The men’s volleyball team picked up two conference wins this weekend, beating St. John Fisher College 3-1 (25-18, 26-24, 26-28, 25,18) and Nazareth College 3-1 (25-14, 18-25, 25-23, 25-20)
After a loss to No. 1 Springfield College 1-3 (20-25, 19-25, 25-20, 17-25) last Thursday, the weekend sweep puts the Hawks at 13-5 for the season, and 4-1 in United Volleyball Conference (UVC) play. New Paltz also finds themselves at 6-1 while playing at home this year.
“To play at home is a huge plus,” head coach Radu Petrus said. “Having the fans by our side gives us more confidence and motivation to win.”
The Hawks started the weekend strong, gaining an early 2-0 lead in the match against St. John Fisher on Saturday, March 10. In a back and forth third set, a kill from second-year middle blocker Matt Broderick put Fisher on top 27-26, and a block by fourth-year outside hitter Joe Kenney earned the set for the Cardinals. A five point streak in the fourth set put momentum back on New Paltz’s side, with a kill from second-year outside hitter Aaron Carrk ending the set 25-18 and giving the Hawks the win.
“Coming off that loss (to Springfield), we wanted to play well and fix the mistakes we made in that game,” fourth-year middle blocker and outside hitter Ryan Cole said. “Conference games are huge, so anytime we have a chance to grab them it’s always a good thing.”
Fourth-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla led the Hawks with nine kills, while fourth-year outside hitter Ben Cohen, Carrk and Cole tallied eight each, respectively. Second-year setter Matthew Grace dubbed 21 assists, with fourth-year setter Mitchell Kennedy tallying 16 of his own.
The Cardinals’ offense was led by third-year opposite Kevin Cahill with 11 kills. Second-year outside hitter Ben De La Cruz and Kenney both registered for eight kills of their own as well. Third-year setter Quinn Magiera led Fisher in assists with 30.
New Paltz came out strong the next day, starting the match off with a 1-0 advantage over Nazareth. The Golden Flyers answered in the second set with a five point streak to put them up 18-10, driving them to the 25-18 win. After falling to Nazareth early in the third set 3-11, the Hawks fought back, with four kills by Cole towards the end to earn the set. The fourth set was all Hawks. A late streak from Nazareth to cut the lead to two was met by a kill from Cole, putting New Paltz up top 23-20 and pushing the Hawks to the win.
“Ryan Cole stepped up big time against Nazareth,” Grace said. “We’ve placed a lot more emphasis on serving, passing and defense in practices and it’s really starting to show.
Cole led the Hawks with 21 kills, while third-year setter and opposite Nick Smith had 14 of his own. Grace led the Hawks in assists with 34.
Nazareth was led by third-year outside hitter Zachary Gillard with 12 kills, while fourth-year outside hitter Sam Bittker and third-year middle blocker Ethan Ross each had five of their own. Fourth-year setter Jake Kemp marked for 26 assists.
The Hawks now head into the heart of their schedule, as they will face five nationally ranked teams in their next seven games. They take on No. 5 New York University and No. 2 Stevens Institute of Technology this weekend in Albany, NY.
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” Grace said. “I think we’re ready to make another April volleyball push.”