The men’s volleyball team’s win streak against Div. III opponents came to an end against then-No. 9 New York University on Saturday, Feb. 11. The streak ended at 41 matches.
The Hawks last loss to a Div. III opponent came during the 2015 NCAA Tournament Semifinals, when New Paltz lost to No. 1 Stevens Institute of Technology. The team went undefeated against Div. III opponents in their national championship season of 2016 and the Hawks began this season with an 11-game win streak against Div. III opponents.
“Any loss is tough, but we’re using it as motivation and it will prove beneficial to us come playoff time,” fourth-year co-captain Steven Woessner said. “The guys know what it feels like to lose, and we don’t want that feeling again.”
The Hawks fell to the Violets 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 30-28). Third-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla recorded a match-high 11 kills, while first-year setter Matthew Grace dished out 29 assists and notched a team-high six digs. Woessner tallied three blocks, and first-year outside hitter Aaron Carrk registered seven kills.
Following the loss to NYU, New Paltz defeated Penn State Behrend 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18) for their first United Volleyball Conference (UVC) victory of the season.
Carrk recorded season highs with 14 kills and 11 digs. Grace dished out 45 assists, while second-year opposite Nick Smith registered a match-high three service aces and was second on the team with 10 kills.
New Paltz continued their winning ways, earning victories against Baruch College 3-1 (25-18, 25-14, 23-25, 25-20) and SUNY Polytechnic Institute 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 30-28) on Wednesday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 18, respectively.
On Monday, Feb. 20 it was announced that Grace earned UVC Rookie of the Week honors for the third time this season. He currently ranks first in the UVC and fifth in all of Div. III with 10.55 assists per set. The following day, New Paltz bumped up to the No. 3 spot in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top-15 Poll.
With a current record of 15-3, Woessner credits the team’s strong play this season to the desire to repeat the success the Hawks experienced in 2016.
“The drive to get back to the NCAA championship match is through the roof,” Woessner said. “Practices have been really competitive and we’re getting better every day.”
The Hawks will next play three nonconference matches before hosting a UVC Crossover on Saturday, March 11. Among those nonconference matches will be a rematch of last season’s NCAA Tournament Finals with No. 1 Springfield College on Wednesday, March 1. The last time New Paltz and Springfield met the Hawks clinched their national championship with a 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 26-24) victory.