After posting a 24-3 regular season record, the Men’s Volleyball team won the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) tournament last weekend at Nazareth College in Rochester – the first time the team has won the UVC Championship.
The Hawks swept Penn State-Behrend Saturday, April 12 (25-15, 25-15, 25-20) in the quarterfinals before defeating Stevens Institute of Techonology in the semifinals, dropping only one set and taking the match (26-24, 25-19, 22-25, 25-15).
The following day the team defeated New York University in the championship match 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-22).
“It was a dream come true for us,” fourth-year Captain Brian Smith said. “All the hard work we put in, and the way we did it together was the best part.”
The Hawks had defeated all their championship contestors previously in the season and Brian Smith said the team knew that if they played their style of play and didn’t beat themselves, there wasn’t a team in the conference that could defeat them, and they would come out on top.
Coming up short in the semifinals of the championshp last year against Stevens 3-2 (25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 30-32, 13-15), Smith said being able to “close the deal” was gratifying for everyone.
Head Coach Radu Petrus said the team played last weekend with “good strategy and a tough serve,” giving the Hawks their signature strong offense that is difficult for other teams to defend and capitalize on.
Petrus said in the championship match, NYU attempted to switch up their defensive strategy by taking out their defensive specialist and trying new tactics to fight against the Hawks’ seven service aces and .329 hitting percentage, without avail.
Second-year setter Christian Smith and second-year outside hitter Tim Ferriter earned First Team All-American honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) for their performance throughout the tournament.
This is the second year Ferriter, who boasts a team best of 315 kills and No. 5 ranking in the UVC in hitting percentage with a .365, has received the First Team accolade. An All-American and the NCAA Div. III Newcomer of the Year last season, Ferriter said he did not feel pressure being a key player in the Hawks’ lineup during these pivitol games.
“My team has a lot of faith in me and I know if I’m having a bad day, there’s players who can come through and perform,” he said, adding that while he was happy to be honored with the title, getting a win as a team is more important to him than being recognized personally.
First-year middle blocker Steven Woessner was another standout player throughout the tournament, earning the moniker of Most Valuable Player of the UVC Tournament as well as AVCA Newcomer of the Year and Second Team All-American.
“It’s unusual for a player to have 13 aces,” Petrus said of Woessner’s performance. “He has good individual skill and is a good server. He deserves it.”
The Hawks remain the No. 2 team nationally, as ranked in the 12th week of voting by the AVCA NCAA Div. III Men’s Top-15 Coaches Poll. The team, who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Div. III Men’s Volleyball Tournament, will face Stevens Tech once again in the first round at Juniata College in Huntingdon, P.A.
While players and Petrus alike acknowledge that the UVC is one of the strongest conferences, Ferriter said the Continental Volleyball Conference (CVC), which houses powerhouses Juniata and Carthage College, will be strong opponents as the team looks to progress and reach the final match.
“They are both top five teams,” he said. “We have to play Juniata the second round if we beat Stevens.”
The Hawks look to continue their level of play and team work throughout the NCAA matchups.
“If it worked for the UVC it should work for the NCAAs,” Ferriter said.
Brian Smith agreed.
“As long as we stay humble, stay loose, have fun with it and enjoy every moment and play together, there’s no reason why we can’t win,” he said.