Championship Hopes are High for Men’s Volleyball

Third-year outside hitter Aaron Carrk is currently second on the team in kills with 253 for the year. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Swift)

Although the men’s volleyball team lost to Steven’s Institute of Technology Wednesday night 3-2 (26-24, 20-25, 25-19, 24-26, 10-15), the Hawks have gone on a streak when it matters most, winning their last four prior games and last three in 3-0 sweeps. New Paltz topped New York University 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-21), St. John Fisher College 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-20) and Eastern Mennonite University 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-15) prior to spring break, while also beating Ramapo College 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-16) after returning to classes.

“Those two UVC victories [last weekend] secured our place in the conference,” said head coach Radu Petrus. “This match decided who will host the tournament. We’ve never beaten Steven’s at their home.”

In the first set against Ramapo Monday night, the Hawks took an early lead, as their experienced outside hitters, fourth-year Nick Smith and third-year Aaron Carrk, looked in sync with third-year setter Matt Grace. The Roadrunners stayed within touching distance at 22-18, but fourth-year outside hitter Bradley Schneider spiked the ball off a block to push New Paltz ahead 23-18 before a missed serve by Ramapo gifted the Hawks the set, 25-19. 

The second set sparked a response by the Roadrunners, but with the Hawks up at 13-12, Carrk hammered a kill and Schneider followed it up with his sixth kill of the match. Two missed serves by Ramapo helped the Hawks gain an 18-15 lead, but the Roadrunners came right back to make it a two-point set. Ramapo then tied the game at 22-22 thanks to some mistakes by New Paltz, but Schneider came up clutch to give his team the lead at 23-22, spurring the Hawks to win the set.

In the third set New Paltz immediately went on a 6-0 run, which was capped off with a kill by Smith, as the Roadrunners looked deflated. The Hawks went up early and scored often as they strolled to a win in front of their home fans, 25-16 and 3-0.

“Coming back [from spring break] there was a lot of good vibes, and we’re just trying to bring that with us later in the season,” said third-year libero Robert Nolan. “My freshman year we were kind of in the same boat, and what really helped us that year was a lot of team camaraderie. I’m really hoping everything goes well, we can make some memories and end the season on top.”

New Paltz’s tri-match with St. John Fisher College and Eastern Mennonite University started with the first set against the Cardinals tight early tied at seven, but the Hawks made a jump due to multiple errors by the visitors, resulting in five unanswered points to put them up, 12-7. St. John Fisher came back to get behind, 12-10, but New Paltz’s offense continued to push the pace.

A kill by Carrk got a 4-0 rally started to bounce the score up, 22-14. A late surge by the Cardinals was not enough, as first-year middle blocker John Ronan and Smith capped off the set at 25-18 with back-to-back kills.

New Paltz had to fight back in the second set, allowing St. John Fisher to jump out to an 8-4 lead. Two errors allowed the Hawks to jump back in front 14-13, and a kill by Carrk at 17-16 created a 4-0 run to jump ahead, 21-16 and force a Cardinals timeout. St. John Fisher made a 3-0 run at the end to come behind, 24-22, but another kill from Carrk sealed the set and put New Paltz in front by two.

Hoping to end the game early, the Hawks got out to a 5-1 lead in the beginning of the third set. With New Paltz holding the lead throughout, the Cardinals made a 4-0 run to come behind one at 20-19, putting the pressure on the Hawks. New Paltz answered with two kills and two service aces by Smith, following a service ace from Grace to build a 5-1 run and close the match with a 25-20 set victory.

New Paltz went back-and-forth with Eastern Mennonite throughout the first set in their second game of the day, tying the Royals 13 times in a set that featured five lead changes. With the set tied at 16, six unanswered points by the Hawks was enough to give them a 22-16 lead and full momentum of the set. A kill by Carrk won the set, 25-20 for SUNY New Paltz, giving them the 1-0 advantage.

The Hawks came out hot in the second set, scoring five unanswered points to force an Eastern Mennonite University time-out up 5-0. The Royals never recovered, as SUNY New Paltz extended their lead to as much as eight at 20-12. The Hawks cruised to another 25-20 set victory to go in front, 2-0.

Continuing the pace, New Paltz’s offense pushed aggressively again in the third set, gaining an early 12-5 lead. Eastern Mennonite could not come up with a solution, as the Hawks continued to widen the gap. A kill by first-year opposite and outside hitter Tim Drake finished the job for New Paltz, earning their second win of the day with a 25-15 set victory.

With the Violets and New Paltz going back-and-forth throughout the beginning of the set in their match last Friday, March 15, NYU gained a strong stride of momentum with three unanswered points to go up, 15-12. Although the Hawks cut the score, 18-16, they were never able to gain back the lead. The Violets sealed the set at 25-23 with a kill to take the 1-0 lead in the match.

New Paltz came out hot in the second set gaining an early 5-0 lead to force an NYU timeout. The Hawks continued to tack onto their lead, with a four-point run capped off by a kill from Smith, which put New Paltz up 13-7.

The Violets crept close to the Hawks, but never regained the lead. With New Paltz up 24-19, four unanswered points by NYU made things scary for the Hawks with their lead cut to 24-23. Another kill by Smith turned momentum back toward New Paltz’s side, winning the set 25-23 and tying the match at one.

Going back-and-forth again with the Violet’s early in the third set, the Hawks created separation with the set tied at 11, coming up with four unanswered points finished by a kill from Carrk to go up 15-11. Once again, NYU could not make a comeback, never making a run to allow New Paltz to take the 2-1 lead in the match. Three unanswered points, including a kill by Schneider was enough to put the Hawks up, 25-19.

New Paltz established themselves in the fourth set, going up 8-5 after a Smith kill. The Violets ultimately could not keep up with the Hawks offense, as SUNY New Paltz ran up the slight lead at 21-17.

NYU brought the score close at 21-19, but the Hawks answered with a 3-1 run to go up 24-20 and force a Violets timeout. New Paltz sealed the set, 25-21, and took the match 3-1.

“We know that this is the home stretch and that we really have to focus,” Carrk said. “We are trying to keep it solid, fine tune some things, and not change a lot since it’s the end of the season.”

The Hawks will return to action with another tri-match in the Hawk Center against Nazareth College and Northern Vermont University-Johnson this Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.