Pond Talk: Welcome to April

Thoughts on the last week of matches, which result do you think was the most significant?

Stevens win over Messiah was massive. Not just for locking up the top seed in the MAC, but most scenarios I see have them as the top overall seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Did I inspire MIT? Pretty unlikely. But, I did use this space last week to say I was surprised by their down season because of the talent they possess. They had maybe the biggest weekend of any team, picking up 2 wins and solidifying a spot in the UVC tourney. 

Ramius: MIT resurrected their season with a pair of wins over Elmira and NYU, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them continue to play spoiler in the UVC tournament, but I think the most significant result last week was Vassar over Springfield. I couldn’t imagine a universe where Vassar hasn’t locked a bid to the tournament at this point, and the second win over Springfield increases their odds of hosting a regional while likely forcing the Pride to travel for the opening rounds.

As we enter the last week of the regular season, how do your earlier prognostications hold up now after a full season of matches? 

Harvey: My biggest swing and miss was anticipating the fall of Southern Virginia. I thought they’d take a bigger dive after graduating the amount of talent and experience they had. Tom Peterson continues to prove most wrong by maximizing his group and cultivating talent to have his team in contention for NCAA Tournament ball.

Lindsay: I was really high on Carthage despite them losing elite talent. They’ve been good of course but now the conference tournament runs through North Central. I had Naz disrupting the UVC and unfortunately they won’t be participating in the post-season this year, even with a Herculean effort from Wickens. 

Ramius: I was high on Stevens at the beginning of the year, and the Ducks haven’t really shown any signs of slowing down outside of their lone loss to Carthage on the road. They’re likely the top seed in the NCAA tournament moving forward.

Which teams surprised you the most this year? Who do you see as the breakout program of 2023?

Ramius: I think Nichols was probably the breakout program of the year, but the team that surprised me the most was Springfield. On top of losing multiple All-Americans from last year’s roster, the Pride lost two All-Americans in their starting lineup the week before the season began. Jarrett Anderson aside, the Pride this year started three freshmen (Costley, Mulvaney, and Gonzales) and a sophomore who switched positions to start at Middle Blocker (Rouleau). The end result has been a team that’s gone 21-3; comprised of a group of young men buying into a culture, overcoming adversity, and fighting for the privilege to be considered one of the best in the country. You can’t ask for more out of a team than that.

Harvey: I think the level of dominance displayed by both Stevens and Vassar this year have been a surprise to most. Winning 95% plus of your matches and showing off the depth each squad has in the process has been a treat.

So many of this year’s contenders are titans of the past, but a pleasant surprise for this season has been Nichols. From their competitive scores with a tough opening weekend at Poly to a 5-set prize fight against Wentworth last week, Nichols has been knocking on the door all year.

Lindsay: Marymount looked like they might drop more than a few spots in the CVC with numerous guys graduating, but they’ve stayed competitive and been tough all season. Dominican has to feel good about stringing together some nice wins after a tough start. 

I’m getting ahead of this one and saying my breakout team is Baldwin Wallace. I think they have a chance to win the MCVL this year but watch out in 2024. I think they’ll firmly be in the top 15.

Who do you have pegged as contenders in the horse race for Player of the Year? Newcomer of the Year? Coach of the Year?

Player of the Year: Jarrett Anderson, Tyler Donovan, Andrew Kim
Newcomer of the Year: Dylan Mulvaney, Tristan Christofferson, Krish Jain
Coach of the Year: Dan Buehring, Richard Gary, Justin Beachy, Charlie Sullivan

Player of the Year: Jarrett Anderson, Tyler Donovan, Andrew Kim, Mason Nissley
Newcomer of the Year: Dylan Mulvaney, Tristan Christofferson
Coach of the Year: Buehring, Gary, Exline, DeHaven, Beachy

Player of the Year: Jarrett Anderson, Andrew Kim, Andrew Zaleck, Mason Nissley
Newcomer of the Year: Ian Wagenhouser, Dylan Mulvaney
Coach of the Year: Glen DeHaven, Justin Beachy, Kyle Exline, Dan Buehring, Richard Gary

Based on the teams who are currently regionally ranked, what matches are the most important matches this week?

Ramius: All of the Vassar matches are important this week (Stevens, Messiah). Beating both teams would a) solidify them as the top team in Region II and b) likely earn them the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, given NYU’s recent losses to MIT and New Paltz, I think the Rutgers-Newark vs Southern Virginia match gains a little more significance.

The region II bubble teams all have an opportunity to jump into the regional rankings following the two-match slide by NYU. I think New Paltz is possibly the first team to slide into the rankings given their wins over NYU and St. John Fisher… but Rutgers-Newark has a win over them. Defeating Southern Virginia will greatly increase their chances of jumping into the Regional Ranking discussion when the third rankings come around during selection week.

Harvey: I can’t pick a single match. But Vassar’s week will help in determining the top teams in Region 2. They host Stevens on Thursday 4/6 and Messiah on Saturday 4/8. Will play a large role in who is where for the 3rd official rankings on 4/12.

Lindsay: It has to be Southern Virginia. If they win out I think they’re hosting the CVC tournament. The biggest match left on their schedule is Rutgers-Newark, which is far from a W.

Who’s your personal top 5?

Ramius: Vassar, Stevens, Springfield, Juniata, NCC

Harvey: Stevens, Vassar, Springfield, Juniata, Messiah

Lindsay: Vassar, Stevens, Juniata, NCC, Springfield