The defending NCAA Champions, the SUNY New Paltz men’s volleyball team, has had an incredible start to their 2020 season. After winning their first five games on the road, the Hawks were fired up and ready for the challenge that would be Kean University.
Their last matchup with Kean ended in a 3-0 win for the Hawks. New Paltz looked to repeat history for their home opener on Friday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.
Second-year outside hitter Brendan Spulnick gave New Paltz an immediate lead, earning two kills off the bat. Kean’s third-year Jonathan Meyer struck back with a kill of his own, however, his glory was short lived because he followed it with a service error, tallying on a point for the Hawks.
New Paltz held a steady lead throughout the first set. Only towards the end did the Cougars catch up, with a kill from Meyer bringing the score 19-18, Hawks. Instead of cracking under pressure, the Hawks managed to score four points in a row. A kill from both Spulnick and fourth-year outside hitter Riley Dolan and two errors from the Cougars brought the score to 23-18.
The finish line for set one was in sights, and the Hawks reached it with a 25-20 victory. New Paltz hit .333 percent while Kean’s hitting percent was just .103%.
Like the last set, New Paltz kicked it off. Fourth-year opposite hitter Aaron Carrk earned a kill, followed by an attack error by Meyer, and a kill from fourth-year middle blocker Nick O’Malley to bring the Hawks to an early 3-0.
Like the last set, Kean was trailing behind. Scores like 10-4, 15-8 and 21-10 allowed New Paltz to be a little more comfortable, yet nevertheless determined. A kill from third-year outside hitter Tenzin Kunga and an attack error from Meyer ended the set at 25-16.
Only one question remained. Would New Paltz manage to shut Kean down in a clean 3-0 set for the second year in a row?
Kean proved they were not ready to go down without a fight, this time earning the first score of the set. Although the Hawks retaliated with kills from O’Malley and Carrk, for the first time the pressure was on as Kean put up a 4-2 lead. Kean maintained their lead by two, with the score changing to 6-4.
What the Cougars may not have realized is that New Paltz teams love opportunities such as these – to make a comeback and show everyone what they’ve been working so hard for. Two attack errors by Kean and a kill from Spulnick and Carrk turned the tables to 8-6, Hawks.
There was still a lot of fighting to be done. The score tied at 13-13, but a kill from Carrk broke it in favor of the Hawks. The score again tied at 20-20, but thankfully New Paltz broke it again with a kill from O’Malley. It tied once more at 22-22. Carrk got it done yet again for the Hawks, earning the last three kills of the game to give New Paltz the 25-23 victory and sweep. In 2019, Carrk was named the NCAA tournament MVP. Additionally, he played in 32 matches and contributed 148 digs for the season.
The leaders for kills were Carrk with 15 and Spulnick with 13. O’Malley earned three aces for the team, Dolan with six digs, and fourth-year setter Matthew Grace assisted 25 times.
New Paltz now holds an overall record of 6-0, proving early that they are a force to be reckoned with. The Hawks will be traveling to Springfield, M.A. for the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic. On Friday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m., New Paltz will start with Springfield University. The next day, they will take on either Rivier University or Stevenson University at a time to be determined. It certainly will be an exciting weekend, and it certainly will be fun to watch this team progress throughout their season.