIC threat overtop of this monster. Markes had a huge impact in the National Championship going 9-0-17 for the match.

Danny Quay – Rutgers-Newark

Another 2022 breakout-season, Quay burst onto the scene for the CVC Champions with a tremendous year just missing the 3 points/set mark (2.86). Quay was a model of consistency for RUN all season long, registering at least 1 block in all but 2 matches. He had one of his best matches against another member of this list, going 13-3-27 against Juniata while adding in 5 Blocks for the match.

Pat Wing – New Paltz

Mr. Chilly Ankles himself, Wing soared above expectations in 2022, receiving the first All-American honor of his career for the Hawks. Wing surpassed the 3 point/set mark with his prolific offense (.451) and tremendous performances from the service line.

With 13 matches of double digit kills and 6 matches of at least 3 aces, Wing is a threat from everywhere. Wing has a number of great matches to choose from, but I prefer his NCAA Sweet 16 match against Marymount with 12 kills at a .588 clip and 3 aces and 5 blocks on top of it all.

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