Heavy Hitters

Photo by Holly Lipka.

The men’s volleyball team has won 12 games in a row dating back to Saturday, Jan. 16.

In the process, the Hawks remained No. 2 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Men’s Coaches Top-15 Poll after sweeping the UVC Crossover and the Juniata Invitational.

On Sunday, Feb. 14, the team traveled to Rochester to begin United Volleyball Conference (UVC) play against No. 6 Stevens Institute of Technology and No. 4 Nazareth College. The Hawks jumped out to an early lead against Stevens. Although the Ducks brought the score within two points, fourth-year outside hitter Andy Fishman and third-year middle blocker and opposite Jake Roessler pushed the Hawks to a set win.

The score was close in the last set until the Hawks pulled ahead 11-7. The Ducks stayed closely behind and eventually tied it at 15. New Paltz ended up taking the lead and sealing the match after a kill from third-year middle blocker Steven Woessner.

Despite the evenly matched competition, Hawks Head Coach Radu Petrus said he felt the team performed well against Stevens.

“We did a good job,” Petrus said. “Although we didn’t approach the game as seriously as we could have, we came out with the win and it built experience for our team.”

Nazareth fell short by a score of 25-17 to begin the next game. In the second set, The Golden Flyers returned ready to play, as both teams were in a brief battle until Hawks fourth-year co-Captain Christian Smith’s kill and service ace put the Hawks ahead 17-15. Nazareth slowly closed the gap, but kills by second-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla and third-year opposite Joe Norman put New Paltz ahead 23-19. Woessner delivered the match-winning kill. In the final set, both teams traded points until the score settled at 25, but the Hawks would grab the final two points needed for the match win.

A few days later, the Hawks won their third consecutive and final conference game of the week against Bard College 3-0 (25-11, 25-15, 25-19).

Hawks third-year middle blocker C.J. Borfitz hit .538 for the match, notching eight kills and four block assists while Roessler had seven kills.

C. Smith said he is happy with the team’s performance and how they were able to showcase their skills in their conference.

“The team’s performance has been really good so far,” Smith said. “We’ve won a bunch of matches in a variety of ways and I think the experience of winning in five sets against Stevens will pay dividends for us in the long run. Also, to come back after in the next game and beat Nazareth 3-0 was really a good showing of us staying focused and realizing how important those games were.”

On Friday, Feb. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 20, the Hawks competed in the Juniata Invitational against No. 14 Hunter College, Lasell College and host Juniata College.

New Paltz traded points early on until Hunter managed to trim the deficit to 15-13 on a 4-1 run until New Paltz received the ball on a Hunter service ace. Fourth-year middle blocker Christopher Husmann floored three kills as the Hawks went up 22-15. Hunter would cut the score to 24-17, but a block solo by Norman capped off the set.

The Hawks dominated the second set 25-14 after capitalizing on errors by Hunter. The third set proved to be close with the opposing Hawks going up 19-18, followed by a New Paltz timeout. Hunter was able to stop New Paltz completely to finish the set, but that didn’t stop the Hawks from finishing off Hunter 25-17 in the match-winning set.

Petrus said the Hawks have been attempting to use all of their players and having contribution from everyone will help the team over the course of the season.

“We have some pressure, but I want to run our strategy, our combination and ultimately use all of our players,” Petrus said. “Sometimes we lose sets because we tried to put players in a competitive situation or they just weren’t ready. It’s a learning process and it’s good to have contribution from the whole team. If they can’t help us much during the game, then they will be very helpful in practice.”

To finish off the Invitational, the Hawks won against Lasell College 3-0 (25-13, 25-14, 25-15), then defeated the host Eagles 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-11) to extend their win streak to 12 games.

New Paltz capitalized on errors and kills by Bonilla and Woessner to sweep the Lasers and the Eagles. Norman was named to the Juniata Invitational All-Tournament team while Woesnner was named tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP).

The Hawks come back home to play New Jersey City University on Wednesday, March 2 before they participate in the New Paltz Tri-Match on Saturday, March 5 against Juniata College and Dominican University.

The following day, New Paltz will play in the UVC Crossover against New York University and Penn State Behrend for more conference play. C. Smith hopes practice will be effective in these games.

“We have two conference home games coming up against NYU and Penn State,” Smith said. “NYU is no easy task because they can get hot from the service line at any moment, but it’s on us to stay focused and keep working hard on the little things in practice.”