NCC defeated Loras and Carthage this past week to take the top spot in the CCIW, are they the best in the Midwest?
Ramius: I’d say they’ve taken an early lead in the best of the Midwest horse race, even with losses to Aurora and California Lutheran. North Central has several guys playing at All-American levels and one of the best offenses in the country. The win itself was a statement for sure, simply because they’ve been on the losing end of their conference rivalry with Carthage since 2019.
However, it was just one match. The CCIW plays home and home conference matches, so this week was just the first round between NCC, Loras, and Carthage. I would favor NCC when they host Loras later in March, but the next match with Carthage is in Tarble. I’d give Carthage the advantage in that game.
Lindsay: They’re the best today. I think Carthage has the better losses (Messiah and Juniata) than North Central (Aurora, Cal Lu). Carthage’s signature win is Stevens. North Central’s signature win is Carthage. Having said all that, NCC dominated that match and I don’t know how you can discount that performance. They never looked rattled and I was really impressed with how they played.
Who’s making a case for Coach of the Year so far?
Ramius: I think the main contenders are Dan Buehring (Stevens), Charlie Sullivan (Springfield), and Coach Gary (Vassar). Stevens and Vassar are having incredible seasons so far, and Coach Sullivan has had to replace an entire starting line-up surrounding Jarrett Anderson with at least three freshmen in the rotations. I think one of them takes the award at seasons end.
Lindsay: I think it’s Coach Charlie Sullivan. Jarret Anderson is probably player of the year, but it’s almost an entirely new group around him. What other team is mixing in 4-6 new starters and is a top 5 team in the country? I think they have to beat Vassar the second time around if he’s winning the award.
What team has surprised you the most this year?
Ramius: There were probably about 4 or 5 teams I could have talked about here, but I’m going with Southern Virginia. Tom Peterson may have lost two all-American level players in Nahuel Recabarren and Kaipo Tagaloa, but they’re currently in a position to play for the number 1 seed in the CVC following their win over Juniata. Replacing guys like Nahuel and Kaipo is hard enough, but to do so while being a top team in the conference is impressive.
Lindsay:If I look at the teams in the top 15 and/or receiving votes right now, I think Elmira sticks out to me the most. They’ve taken another step forward beating NYU and Naz this year. They lost those matches in 2022. Keep in mind they also went through a coaching change. Even though Coach McDonough was previously the assistant, it’s always an adjustment playing for someone different.
We highlighted sophomore impact players last week, in the same vein which junior athletes have stepped into roles to make contributions to their programs this year?
Ramius: I can’t say enough good things about Jacob Kim of Vassar, so I’ll keep it brief. He’s had the Brewers firing on all cylinders this year and you simply won’t find a more dynamic setter in DIII.
Lindsay: The top 2 setters in the country for assists per set are Juniors. Tyler Donovan has been a FJF (Frog Jump Favorite) but I’d guess a few more eyes saw him in the win vs Carthage. Right above him on the list is Jacob Kim from Vassar. It’s easy to under-appreciate him because of Andrew Kim, Gavin Van Beveren, etc. but he’s leading the top offense in the country and that has to count for something.
Matches you have your eyes on this week? Any upset picks?
Ramius: I have two good ones for the casual fan; St. John Fisher vs Elmira and Wittenberg vs Mount Union. Every UVC conference match carries a lot of importance, as the top 6 teams will make the playoffs and the 7th seed will be the odd man out. Every team in the UVC has been in range of our Top 20 this season, meaning a very talented volleyball team won’t make the conference tournament. Every match matters, and Elmira has shown the ability to hang with top teams like St. John Fisher this year.
In the Midwest, Wittenberg vs Mount Union is very likely the prequel to the MCVL’s conference championship. Mount Union has been a top 20 team this year, but Wittenberg has the talent to upset them in conference play. I’ll be watching this one for sure.
Lindsay: I’ve been on the Slug Bus all year and on Friday they face off against Cal Lu. Huge matchup with post-season implications. But I’m doing a 180 and picking Cal Lu. They have a tough slate of matches, but I think they start off with a bang! Have you seen Taylor Marks play?? I think he should swing on every ball when he’s in the front row.
Who’s your personal top 5?
Ramius: Stevens, Vassar, Springfield, Juniata, NCC
Lindsay: Vassar, Stevens, Springfield, Juniata, NCC
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