The landscape had two tournaments this weekend with some interesting results. Before we dive into specifics, what were your general takeaways from each tournament?
Ramius: My first general takeaway is not having live streams available for the higher profile matches of the weekend was all sorts of disappointing. Credit to Carthage for setting up a livestream of their matches through a Facebook feed so the landscape could enjoy (doubly so for playing Juniata and Messiah in the same weekend).
Second takeaway is that Juniata has finally started to max out the potential they’ve had since 2021. The 5-set match with Carthage was a grueling affair and neither team had a box score one should be proud of. That’s going to be common when two good teams play each other. While Carthage had their chances throughout the match, Juniata did everything they needed to do to lay claim as the first DIII team to defeat them since 1/28/22.
With the Cougar Kickoff Classic in PA, it should be noted that Nazareth sits at 10-0 after two weeks of play. They grabbed some solid wins over Randolph-Macon and Baldwin Wallace, but the UVC is loaded this year and where they eventually stand within that shark tank is up for debate despite the early 10 match win streak.
Harvey: I just want to give credit to all of these teams for traveling out of region. In other sports it is rare to see a Top 10 non-conference showdown. In the world of men’s volleyball, you can see 3-5 of these in a single weekend.
Lindsay: ESPN+ didn’t return my call about the live streams. Other than that Messiah has impressed me. Tough early season schedule and they have yet to lose. Naz might not win the UVC but at the very least they’re going to steal some conference wins that could shake up playoff seeding.
Which was more significant, 1) Juniata defeating Carthage 2) Stevens defeating Springfield or 3) Messiah defeating Carthage?
Ramius: Stevens defeating Springfield caps off one of the more impressive starts for the Ducks in quite some time. This is their second win over a top 5 opponent (first being Vassar), and their third over a top ten program this year (St. John Fisher). Systematically, no team has shown the depth or consistency Stevens has this year, and the win earns them the right to claim the number one spot in the landscape in my eyes.
Harvey: If there is a Messiah bandwagon, I think it is fair to say I am the conductor. And after this past weekend, tickets just way more expensive. Does the MAC have two of the top three teams in the country?
Lindsay: I like the win for Stevens since it was a repeat of the Final Four last season and a very different result. A big confidence boost for a team that looks like they want to get a match further than last season. Carthage is searching for it a little without Slivinski. I expect JW will get his trio of OHs on track, but Juniata/Messiah were too talented to squeak by without top-level production.
What matches do you have on your radar this week, and who might be on upset alert?
Ramius: Wednesday we have Rutgers (underdog) taking on a red-hot Messiah alongside New Paltz traveling to Springfield (underdog). Both of these matches are primed for upsets given the narratives of the season so far, with Rutgers looking for a bounce back win following their loss to Lasell while the fighting freshmen and Jarett Anderson take on the super seniors of New Paltz.
Harvey: MIT won the self-proclaimed “Battle of the Brains” this past weekend over Wentworth but face two more tough tests against Endicott and Nichols this week. I’d warn them about looking ahead to their showdown with Springfield.
Lindsay: Santa Cruz is coming to the Midwest this week where they will see Carthage and Mt Union. I’ve got my eye on the slugs. If they have a good week, we need to start paying more attention.
Who’s your top 5?
Ramius: 1) Stevens 2) Juniata 3) Vassar 4) New Paltz 5) Messiah
Harvey: 1) Stevens 2) Juniata 3) Messiah 4) Springfield 5) St. John Fisher
Lindsay: I’m sorry I’m new here. Please don’t hold it against me for last week’s top 5. I was just a little off 1) Stevens 2) Juniata 3) Messiah) 4) Springfield 5) Vassar