On Wednesday, March 24, the SUNY New Paltz men’s volleyball team hosted Vassar College for a double header at Hawk Center.
The first game was a conference matchup starting at 4 p.m. Vassar took control early, earning eight points before New Paltz could get to three, however they could not keep the lead. New Paltz capitalized on a service error, bad set and attack error from Vassar to earn their points back. After that, first-year middle blocker Adam Brawn earned two kills to bring the score to 9-9.
The first set continued to go like that, Vassar went on another scoring stretch to take the lead 15-11, but New Paltz came back with a scoring burst of their own. It seemed it was going to come down to the wire. Fourth-year middle blocker Nick O’Malley and fourth-year outside hitter Connor MacPhail each earned a kill to help close the score, but in the end a service error from O’Malley gave Vassar the win of the first set 25-23.
It was the Hawks’ time to dominate early in the second set. New Paltz scored seven points in a row. Third-year outside hitter Brendan Spulnick earned a kill, the team scored a service ace and four points were earned off of Vassar errors. It brought the score to 7-2, New Paltz. The team continued to do well. MacPhail and fourth-year setter Matthew Grace earned one kill, O’Malley scored two and Spulnick who appeared to be a force of his own earned six kills. New Paltz took the second set 25-19.
The third set, unlike the first two, did not consist of scoring patches but instead went back and forth between the teams. Vassar’s force came in the form of second-year outside hitter Andrew Kim. Kim scored three kills and a service ace to end the set. It was a nail biting match that tied up 11 times, but in the end Kim helped Vassar take it 25-22.
New Paltz would have to win set four in order to stay alive. Vassar continued making errors that earned a point for New Paltz. Eighteen of New Paltz’s 25 were made off of Vassar errors. It gave New Paltz an easy set win 25-17: meaning the first to get fifteen points in the last set would take the game.
A kill from Spulnick and three mistakes from Vassar gave New Paltz the first four points of the game. Spulnick earned three more kills in between Vassar service errors. A kill from O’Malley and three service errors handed New Paltz the win of the set 15-7 and the win of the game 3-2.
“I was stoked for my first collegiate win,” Brawn said. “I was scared I couldn’t play in college so playing and doing well enough to win was very cool. I was happy with my performance but of course there is always something I can improve on.”
Game two started shortly after, at 7 p.m. Vassar seemed stronger and produced fewer errors while New Paltz had familiar faces score, as well as some new ones. Fourth-year outside hitter Tenzin Kunga earned three kills and fourth-year middle blocker Sam Yakubowski earned two of his own. MacPhail and O’Malley continued to do well. Despite their efforts, Vassar took set one 25-21.
Interestingly, Vassar took the second set with the same exact score. Kim from Vassar was very strong again, this time tacking on seven points for the Brewers, all in kills. Despite the loss, some Hawks highlights from this set was that fourth-year opposite Aaron Carrk performed well, earning three kills.
Would the Hawks be able to win the next set to stay alive?
Sadly, no. Another scoring spree from Vassar put New Paltz in a deficit they could not recover from. Vassar won the set 25-18 and the game 3-0. On the brightside, this game would not count as a conference game. Brawn explained it’s because there are only two conference games per team this season. It is more important to win conference games as it puts you in a higher seed for when the playoffs season comes.
“Since we play Vassar again [for another double header] the two conference games will be split up,” Brawn said.
Due to that rule, the win put the Hawks with an overall score of 1-3, with 1-2 in the conference.
On Wednesday, March 31 New Paltz will cross the Hudson into Poughkeepsie for the rematch. Looking down the line, Vassar, Elmira and Nazareth college are the schools New Paltz needs to do well against in order to earn a spot in the united volleyball conference tournament semi finals, coming up on April 9.
“In practice we have been working on things that we know we can improve upon for our next game,” Brawn said. “Blocking has been a big focus for us. [For] me personally blocking is a weaker skill so I will be focusing on that for the next game.”