Pond Talk – Week III

After a month of matches, the landscape had several questions for the council of frogs. You asked, we answered. Dive in!

After the first month of matches has passed, what are some of the biggest surprises of the season so far?

Ramius: Honestly, I think the utter domination of the landscape by Stevens has been the biggest surprise from my perspective this season. The Ducks have, after just the first month of matches, collected wins over St. John Fisher, St. Joseph’s-Long Island, Vassar, Springfield, Wentworth (with Laboo), and New Paltz. That’s six victories over top 20 programs in about three weeks.

A final four team last year, the Ducks are getting career years from several players on the roster, but the play of Percy Bickford shouldn’t go unnoticed.  He’s been one of the best Outside Hitters in D3VB through January and a huge factor in the Ducks success.

Harvey: Juniata’s rise. Specifically, the avenue of how they have arrived. I’ve been super impressed with their shift from the service line. Coach DeHaven had historically been pretty conservative for the service line in years past, but this year he is letting the big guns fire away. The Eagles have missed double digit serves in every match so far and 20+ on three occasions. This is a good thing!!! Allowing them to take advantage of a huge block by pushing teams out of system way more often.

Lindsay: I think it’s the number of teams that made the NCAA tournament last year that are off to a rough start. Endicott, St Joseph’s Long Island, Southern Virginia, Wentworth, Rutgers-Newark, Dominican, North Central. All these teams have either performed below expectations or taken a step back from last year. Even Springfield (youth and injuries) and Carthage (graduated elite talent) look more vulnerable than ever.  

What are your way to early conference champion predictions?

UVCAnyone who makes the conference tournamentVassarSt John Fisher
AMCCPSU BehrendThielBehrend
MCVLMount UnionMount UnionMt Union
SkylineSt. Joseph’s – LISt. Joe’s (LI)St Joseph’s LI

What teams have made the case they should be considered early contenders for this year’s NCAA Championship?

Ramius: The easiest picks are Stevens and Juniata. Both teams are getting standout play from their expected contributors, have depth at each position, and remain undefeated. The Stevens resume is a little stronger based on the number of top 20 teams they’ve beaten, but Juniata will have opportunities with matches against Messiah and Southern Virginia these next two weeks to catch up.

Harvey: Too early to call. So many teams have been affected by injuries that it has a little play into results as well. But I will see that the east coast is rising again. I think the CVC, MAC, and UVC top 2 all have a chance to be in national conversation.

Lindsay: I don’t want to repeat Ramius because what fun is that? You know who I could see going on a run in the Midwest…Mt Union. They don’t have the toughest non-conference schedule out there, but in theory they could win out/drop one and host a regional game? Big weekend for them to see if they can beat the UVC. The Slugs are two 5 set losses from turning the division upside down. Too bad you don’t get bonus points for near victories.

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

Ramius: The two that come to mind immediately are Juniata vs Messiah on Tuesday, and Stevens vs Carthage on Friday. Juniata should be considered the favorite in the Tuesday match, but Messiah has the ability to steal games from the service line alongside standout play from Knab and Nissley.

For Friday, Stevens should be considered the favorite heading in, but I think this game will be closer than people think. The minds at d3mvbt100.com seem to agree, as they have the odds of victory for Stevens at 58.8% and 41.2% Carthage. Let me be clear for those who don’t understand math and probabilities; 41.2% is a fairly substantial number. The Firebirds look like they’ve turned a corner following their 5-set win over UCSC and sweep of Benedictine, so I’ll have this on my big screen this weekend.

Harvey: The smarter frogs are taking all the good answers! I will choose Concordia Wisconsin and North Central on Wednesday night. We can see if NCC is a true contender to Carthage in the CCIW and if Concordia is a threat to win the NACC. Also – last week I called my upset with Nichols over MIT and I want to see if they can become a real player in the Region of Kings (Region I) during a showdown with Lasell.

Lindsay: Some exciting Tuesday matchups (Lasell/Springfield, Messian/Juniata) but I think it has to be Stevens vs Carthage. When was the last time Carthage wasn’t favored in a match? 2020?  Fri/Sat has about 10 exciting matchups to watch.  Mt Union/Naz, Vassar/RMC, New Paltz/Messiah, Mt Union/Fisher, NCC/Benedictine, Rutgers-Newark/NYU to name just a few. I think it’s important to also recognize the North Central vs. Benedictine will honor Christian Staple. Here is the link for more information on a coach who had a positive impact on not only both these programs, but seemingly everyone he crossed paths with: Christian Staple Memorial Match Slated for Feb. 11 – Benedictine University Athletics (benueagles.com).

Who’s your top 5?

Ramius: 1) Stevens 2) Juniata 3) Vassar 4) Springfield 5) St. John Fisher

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

Lindsay: 1) Stevens 2) Juniata 3) St John Fisher 4) Springfield 5) Vassar