Pond Talk – Week 1

Welcome to the first Pond Talk of 2023. In this segment three FrogJump writers have been given the same set of questions to answer concerning the narratives of the D3VB season. Even more exciting, I’m proud to introduce the newest contributor to the FrogJump Team, Lindsay Shacklehorn. May her takes be as informative as she is mysterious.

What are your initial impressions from the first week and a half of matches so far?

Ramius: The AVCA Poll might end up just being the top 15 healthiest teams by the end of the season given the rate of significant injuries plaguing the landscape. I won’t list them all because they’re honestly just too numerous to elaborate on, but my thoughts go out to all the athletes suffering early season setbacks. Despite the adversity, the season will go on. Championships aren’t won by one or two individuals, but a team. Next man up.

Harvey: Parity is here. Long gone are the days where you can overlook an opponent because of the name across their chest. Too many weird cases of 5th year (sometimes 6th year) seniors developing a lot. Increased transfer activity. More teams in the 25-40 are capable of jumping up and catching a nationally ranked opponent off guard.

Lindsay: There’s been so many injuries and upsets, it’s hard to draw any concrete conclusions. I felt sick for Aurora watching Dail go down. Springfield lost two starters for the year in the same week? 

If you think the AVCA poll has any merit, more than half of the teams that are either ranked or received votes, lost. Some of those losses came against teams that weren’t on anyone’s radar. MIT beats Lasell and then loses to Eastern Naz. New Paltz loses to Benedictine, then Benedictine loses to Wittenberg? Baldwin Wallace with a surprising win against Loras, after the Duhawks dominated Stevenson.  

What teams have impressed you so far?

Ramius: Of all the teams I watched compete this week, I’d have to say the Stevens Ducks caught my eye the most (excluding New Paltz). The Ducks thoroughly handled #5 Vassar, #9 St. John Fisher, and St. Joe’s – Long Island this week. I’m not sure how long Bickford is going to hit .462 as an outside, but I think the Ducks have set the foundation to be considered an early foil to reigning champion Carthage.

Harvey: Extending out the past two weeks. I am going to go with St. John Fisher. New coaching staff and other new pieces and that group is sitting at 7-1 with a lot of depth and options. They have been rotating 3 pins (Baker, Bigford, and Jackson), 3 middles (Beiter, Rauh, Stella) and 2 setters (Ingerick and Newman). That depth is important early on and the ability to find their best lineup will be the next key.

Lindsay: UC Santa Cruz. It’s vitally important every time they play Cal Lu so getting that first win is huge. Fontbonne has a dynamic duo on the OH with Graves/Lively that can really change a match. More so, the slugs are doing it with a number of freshmen in the mix. That’s good for their long-term outlook.

What matches do you have on your radar this week, and who might be on upset alert?

Ramius: The season really kicks off this week, and we have loads of games with upset potential. Wednesday, we have Rutgers-Newark vs Arcadia (underdog) followed by Messiah vs Mount Union (underdog) on Thursday. Of the matches occurring during the week, I think these two have the highest likelihood for upsets.

The weekend gets even spicier; three matches I have my eye on currently are Juniata (underdog) vs Carthage, Nazareth vs Randolph-Macon (underdog), and Springfield (underdog) vs Stevens. Juniata seems to be firing on all cylinders and will put their hot start to the test against the reigning national champion, a reloaded Randolph-Macon will be looking to make a statement with a victory over “JackKnife” Wickens, and I have Springfield as the underdog in their match versus Stevens.

Harvey: Springfield hits the road, I REPEAT, Springfield hits THE ROAD to take on Stevens this weekend. Despite being injury ridden, the Pride will still have the best player on the floor in this re-match of the 2022 National Semi-Final. Is Jarret Anderson good enough to carry Springfield over a balanced Duck squad?

For upset alert, I am looking at Messiah. Midwest road trips are tough enough on 18–22-year-olds (or 31-year-olds in Matt Knab’s case), but Coach Beachy is really testing his squad with Mount Union and Aurora before Carthage. Both have the opportunity to be big matches pending the showdown with Carthage.

Lindsay: I’m getting a warm blanket and popcorn ready for Juniata vs Carthage. JC breezed through opening weekend with little resistance on the schedule. They have hopes of showing their face in the NCAA tourney for the first time in 2017…but I need bigger results out of Barr/Duffy than they showed vs a Labouliere-less Wentworth before I make a judgment. 

Who’s your top 5?

Ramius: 1) Carthage 2) Stevens 3) Juniata 4) New Paltz 5) Springfield

Harvey: 1) Carthage 2) Stevens 3) Springfield 4) St. John Fisher 5) Messiah

Lindsay: 1) Carthage 2) Springfield 3) Carthage (w/ Jansen on the OH) 4) Carthage (w/ Cholewinski in the middle), Stevens

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