The men’s volleyball team has started the season 5-2, including three wins this past weekend at the Juniata Invitational in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
The 2015-16 NCAA Div. III champions have picked up right where they left off so far this season, and Hawks head coach Radu Petrus attributes the recent success to the young players stepping up and improving upon their play from last year.
“We lost almost all of our players from last season, so this is essentially a brand new team,” Petrus said. “The new faces have really stepped up and kept that same level of competition, and they will only continue to get better.”
The Hawks faced off against Thiel College on Friday, Jan. 27, and won all three sets (25-17, 25-18, 25-12)
Hawks second-year setter Bradley Schneider led the way for the Hawks with eight kills and four aces, as well as one assist. First-year setter Matthew Grace also had a big game, racking up 31 assists, one block and three digs. Third-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla had seven digs and seven kills to help assist New Paltz capture the 3-0 win over Thiel.
New Paltz captured another 3-0 win the following day against Wittenberg University, winning all three sets by scores of 25-21, 25-18 and 25-16, respectively.
Bonilla and fourth-year middle blocker Jake Roessler each had 12 kills, while fourth-year middle blocker Steven Woessner had four kills and seven aces. Grace had another huge game on the assist front, registering 34 more assists, three blocks and a game leading four digs.
Later that evening, New Paltz faced off against the host Juniata College and notched a comeback win by a score 3-2 (20-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-20, 15-13), a mindset that Petrus says is an important formula to success.
Juniata took the first two sets 25-20 and 25-18 respectively, but New Paltz gained their composure and took the next three to earn the victory.
“We have to focus on the bigger picture,” Petrus said. “We can lose individual sets, as long as we come away with wins on the matches.”
Bonilla had 16 kills, four service aces and eight digs, with Woessner right behind with 10 kills and two service aces. Grace obtained 52 more assists and seven digs as New Paltz walked away with a flawless weekend. It was announced on Monday, Jan. 30 that Grace was named the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Rookie of the Week for the period ending Jan. 29.
The Hawks will travel to Rochester for the Nazareth tournament this weekend, with games against Elmira College and Johnson & Wales University Friday, Feb. 3 and Rivier College and Medaille College on Saturday, Feb. 4.
Petrus says this weekend’s games will be good to improve strategies offensively and defensively and build on their success.
“These games will test value to see if improvements need to be made, on both a team level and an individual level,” Petrus said.