After falling to Brockport in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) finals last season, the women’s volleyball team has a sense of unfinished business for this coming season.
Coach Matt Giufre, at the helm for his 16th season with New Paltz, captured his 400th victory Sept. 1 against Albion College in five sets (10-25, 25-16, 26-24, 17-25, 15-12).
The Hawks split four games in the Kean Tournament to kick off the season from Sept. 1-2, beating New York University in three sets to close out the weekend while dropping middle games to Kean and Nebraska Wesleyan University.
“Our defense was consistently at a high level opening weekend, and I expect that to maintain. We also had stretches of high level execution in all the volleyball skills,” Giufre said. “However, with these positive stretches of play came streaks of errors that we need to clean up in practice and gaining more experience playing together at this level.”
In game one against Albion, first-year outside hitter Emma Hines led the way in the kills department with 11, while third-year outside hitter Taylor Cimillo registered 10 kills of her own, as well as 10 digs and two service aces.
Fourth-year setter Maddie Zwickl racked up 41 assists in the victory and chipped in 11 digs.
New Paltz and Albion matched each other almost tit-for-tat in this one with each recording 60 points, while the Hawks edged them out in blocks and came up even in assists.
“We are going to need contributions from everyone, 1-16,” Giufre said the key to success is this season. “Maddie Zwickl and Veronica Matedero are our two most experienced players and are really strong in their respective positions. I am anxious to see who else will emerge as consistent high level performers, day in and day out with the two of them.”
Following the gritty win against Albion, the Hawks dropped a disheartening match against host Kean in five sets (25-23, 28-26, 23-25, 22-25, 12-15).
The Hawks topped Kean in kills (62-60), assists (59-56) and digs (69-49), but weren’t able to take that elusive third set.
Cimillo led the charge with 20 kills, while Zwickl pulled down 54 assists and two service aces. Second-year outside hitter Maddie Van Pelt also chipped in 19 kills while Hines had 13 as well as three blocks. Second-year libero Nicole Fellone had three service aces and 16 digs.
“The number one thing we need to improve is our scoring efficiency,” Giufre said. “We need to have a more balanced offensive attack and minimize our hitting errors. It comes down to our ability to score points at a higher and more efficient rate than our opponents.”
After falling in three sets to Nebraska Wesleyan (17-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-27, 15-6) the Hawks finished on a positive note by sweeping NYU in three sets (25-14, 25-18, 25-23).
Against NYU, the Hawks controlled the court, outscoring the Bobcats in points (51-39), kills (37-26), services aces (7-5), assists (37-26) and digs (49-36).
Hines and Cimillo had 10 kills each, while Van Pelt was right behind with eight of her own. Cimillo also logged two service aces.
Maddie Zwickl led the way in assists with 26 while registering 12 digs, two blocks and one service ace. Fourth-year libero Veronica Mattedero recorded 14 digs and two assists to top off the victory.
“It is important for the older players to instill our sense of work ethic [in the younger players], maintaining high standards for performance in the classroom and on the court, while making sure we enjoy our unending pursuit of excellence,” Giufre said in regards to the season. “Our veteran players, Maddie Zwickl, Veronica Matedero and Ruby Klein have done a good job so far of setting the right example and also teaching and sharing what they know to the newer players. It has helped speed up their learning which is needed.”
New Paltz will host the Hawks Invitational on Friday, Sept. 8 and Saturday, Sept. 9 in the Hawk Center. They will take on the Sage Colleges and Montclair State at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, on the first day and Mount Saint Mary and Stockton at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“We have a very exciting team loaded with potential,” Giufre concluded. “With focused hard work, we should be dangerous as the season unfolds.”