Even though it’s only February, the Men’s Volleyball team has their sights set on March and hopefully a United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Division championship.
The Hawks, who are currently 4-5, needed to adjust to their new division and rules in addition to working on their team chemistry in their young season.
“We started off well,” Head Coach Radu Petrus said. “It’s a long season, anything is possible.”
Because the team features five newcomers – two or three of which are starting – Petrus said creating team chemistry and game-like situations have been a focus of early practices.
In addition to the new players, the Hawks have had to adjust to a new rule changing the winning point total of a match from 30 points to 25. Petrus said that this adjustment has been “tricky” because losing possession of the ball can now make or break a match.
Due to this new rule, Petrus believes that putting pressure on his players as if they were in a game is beneficial to the player’s development into higher level players, but admits that this aggressive style is difficult to get used to.
“Some players are not comfortable with the pressure,” Petrus said. “But we have to prepare for the higher level teams.”
The Hawks will head into the Nazareth Tournament on Feb. 11 and face top ranked teams such as Medaille College, Thiel College and the University of California, Santa Cruz. After the tournament, the Hawks will have six games before they head to the Vassar Crossover in early March.
During their practices, Petrus said that the team has been working on perfecting their defense, and taking advantage of the team’s height. According to Petrus, this year’s team is the tallest in SUNY New Paltz history.
“My expectation is high because we are taller,” Petrus said. “We work on blocking everyday in practice, and my expectation is to be better.”
Petrus said that practices have consisted of him having players try different positions, a puzzle he hopes will lead to a perfect combination and a UVC championship.
“Hopefully before the final we can put together the best group of six to eight players,” Petrus said.
Besides working on their technique, Petrus said that he has been relying on the upperclass players to help create a sense of identity and unity on the team.
Third-year captain Kevin Stross believes that to achieve the goals set out early in the season the team needs to realize it’s talent, and work on their chemistry.
“We have to play together, we aren’t clicking,” Stross said. “We have a lot of talent, once we establish some chemistry we should be better.”
Petrus agrees on the team’s potential and believes that over time and practices each individual player will elevate their play to what he believes it can be.
“We lost some games by one ball,” Petrus said. “We can fix that on offense and defense, if we elevate that we can be winners.”