The 2023 D3VB season is right around the corner, meaning it’s time for Ramius to stir the pot with an intrinsically meaningless opinion! I’m aware I said last year’s “Too Early Top 10” would be the final one, but the combination of boredom and creative inspiration was too much to overcome. The official FrogJump Top 20 won’t be released until January 14th, so I’m happy to give you my way too early top 10 as a delayed Christmas Gift. Let it be known the Top 20 is the “official” FrogJump ranking as it is not based on opinions, but statistics. If you don’t like my takes below, that’s ok. You can prove me wrong when the season begins.
The 2x reigning D3 National champions begin the season at the top. Losing Slivinski (OH) and Cohan (L) hurts, but returning All-Americans McNulty (S), Bulthuis (M), Markes (M) and Schmidt (OH) is terrifying. Picking up Mitchell Geiger (OH) via transfer from Purdue – Fort Wayne is a huge win for Coach JW, and from my perspective solidifies them as the top team entering the season this year. Is a three-peat possible? I believe so, but they have to earn it. They’ll be my favorite in the CCIW in the meantime.
The Pride start this year as #2 in my too early top ten. Springfield lost a large portion of their starting lineup last year but have done the work over the last decade to cement themselves as a perennial championship contender. Jarrett Anderson (OP) is likely the best player in D3VB, as he was virtually unstoppable in 2022. Combined with All-Americans Liam York (OH) and Nate Reynolds (M) Springfield is in a good spot to be competitive come April.
I may have listed them here at #3, but I could easily have made the case that Vassar might be the best team in the country when the first day of competition begins for 2023. No program returns more talent than the Brewers, and I believe there is no team more primed for a Championship run than this year’s squad. I believe in this team’s ability to overcome any challenge this season, and I’d put money on them going to the Final Four if they embrace the process of being great.
#4 Wentworth Institute of Technology
The Leopards NCAA tournament run sadly ended when they came up against Carthage, but the future is bright. Jacob LaBouliere (OH) was easily the breakout player of 2022 as a sophomore. The 6’9 outside hitter is the ultimate cheat code for the Leapords, finishing last season hitting over .400 while powering Wentworth to the Final Four. He and Hunter Oshman (OP) are the dynamic duo for Coach Giglio, and the Leopards have reloaded this season for another run. They start as my favorite in the GNAC.
#5 Stevens Institute of Technology
Coach Buehring’s Ducks were a perfect lesson in system success last year, as no team won more games as a unit than these kids from Hoboken. Koby Sherman caught the landscapes attention with a breakout freshmen campaign, and Connor Feulner remains critically underrated as one of the best middles in D3VB. They round out my top five to start the year and one of my two favorites for the MAC championship.
#6 SUNY New Paltz
My hometown Hawks start just outside my top five. New Paltz’s season came to an end in the Elite 8 last year after falling to Springfield, but they have much to look forward to in 2023. Shaffer (S), Spulnick (OH), Wing (MB/OP), Larosa (L) and Ronan (M) all return for another year in the Blue and Orange. Combined with a rather promising recruit class, these Hawks will be a tough match throughout the year. I’m very excited to see how they progress. There is only one!
#7 North Central
One of my personal favorite programs to watch. Coach Exline’s Cardinals fell to regional rival Dominican 13-25, 23-25, 31-29, 26-24, 13-15 in what was easily the best match of the opening rounds in last years NCAA tournament. All-Americans Jeremy Cardenas (MB) and Jared Moser (OH) are the key cogs in the Cardinal offense, and they’ll be looking to assert dominance this year.
I’ve been high on Juniata before, and I’ll remain high on Juniata this year. Kevin Duffy (MB) returns for ANOTHER season of D3VB dominance and the Exeter trio of Goldsborough, Ganter, and Hoffman enter their Junior years. No team needed more help at Opposite last year than Juniata, and the additions of Max Barr and Tyler Phillips help address that hole. They’re my early favorite for the CVC.
No team fell victim to injuries and illness harder than the Messiah Falcons last season. Regardless, Coach Beachy’s squad are one of my favorites to win the MAC opposite Stevens Institute of Technology. All-Americans Mason Nissley and Matt Knab are two of the best players at their positions, All-American Nate Bowman and Ryan Givens are one of the best middle duos in the country, and Owen Hanzelmen is one of the better liberos on the east coast. I think this is the year the Falcons take the step forward, keep an eye on them.
#10 St. John Fisher
Last year’s UVC Champions, St. John Fisher rounds out my too early top 10. The program lost All-American David Cerqua (L) and starting setter Paul Hackford but are still in a prime position to compete this year. All-American Josh Bigford and Jake Baker were the best outside pair in the UVC last season, and Evan Ingerick (S) showed all the makings of a starting setter when he took the reins in the UVC tournament, playing a key role in the programs #cincoset upset over New Paltz for the title. I’ll be interested to see how the Cardinals respond following their loss to Wentworth in the NCAA tournament.
Happy Holidays everyone, see you in the New Year!
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