After opening the season with a disappointing 1-3 finish at the Captain’s Classic Invitational in Newport News, VA., the New Paltz Women’s Volleyball team bounced back last weekend with a 4-0 sweep at the University of Rochester Volleyball Invitational, capturing the tournament title.
Head Coach Matt Giufre said the strong competition the team faced at the beginning of the season was an intentional move on his part, a strategy he already sees paying off.
“We played some of the better teams in the country,” Giufre said. “I like to start the season with a challenge. It gives us a better understanding of where we are and what we need to work on.”
Fourth-year setter and Captain Marissa King said the losses at their first invitational were a wake-up call for the team.
“We know we have the potential, but it showed how far we have left to fully reach that potential,” King said.
Last season, the Lady Hawks posted a record of 34-9, making the NCAA Div. III Women’s Volleyball Championship Tournament and qualifying as the East Division’s No. 2 seed for the SUNYAC championship.
With a roster of seven first-years, Giufre wouldn’t call this a rebuilding year.
“We definitely have a target on our backs, but we take each season as its own. The incoming freshmen are just great athletes helping our team,” Giufre said. “We don’t really rebuild, we reload.”
The players’ close knit relationships with one another and high level of competitiveness are characteristics Giufre said will contribute to the team’s success this season.
“Our team is definitely very tight and we are extremely supportive of each other. I think because of that, practices have become a lot more challenging and we are definitely pushing each other to be our very best every day,” third-year outside hitter Alli Coleman said.
King agrees with Coleman about the unity the team has this season.
“Usually it’s a little tough getting to know each other,” King said. “But never before have we had a team that clicked like this from the beginning. That sort of chemistry really helps in games.”
Depth, Giufre said, is another strength this season’s team possesses that will give the Hawks an edge over their competition. More depth means having more options if something isn’t working out right, he said.
The only downside the team is facing this year is having a lot of new players who “aren’t used to having big game roles right away, while last year’s group had more experience,” Giufre said.
Standout players to watch include King and the team’s other captain, fourth-year libero Carrie Hack, both of whom have started all four years for the Lady Hawks and are all-region players, Giufre said.
Second-year outside hitter Becca Borquist, who won last year’s SUNYAC East Division Rookie of the Year award, returns as another key player, Giufre said. He also said Coleman and first-year middle hitter Morgan Roessler both played crucial roles in taking home the tournament title last weekend, and are two more players to watch.
Looking forward, Giufre sees this Saturday’s matchup against Salisbury University during the Hawk’s Invitational as one of the team’s most difficult upcoming matches. Losing to the Sea Gulls in both matchups last season, Giufre believes it will be a one of the team’s most competitive games, along with the season’s contests against Vassar College and Stevens Institute of Technology. Buffalo State, with a strong returning team, will also likely put up a tough fight against the determined Lady Hawks.