The men’s volleyball team extended their winning streak to 26 matches and finished 8-0 in United Volleyball Conference (UVC) play for the regular season in the process.
Highlights from the past few games include wins over No. 4 Nazareth College, No. 9 Elmira College and No. 10 Vassar College, which proved to be some of New Paltz’s toughest matchups this season.
The Hawks traveled to Rochester on Saturday, March 19 to participate in the Purple and Gold Invitational against California Lutheran University and host Nazareth College.
Hawks head coach Radu Petrus said the team looked to become comfortable with the playing environment in Rochester for the NCAA Tournament, which proved to be successful as the Hawks only dropped one set in their two matchups.
“It was a good experience because we beat both teams, and it was a good day for the players,” he said. “The environment was good for us and we are ready to go back.”
New Paltz swept the Kingsmen 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-18), and held a 6-4 advantage in service aces. California Lutheran hit .113 (22-14-71) and edged the Hawks, 7-3, in blocks.
There was a battle for the lead in the opening set, as both teams went back and forth until third-year opposite and middle blocker Jake Roessler floored back-to-back kills to give the Hawks a 10-8 lead. The Hawks maintained the lead until a pair of service aces by California Lutheran third-year outside hitter Kristian Gallardo and a New Paltz attack error tied the game at 17.
The Hawks went on a 4-1 run to go up 21-18 before the Kingsmen brought the score to within one. A California Lutheran service error returned the ball to New Paltz and the Hawks scored four unanswered points to seal the set win.
The final two sets were back and forth in the beginning, as the Hawks went from a narrow 10-9 lead in the second set to win on a Kingsmen service error. In the final set, California Lutheran jumped out to an 11-9 lead and New Paltz regained the lead with kills by second-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla and third-year middle blocker C.J. Borfitz before third-year middle blocker Steven Woessner delivered the match-winning kill.
Later in the day, New Paltz won against Nazareth 3-1 (27-25, 25-23, 17-25, 25-20), and limited them to a .333 hitting percentage (15-14-108). The Golden Flyers held a 3-2 edge in service aces but both teams finished the match with six blocks apiece.
The Hawks had 18 kills on 27 attempts and two errors to slip past Nazareth for the 27-25 opening set win. Both teams alternated with the lead throughout the frame until Nazareth pulled away, 24-23, on a kill by fourth-year outside hitter Tim Zyburt, causing New Paltz to take a timeout. A Golden Flyers’ service error gave the ball to New Paltz, who took the win on a 4-1 run capped off on a kill by third-year opposite Joe Norman.
The Hawks battled back and forth in the next sets as they only dropped the third one to the Golden Flyers by a score of 25-17. Notable performances included Woessner hitting .529 (10-1-17) for the match, flooring 10 kills and notching three block assists. Fourth-year outside hitter Andy Fishman notched 13 kills for a .423 clip (13-2-26). Fourth-year co-captain Christian Smith dished out 47 assists, defended 12 digs and tallied three total blocks (one solo, two assists).
Smith said the team played well despite the small worry about the health of the players going into the Purple and Gold Invitational.
“The match against Nazareth was tough, because everyone at school had headed home for spring break while we traveled up to Rochester for the weekend so mentally it was tough,” Smith said. “That week most of the team had been sick, so people were beginning to recover. I was happy with the team’s performance and glad we got the win. Nazareth played really well, but we were resilient and got the job done.”
The Hawks next traveled to Hunter College on Wednesday, March 23.
New Paltz swept the opposite Hawks 3-0 (25-10, 25-19, 25-18), hitting .507 (45-8-73) for the match, holding a 5-2 advantage in service aces and a 4-0 edge in blocks while limiting Hunter to a .114 clip (26-18-70).
They next traveled to Vassar College on Saturday, March 26 to participate in the UVC Crossover for their final conference matchups of the regular season. There, they faced No. 9 Elmira College and host No. 10. Vassar.
In the match against Elmira College, Norman hit .875 (7-0-8) on seven kills while Woessner floored seven hits on nine attempts and one error for a .667 clip and collected three block assists. Other notable performances included Bonilla and fourth-year co-captain Kevin Nardone providing four digs apiece for the defense.
For the Soaring Eagles, fourth-year outside hitter Erik Griffin floored 17 kills and four digs while first-year setter Adam Dake doled out 18 assists and also provided four digs.
The Hawks faced one of their toughest matchups of the season in their win against Vassar College 3-2 (22-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-18, 15-7). The first set began with a 15-15 tie and the Hawks went up 21-18. It wasn’t until a 5-0 Brewers run that eventually brought Vassar the set win.
The second set proved to be close but worked in New Paltz’s favor, as Norman dominated the game by flooring three kills to give his team the set win and even the match to 1-1. In the third set, Vassar seized an 8-3 edge and never trailed as the Brewers took advantage of many New Paltz errors for a 19-13 margin. New Paltz managed to slice the deficit to 24-22 on a pair of Norman kills but after a Vassar timeout, fourth-year co-captain Reno Kriz floored the kill to clinch the set.
The Hawks would dominate the last two sets to win their 25th match of the season, keeping their win streak alive.
Petrus said that although the players were motivated for this game, their approach was not as successful as they expected.
“We had a difficult game with Vassar,” Petrus said. “The second game for us, I think the players were a little bit more relaxed. They didn’t approach the game with Vassar like they were supposed to even though they were motivated to play well. It was a competitive game and we learned a few things, but hopefully we can do a different approach in the future.”
On Wednesday, March 30, the Hawks continued their seven-match road trip as they swept Baruch College in a nonconference matchup 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-13). The Hawks have yet to lose to an NCAA Div. III team this season. They also used 18 student-athletes in the win, with half of them registering at least one kill.
The Hawks next play against Springfield College for their final regular season match on Saturday, April 2 at 6 p.m.
The Hawks previously swept Springfield 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-17) on Wednesday, March 9 to gain the No. 1 seed in the UVC Conference.
Smith expects a challenging game against Springfield and also expects the team to win and come into the UVC Tournament strong in his final year as a Hawk.
“I expect our team to come out and be ready to play with a lot of energy and focus,” Smith said. “We are going to put forth our best effort and try to end the regular season off on a high note. We want to win this game in preparation for the UVC Tournament. Springfield will come more prepared for this match but we will make sure we are prepared as well.”