The Hawks currently sit at second place in the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) after taking three-of-four wins over the break, improving their conference record to 7-2, making them 16-6 overall.
The Hawks took a 3-1 win against NYU in Albany on Saturday, March 17. Fourth-year middle hitter/outside blocker Ryan Cole’s 26 kills were instrumental to the four set win, setting a new season-high in kills for the third time out of the previous four games.
The first set started off slow, marked by errors on both sides of the ball (21 in total). After taking a 5-1 lead, the Hawks started to allow the Violets to catch up. The set consisted of constant back and fourth scoring until New Paltz called a time out with the score at 19-18. After three Violet errors and three Hawk kills, New Paltz took a 25-21 win.
In the second set the Hawks scored five straight to come back from an initial three point deficit and kept the lead for the rest of the set. The Violets followed close behind, never trailing by more than four points. Ryan Cole managed an 11-kill set on 13 attempts, making only two errors, to bring his scoring percentage to a .692.
After a close 22-25 loss in the third set, the Hawks managed to secure their victory in the fourth set with a score of 25-21.
“Honestly the key was the support and trust my teammates have in me,” Cole said. “The offense comes naturally as we have the fire power capable of putting balls away, but our true successes has come when we are aggressive behind the service line forcing teams out of system and then also our ability to pass our opponents serve.”
Second-year setter Matthew Grace started the fourth set off with two assists to Cole, and then quickly scored an ace of his own, giving the Hawks a 3-0 start. The team scored 47 kills in total, and Grace led his team in assists, racking up 41 over the course of the match.
After tying the score up at 9-9 in the fourth set, the Hawks scored three in a row to bring the score up to 12-9. The Violets scored after calling a timeout, but then allowed the Hawks an eight-kill run to bring the score to 20-10. After some back and forth scoring and errors, the Hawks managed to take home the win with a score of 25-17.
The Hawks’ hot-hand carried over to the next day in their match against UVC rival No. 2 Stevens Institute of Technology on Sunday, March 18, where they won three straight sets 25-20, 26-24 and 25-21. This was their sixth straight conference win, bringing them to a conference record of 6-1.
The Hawks’ offense continued to dominate, with an impressive .410 hitting percentage. Stevens is ranked third in Division III for hitting percentage, averaging a .323, but was held to a .269 against the Hawks.
The first set started off with two kills by third-year setter Nick Smith, and a kill by Cole, all assisted by Grace. The Hawks took an early 4-1 lead but let the Ducks come back 4-3 after two attack errors. The set did not stay close for long though, after a five-kill streak brought the Hawks to a 10-4 lead. From that point on, the Ducks struggled to cut their deficit by more than three until they brought the score to 16-14. However, the Hawks high-powered offense wore the Ducks down and paved the way to a 25-20 win.
The next set was tighter for the Hawks who started off behind the Ducks, trailing close behind and eventually grabbing the lead with a three kill run by second-year middle blocker Tevin Skeete, Cole and Smith to bring the set to a score of 7-5. The teams traded points, with the two teams tying thirteen times in total throughout the set. After a 24-24 tie, Cole and Smith scored a kill a piece, winning the set at 26-24.
The third set began in the Hawks’ favor, allowing them an early 3-kill lead due to attack errors and a kill by Cole. The Hawks were able to hold this lead until the end of the set, never letting the Ducks get closer than a two-point deficit. While the Ducks put up a fight, the Hawks wrapped up the period with a 25-21 win, completing the three-set sweep.
The Hawks lost their win streak with a 2-3 loss to Vassar College on Saturday, March 24, but bounced back with a 3-0 win against MIT the next day, bringing them to their conference record of 7-2.
While the first two sets saw the Hawks winning by four and six kill leads, respectively, the third set was close throughout. After a kill by Skeete to bring the score to 9-6, the Hawks allowed a five-kill run to bring the score to 9-11. Both teams fought fiercely, the Hawks allowing only one more three-kill run for the rest of the set. After the teams traded two-kill runs, the score was tied up at 24-24. After two kills from third-year setter/outside hitter Bradley Schneider and an MIT attack error, the Hawks won 26-24.
Overall, the Hawks scored 54 points to MIT’s 38. Both teams had struggles with errors, with the Hawks clocking a .241 hitting percentage and MIT clocking in at .078. Smith led the team with 14 kills, while second-year outside hitter Aaron Carrk came in second for scoring with nine kills. On defense, second-year libero Robert Nolan had a big game, tallying 14 digs.
“We are good offensively but this was not enough to win the game the key is serve-receive,” said Hawks head coach Radu Petrus. “We need to focus more on blocking and take them out of the offense system.”
Smith said that taking teams out of their comfort zone is the Hawks’ specialty.
“Coach’s mentality of ‘Serve for Ace’ has worked in the past and continues to work,” Smith said. “We have done a great job of serving aggressively and taking teams out of the system.”