What’s the difference between a Division I volleyball program and a Division III one? To SUNY New Paltz’s men’s volleyball team, absolutely nothing.
Before beating SUNY Polytechnic 3-0 (25-16, 25-14, 25-21) on Wednesday, Feb. 14, the Hawks were able to pull out a win 3-2 (14-25, 25-14, 26-24, 19-25, 15-12) against Division I Harvard University on Saturday, Feb. 9 in the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan classic. They would go on to lose the next day 3-0 (25-19, 25-10, 25-22) to No. 1 Springfield College.
After dropping the first set 14-25 to the Crimson, New Paltz answered back quickly in the second with a 25-14 win of their own. A kill by fourth-year middle blocker and outside hitter Ryan Cole put the Hawks up 25-24 in a tight third set, leading to a 26-24 win and 2-1 advantage. Harvard would take the fourth set 25-19, however, kills late in the fifth set from third-year setter and opposite Nick Smith and second-year outside hitter Aaron Carrk sealed the deal for the Hawks, winning 15-12 and taking home the win.
“We have competitive players in our program with great potential to be better,” Hawks head coach Radu Petrus said. “It’s no surprise to win the game against a Division I team.”
Carrk and Smith led the Hawks’ offense with 16 kills and 14 kills, respectively. Second-year setter Matthew Grace totaled for 53 assists as well.
Harvard was led by fourth-year outside hitter Jack Heavey with 11 kills. Third-year middle blocker Trevor Dow had 9 of his own, while fourth-year setter Marko Kostich and second-year setter Matthew Ctvrtlik had 31 and 12 assists, respectively.
Coming off of an injury, second-year middle blocker Nick O’Malley also provided a big spark for New Paltz in his first game of the year, tallying 13 kills in the win.
“Any chance I have to play with those guys I give a 110 percent effort,” O’Malley said. “Whether I’m on the bench or on the court, I bring all the energy I have to every single match.”
The following day in a rematch of last year’s national title match on the same exact court, New Paltz could not continue their winning ways, losing to the 11-1 Springfield Pride 3-0. After a tight first set, the Pride went on a 9-0 run early in the second and never looked back, going up 2-0 in the match. Kills by fourth-year setter Mitchell Kennedy and third-year setter and outside hitter Bradley Schneider kept the Hawks close at the end of the third, however, they could not prevail, dropping the set 25-22 and losing the game.
New Paltz was led by Carrk with six kills, while Smith and Schneider recorded five of their own. Grace led in assists with 27.
Springfield’s offense was led by fourth-year outside hitter Sergio Figueroa Velez and fourth-year outside hitter Billy De La Espriella, who had 12 and 8 kills, respectively. Third-year setter Mike Neary also dubbed 25 assists for the Pride.
This will certainly not be the last time the Hawks face Springfield. The next match-up between the rivals is slated for March 7 at the Hawk Center.
“We definitely know more about their strengths and weaknesses now,” said Cole. “We can work on things and become more united as a team with these next couple of games.”
New Paltz will head to Bard College this weekend for two conference matches against Elmira College on Saturday, Feb. 17 and Bard on Sunday, Feb. 18.