Conference Kings

Photo by Holly Lipka.

The No. 1 ranked men’s volleyball team concluded their regular season with a win over No. 2 Springfield College and remain unbeaten against Div. III teams.

New Paltz recorded and extended their historic winning streak to 27 games with a 3-2 win against Springfield College (25-23, 17-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-11) on April 2.

Hawks head coach Radu Petrus said the team performed well on the road under a hostile crowd over 800.

“We played well and never dropped our mentality, he said. “If they went ahead, we recovered. In a five-set away match, that is huge. I am happy in the way we won in five sets under pressure and how the team handled that situation.”

In the opening set, the Pride went up 5-3. However, after committing three errors, the Hawks took advantage by taking a 6-5 lead. The teams continued to trade points throughout the set as the Pride cut the score to 24-23, but third-year middle blocker and opposite Jake Roessler floored the kill to give New Paltz the set win.

The following set saw Springfield go up 12-3. New Paltz eventually cut the deficit to 20-16 after recording four straight points. After a brief timeout by the Pride, Springfield pushed a 5-1 run to earn the win for a 1-all match.

Even though Springfield held a 4-2 advantage in the start of the third frame, Roessler floored back-to-back kills to tie the score. After trading several points, the Hawks grabbed a 15-13 lead, but the Pride battled back to even the score. The teams again went back-and-forth until New Paltz capitalized on several Springfield errors to push ahead, 23-20. Second-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla capped off the win for the Hawks, flooring back-to-back kills.

During the fourth set, the score remained close early on but Springfield recorded four unanswered points to charge ahead, 9-6. The Pride continued to hold a three-point lead over the Hawks, but Bonilla and  Roessler contributed a kill each to cut the score to 12-11. Springfield refused to give up its lead as the Pride pushed a 6-2 burst for an 18-13 margin. The Hawks stayed close behind, trimming the deficit to 24-23, but after a service error committed by third-year opposite Joe Norman, Springfield earned its second set win and forced the match into a deciding set.

The Hawks took a 6-0 advantage early in the final frame. They would fall victim to Springfield, as they Pride pounced on Hawks errors to create a close 7-6 score. Both teams briefly traded points until fourth-year middle blocker Christopher Husmann and Norman floored a kill each to give the Hawks a two-point lead to make it 11-8. The Pride fought hard to equalize but would only cut the score to 14-11 before Norman floored the match-winning kill, handing the Hawks their 27th straight win.

Individually, Roessler tallied 14 kills for the Hawks’ offense, while Husmann chipped in 10 kills and three service aces. Fourth-year co-captain Christian Smith dished out 49 assists and added four blocks (one solo, three assists). Defensively, fourth-year co-captain Kevin Nardone provided a team-high nine digs, while Smith contributed six digs.

Smith said the Hawks did a good job of staying together as a unit and not becoming overwhelmed by the Springfield crowd.

“It showed that we can get the job done without playing too well,” he said. “We felt we didn’t have our best match but we still found a way to win. It ultimately showed our resilience.”

The Hawks finished the regular season with a 28-2 overall record and earned the No. 1 seed in the 2016 United Volleyball Conference Tournament with an 8-0 league mark. They will host the entire six-team tournament and will face either No. 4 seed Nazareth College or No. 5 seed Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the semifinals on Saturday, April 9, at 2:30 p.m. in the Hawk Center.

Petrus said experience has been a crucial factor in the team’s success this season.

“We come back and recover,” he said. “The older players have a lot of experience. We went two years in a row to the NCAA Championship. We lost in the semifinals last year. There was pressure. Each year after we lost we came back with more experience. This year we will do a better job. I feel that. It is not good to predict these things.”

It was announced on Tuesday, April 5 that the Hawks received 255 points and 17 first-place votes to remain in the No. 1 spot in the recent edition of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Men’s Coaches Top-15 Poll.

Husmann said the regular season-ending victory was extremely satisfying and confidence-building going into the playoffs.

“Having a bye-round is very helpful because it gives us time to scout and it takes what would be a huge toll off of our bodies,” he said. “Hosting the UVC Tournament is huge. Outside of our family members there have been no bigger nor better supporters than our very own New Paltz men’s soccer team and being able to play in front of them more only helps us.”

About Melissa Kramer 157 Articles
Melissa Kramer is a fourth-year journalism major who lives for sports and music.