The Men’s Volleyball team responded to their first United Volleyball Conference (UVC) loss to Massachusetts Institute of Technology Feb. 25 with four consecutive non-conference wins last weekend.
The Hawks dominated the Vassar Tri-Match March 1, sweeping both No. 2 Juniata and Thiel College in the Poughkeepsie-held match-ups. The following day the team returned to their home court, downing both Vassar and Dominican (Ill.) College in the New Paltz Tri-Match.
Head Coach Radu Petrus said the loss to MIT, which ended a 10-game winning streak for the Hawks, was the result of a lapse of tough mentality from the team.
“They are thinking logically that [Nazareth College] beat MIT, and we beat Naz, so MIT in this situation was supposed to be an easy game,” Petrus said. “But it doesn’t work that way. Each match is important and each match is different. We didn’t approach that game seriously.”
Second-year setter Christian Smith said the team’s service game and passing led to the downfall.
“We had a game and a half of hitting errors, and that’s not like us,” Smith said.
With their third consecutive week at the top of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) NCAA Div. III Men’s Top-15 Coaches Poll, Petrus said this only added to MIT’s motivation to take down the No. 1 ranked program.
“Sometimes I’ll take the starters out of the gym for a minute to remind them to relax and focus, and try to get them to come back to the game with a different approach,” Petrus said of how he attempts to turn a losing game around.
But the team does not plan on needing any more of those talks looking forward.
Second-year setter and defensive specialist Chris Lilley said at the halfway point of the season, the MIT loss was a “wake-up call” for the team and made the Hawks more motivated and headstrong going into the next few games.
“We knew we could not falter again against competition that is not as strong as us,” Lilley said.
And the Hawks have not, beating Juniata 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-22) before defeating Thiel 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-21). A 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 25-10, 25-21) win against the Brewers and 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-18) defeat of the Stars the next day solidified the Hawks’ current 17-2 overall record.
Petrus said while some games are more competitive than others, each is a learning experience that illustrates what can further be worked on. In practice, Petrus stresses improvement of these weaknesses, as well as the strengthening of team chemistry.
“They have to know each other,” Petrus said. “Volleyball is a lot of jumping and setting. Everyone has to be a match. If you’re too high, too low, you won’t hit the ball the way you need to hit it.”
Lilley said the fundamentals of the game are also emphasized and provide the building blocks to everything they do.
“In a game when you get a simple pass, you don’t want to mess up on that pass; you never want to mess up on the easy one,” Lilley said. “If you’re going to mess up, you want to mess up on the ball coming at you at 50 miles an hour.”
This weekend the Hawks will travel to Elmira for this season’s last UVC Crossover tournament.
Smith said the concern lies within the timing.
“Our first game on Saturday is at 9 a.m. vs. Penn State-Behrend,” Smith said. “They’re not as strong as us, but that’s a big trap game we have to come out strong and win. Then we play Medaille College later in the day, and they always play us tough.”
The Hawks will take on Hilbert College March 9, following the previous day’s match-ups against the Lions of Penn St.-Behrend and the Mavericks of Medaille.