Thanks for the response. I tried a pass last night at 19:30 local time but didn't hear anything. Must have been a good football game on after the contest.
Or at the end of the contest - I think Sweepstakes ran until 0300 UTC, for those who wanted to be on at the very end.
One thing I noticed right away is the increase in coax loss on 70cm compared to using the stock Arrow duplexer and an HT. Of course, the last sat I worked was AO-51, and it always seemed to boom in when overhead. Right now I'm using RG-8x because I have a lot of it on hand. LMR400 flex looks like the stuff to get, but it may need to wait until spring unless I can find some surplus somewhere.
Unless your coax runs are very short - think around 10 feet or so - or you are running preamps on your receive antennas, you will want to do better than RG-8X on the coax. Coax losses are very noticeable as you go higher in frequency. LMR400 is probably a good starting point for improving your coax situation.
There were times that AO-51 would sound very strong, when the command stations set its downlink to 1W or 1.5W. That did not happen often, due to the power budget that had to be maintained on that satellite. But that would be 1W or 1.5W on a single frequency. VO-52 has a strong downlink, but its transmitter power is shared across all signals passing through the transponder - across a 60 kHz spread. Unless there is only one signal going through the transponder, or possibly when one station is overpowering the transponder, you probably won't hear too many signals that rival the "high power" setting from AO-51.