D3 Review: 2023

What a season it’s been in D3VB. Congratulations to the Stevens Ducks on winning the 2023 NCAA Men’s National Championship, and congrats to all programs on a fantastic year of competition. See you in 2024!

Stevens (35-3): The Ducks end the year on top, winning the NCAA D3 Men’s Volleyball Championship in Coach Buehring’s third year at the helm. No team was more complete top to bottom then the Ducks all year, and their style of efficient play and dominating net presence saw them handle elite competition all year. They were truly the best team in D3VB in 2023, and now they have the trophy to prove it. I don’t want to speculate on which seniors are coming back, but the Ducks are positioned to contend again next year. 

North Central (25-4): A coming of age story with a bittersweet ending, the North Central Cardinals came just short of a fairytale ending this year. They dominated the Midwest, upset No1. Vassar in the semifinals and came just short of an NCAA title. The breakout play of Tyler Donovan and Luke Schmidt will be building blocks for the Cardinals next year, as they graduate a large senior class (including All-Americans Moser and Cardenas).  

Vassar (26-2): How many miles would you bike in the rain for pancakes? The Brewers ended the regular season in dominating fashion, going undefeated in UVC play on their way to their second UVC Championship in three years. The Brewers graduate a lot of senior contributors but are still built to contend in the UVC next year. The rosters depth was one of the Brewers biggest strengths this year, so they’ll remain a contender in next year’s UVC horserace. 

Messiah (27-6): The Falcons ended their 2023 season on a high note, stunning the No3. seed Juniata on their way to the programs first NCAA Final Four appearance. The Falcons will be looking to replace a lot of production heading into 2024, as Knab, Nissley, Bowman, Casper, all graduate.  

Juniata (30-3): The Eagles end the year rounding out our top 5, falling short of a Final Four appearance following their loss to Messiah in the NCAA tournament. The collegiate career of Kevin Duffy may finally be coming to a close, but Juniata still retains their core of Ganter, Hoffman, Goldsborough, and Barr. They’ll remain a player in the CVC next year as they look to defend their Conference Championship. 

Southern Virginia (19-4): Following a shocking upset to Rutgers-Newark in the CVC semifinals, the Knights received one of the Pool C at-large bids to extend their season. The used the oppurtunity to provide one of the more shocking results of the NCAA tournament, defeating the Springfield Pride in cincosets. As it stands, I’d keep my eyes on Southern Virginia next year. The team’s success was built on the backs of a young roster, and I don’t believe they are losing anyone. See you in Virginia!

Springfield (23-5): This year’s Pride team was honestly my favorite team to watch all year, and probably my favorite Springfield team over the last ten years. The Pride lost the majority of their starting roster to graduation after an NCAA finals appearance in 2022, and then lost two All-American level players a week before the season. Young players were forced to step up, and culture ultimately carried the way as they demonstrated the excellence we come to know of Springfield throughout the year, finishing 23-5, 10-4 against top 20 opponents, and two points away from advancing to the Elite Eight. Anyone who thinks the Pride are washed up don’t understand how hard winning is, and I see many wins in the future for this young group. 

Wentworth (27-8): Despite an early slump to start the year, the Leopards went 22-1 from February 4th to March 15th, winning their second straight GNAC Championship and 5th NCAA appearance since 2016. The Leopards will lose All-American Hunter Oshman (Opposite) to graduation, but with Outside of the Year Jacob LaBouliere returning they’ll remain a player in the national landscape, and favorite in the GNAC.

St. John Fisher (24-8): The Cardinals end their season in our top ten after their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bigford era is ending, and I have no word on whether Matt Beiter will be returning or not. But the Cardinals still have pieces to compete with Stella, the Robardiere brothers, Newman, and Ingerick. The loss of Bigford will hurt, but I’m excited to see what the new chapter has in store for the Cardinals. 

Carthage (18-8): The Firebirds came back down to earth this year following back-to-back national championships. Carthage will lose key contributors Bulthuis and Schmidt (until I’’m informed otherwise), but will still have McNulty, Cholowinski, and Markes to build around in 2024. 

SUNY New Paltz (20-9): The Hawks will look drastically different in 2024, as they graduate Ronan, Larosa, Shaffer, and Spulnick. Pat Wing is confirmed to be returning for a graduate year, and behind him the youth movement will be in full swing. 

Nazareth (20-6): The Golden Flyers head back to the drawing board after being the lone UVC team to miss out on their conference tournament. Owen Wickens is slated to return for his senior year, but no word yet on whether Terzo or Caviness are returning for extra years.

NYU (12-10): The Violets season came to an end following a 15-13 heartbreak loss in the UVC quarterfinals versus St. John Fisher. No word on the fate of their graduating seniors yet, but the Violets have a combination of youth and depth which will keep them in the mix next year. 

Marymount (21-7): The Saints were one set away from shocking the world in the CVC semifinals, eventually falling to Juniata in cincosets. The Saints will be on the hunt for setting help, as Topich and Andrews are both listed as seniors (no word on if they’ll be returning in 2024).

Loras (18-6): The Duhawks were incredibly senior heavy this year; barring any covid years being used they are set to lose Fiorenza, Filotto, Kessel, Mahoney, and Horn to graduation. Corey Mayotte is quickly ascending the ranks of top D3VB outsides,but he’s going to need some help next year. 

MIT (16-14): No team made more noise at the end of the year than MIT, as the Engineers shook up the UVC conference standings with upset wins over Elmira and NYU, followed by a shocking victory over Springfield to cap the regular season. Gustaffson, Oliveira, and Turner are all listed as seniors, and as of now I haven’t heard if any are returning or not. The Engineers will be looking to replace production at the pins in the offseason if it’s the latter. 

Rutgers-Newark (15-8): The Scarlet Raiders had some epic matches this year, losing in their conference finals to Juniata to cap their season. The makeup of this team will look very different next year, as Tuohy, Hollenbeck, Zaleck, and Quay are all listed as seniors. No word on if any of them are returning. 

Benedictine (18-8): The Eagles successfully rebounded from an underwhelming 2022, winning the NACC Championship in Head Coach Ron Katarazynski’s first season at the helm. They’ll look to defend it next year in a more competitive landscape, as the NACC gets much harder to win in 2024. They add a bunch of size in next years recruit class, and no word yet on whether any of their seniors will be returning.

California Lutheran (18-11): The Kingsman were on the outside looking in all season this year, locked out of the independent bid chances following two losses to UCSC. Victories over North Central, Benedictine, and Randolph-Macon show the potential of this squad, and they’ll return a large amount of their roster in 2024. 

Baldwin Wallace (26-8): Welcome to the big leagues Baldwin Wallace. The Yellow Jackets won the MCVL championship in the program’s third year of existence, punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament. It’s one thing to get to the tournament, it’s another thing to compete there. Their opening round match with Juniata gave them first hand experience on what it takes to play in April. This squad is young, and they return everyone from what I understand. How they respond to the challenge is up to them, and knowing Coach Mars, I think they’ll be up for it.