The Men’s volleyball team will continue their season-opening four-game road trip as they take on two more non-conference teams, New York University and Sacred Heart University, on Thursday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 7 respectively.
The Hawks opened up their season with two wins last weekend in the Stevenson Tournament against opponents Rutgers-Newark and host No. 14 Stevenson University. Both wins were won by the Hawks in four sets in a final of three sets to one.
Last season, the Hawks shutout New York University in both matches played, including a win in the 2014 United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Tournament Final. This sent the Hawks to the 2014 NCAA Div. III Tournament.
Head Coach Radu Petrus said opening up the season playing four straight road games allows the team to work on their chemistry, which is key this season. The team changes their offensive and defensive plan a little bit during practice, depending on the opponent, he said.
“We play with a faster offense, so we need good chemistry and ball control,” he said. “Our older players have more experience with different teams and have the ability, as well as the new, younger players, who have been learning quickly.”
Last week, Hawks first-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla was named UVC Co-Rookie of the Week and Corvias Eastern College Athletic Conference North Rookie of the Week.
Bonilla tallied a match-high 16 kills to go along with seven digs and a block against Rutgers-Newark. Against the Stevenson Mustangs, he notched 10 kills, six digs, three aces and two blocks.
To prepare for their upcoming matches, third-year co-Captain Christian Smith said the team is really focusing on serves and their coverage defense in order to keep rallies alive.
“The team is looking to just keep getting better each day as a unit and trying to really keep up the high intensity in practice that will translate to games,” he said. “It is definitely a good test for us to open up with four road games because it allows us to see how our team responds on the road in hostile environments.”
As of Thursday, Feb. 5, the Hawks remain ranked No. 4 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Men’s Coaches Top 15 Poll.
Petrus said he is satisfied with his team’s ranking, but can always improve with their upcoming matches.
“Hopefully we can go up a little bit and do not drop because this weekend we didn’t play,” Petrus said. “A lot of teams had a lot of games, maybe there will be some change, but not in the first four, hopefully.”
Even though the season is young, third-year co-Captain Kevin Nardone said the team is looking to workout and improve as a unit in the hopes of bringing New Paltz a national championship.
“We have been working hard as always and trying to have effective gameplans for tough conference opponents,” he said. “We look to use our depth to our advantage.”
The Hawks do not play their home opener until Wednesday, Feb. 11, against Ramapo College at the Hawk Center, but whether the team is home or on the road, there is always pressure, Petrus said.
“The pressure is coming because everyone wants to beat us,” Petrus said. “Everyone wants to beat a good team like us. We have a good reputation and we have to keep that level.”