The New Paltz women’s volleyball team’s season drew to a close on Nov. 3, with a loss in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) tournament.
After defeating rival SUNY Oneonta 3-1 (24-14, 25-16, 26-28, 25-13) to begin the tournament, the team was swept by the College at Brockport in three sets (16-25, 20-25, 18-25). The Hawks finished the season with a 20-12 overall record while going 6-3 in conference.
“[Brockport] made it to the Sweet 16 last year, so we knew it was going to be a tough game to win,” said fourth-year libero Veronica Matedero. “We needed to pick up the speed of the game which was a primary reason we didn’t succeed.”
New Paltz took an early lead in the first set against Brockport, going up 3-1 with third-year outside hitter Taylor Cimillo registering a kill to start the scoring, followed by two attack errors from the opposition.
However, the Golden Eagles regrouped and took a commanding 12-4 lead.
“The team was really prepared and confident and had a good practice before the game, but before we knew it we were up 3-1 then down 10-3,” said head coach Matt Giufre. “The freshmen were very overwhelmed. The game epitomized our season, we have been good for stretches at times but at others we couldn’t hang with the stronger teams.”
The Hawks battled back to get within four points, but the Golden Eagles held on to take the first set.
In the second, New Paltz again went up early 4-2 with help from a Matedero service ace. The teams were then engaged in a seesaw affair through the middle of the set before the Hawks took a 13-7 lead with a service ace from fourth-year setter Maddie Zwickl.
The two teams exchanged leads most of the set before the Golden Eagles ultimately broke away and took the last five points.
“We kept giving up stretches of points that destroyed any opportunities we had,” Giufre said.
In the third and final set, it was Brockport who got off to an early lead, going up 4-0. New Paltz would get close at times, pulling in within two points on a Brockport service error to make it 10-8, but failed to dethrone them at any point throughout the set. Trying to battle back being down 24-18, the Hawks surrendered the final point after a kill from Brockport to end New Paltz’s season.
“Coach Giufre trained us so well, but their team is so good,” said second-year outside hitter Maddie Van Pelt. “They hit around the block and hit where we weren’t. We did everything we could, but they have a really good team.”
Van Pelt logged eight kills on the evening while defending six digs. Cimillo recorded eight kills of her own, while Zwickl registered one service ace and had 24 assists. Matedero had a service ace as well, while defending eight digs.
Brockport bested New Paltz in kills (45-29), service aces (9-2), blocks (2-1), assists (41-28) and digs (35-29).
“Given the inconsistencies [of the season] I wasn’t super surprised, but it’s always disappointing going down without much of a fight,” Giufre said. “However, overall we came out okay despite all the changes.”
In fact, the team this season saw nine newcomers. With Zwickl, Matedero and middle hitter Ruby Klein all slated to graduate, Giufre believes the learning curve next season won’t be as rigorous as it was this year.
“The preparation process can now begin in March and not in August,” he said. “This year there was a lot of teaching and fluctuations in performance. We will be more prepared for next season. As long as I’m coach, I expect the team to compete for a spot in the national tournament.”
Matedero and Zwickl ended their careers at New Paltz with the former earning First-Team All-Conference and Tri-Defensive Player of the Year, while the latter was named Second-Team All-Conference. Additionally, Cimillo also took home Second-Team All-Conference honors.