Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Matt Giufre and field hockey Head Coach Shanna Vitale were both awarded SUNYAC Coach of the Year after leading their respective teams to the NCAA Tournament.
Giufre spent his 12th year as head coach of the Lady Hawks securing an overall season record of 34-7, including a 9-0 regular season record in SUNYAC play. Although New Paltz fell in the SUNYAC Championship to Buffalo State, Giufre’s fellow coaches in the conference awarded him his fourth SUNYAC Coach of the Year title.
Giufre said he initially thought the award would go to Maria DePeters, head coach of the Lady Bengals.
“I was pretty surprised,” Giufre said, who first received the accolade in 2004 and then again in 2006 and 2009. “The first time I got it I was excited because I thought, ‘Wow, my colleagues think I belong here and I’m going in the right direction.’ Now it’s more of a recognition of where we’re still going.”
Giufre said this honor does not just speak to his achievements as a coach, but is a reflection of the talent the team possessed this year.
“Getting any award, whether it’s a coaching award or all-conference or all-region awards, it’s a recognition that shows our program hasn’t stayed at one place and continues to grow,” he said.
Players said the program’s development is a product of Giufre’s commitment to the improvement of the team.
“He’s always wanting more,” second-year outside hitter Becca Borquist said. “Good isn’t good enough and he always has a great way to get the team motivated. He’s great at getting the best out of his players which allows our team to be pretty successful.”
Giufre isn’t only devoted to pushing players to their fullest potential, but providing players with a sounding board and extra time on the court.
“I’ve heard about other coaches at different schools who will plan out a practice, teach the team what they need to know, practice it with them, and then just go home and do it all over the next day,” Captain Marissa King said.
Guifre goes above and beyond what the average coach does, King said, taking time to talk with players about practice, school, friends, or family and is willing to work with any player who’s eager to improve.
“He is honestly one of the most giving and understanding coaches I have ever met and I’m glad I got to be a part of his team for four years,” King said.
But Giufre said complacency, for both the players and himself, is not an option if the team looks to improve. While Giufre looks to let the Lady Hawks know what they need to work on for next season, he expects the same feedback from his players as to what they think would make him progress as a head coach.
“Both of them are extremely detailed, competitive people,” Athletic Director Stuart Robinson said. “As coaches they want the best for their players. They set high standards and they don’t waver from them.”
With multiple coach of the year awards, Giufre and Vitale have proven they have distinguished themselves in the SUNYAC conference and are beginning to distinguish themselves regionally with advancements in their respective NCAA Div. III Tournaments, Robsinson said.
“This is a feat that speaks highly about the quality of coaches that we have here,” Robinson said.
In her fifth year at the reigns of the field hockey program, Vitale received her third consecutive SUNYAC Coach of the Year of award after the team clinched the SUNYAC Field Hockey Championship for the second year in a row.
“It’s an honor, and it’s something that happens because of the group that you have,” Vitale said. “When you have a team that works really hard and believes in your philosophy, it makes your job as a coach easier.”
The team posted a 14-9 overall record, while going 4-2 in conference.
“To see a coach put countless hours of hard work, dedication and support into a team is truly amazing,” second-year forward Dani Ackerman said. “Coach Vitale puts everything into coaching and refuses to see her team fail. She always demands more from us and holds us to a high standard that keeps us motivated.”
Like Giufre, Vitale received her first SUNYAC Coach of the Year award during a season the team fell short of the SUNYAC Championship title, but still received recognition from her fellow coaches.
Vitale said although she was equally excited about this year’s Coach of the Year honor, having the team work toward their goal of winning SUNYACs and seeing the smiles after achieving it is the real reward she got this season. Getting everyone to play their best when it counted the most, Vitale said, is something that stood out to the other coaches and actually lead to receiving this award.
“My favorite memory with coach Vitale was winning the SUNYAC Championship this year,” Ackerman said. “She knew we deserved to win that game. I remember hugging her, tears of happiness in both our eyes. Yet the look in her eyes was belief — she knew we could do so much more. Like she always says, ‘we will because we can.’”
Looking forward, Vitale said she has started recruiting prospective student-athletes who will continue to help aid in the team’s success and is working with returning players to set individual and team goals for next season.