Serving Success

Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.

The SUNY New Paltz Men’s Volleyball team have taken off this season, and have soared to a 5-0 record to begin their 2014 campaign.

The team started off the season with a Tournament Title at the Roadrunner Invitational, with a 4-0 undefeated record. They defeated Brooklyn College, host Ramapo College and United Volleyball Conference (UVC) rival No. 9 Stevens. The Hawks maintained a perfect 12-0 match record during the tournament.

The Hawks continued their undefeated streak with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over UVC and Hudson Valley rival Vassar College on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Though the season is still young, the team is looking to maintain and expand the dominance they have shown the past several seasons, fourth-year Captain Brian Smith said.

“We have one of the most talented teams in the nation,” Smith said. “When we all play together, when everything is clicking and we fire from all cylinders, we are a very scary team to play against.”

Training for the season began on Jan. 2, with the team coming back for two-a-day practices. Fourth-year Captain Victor Tuminelli said the team would practice once in the morning, and then practice again in the afternoon.

“It’s really intense,” Tuminelli said. “It’s a lot of intense conditioning that involves sprints and doing olympic lifts. You can’t feel your arms after the first week.”

The team comes into the 2014 season having only graduated one senior in 2013. Tuminelli and Smith both said the chemistry and experience the team has playing with one another gives them an advantage over other UVC teams.

Preseason Rankings from the UVC ranked them as No. 2 in the 15-member conference, with the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) putting them at the No. 4 spot. Head Coach Radu Petrus said the rankings give the team confidence and pressure to perform well.

“The team is very good and does deserve to be among the top teams,” Petrus said. “But they have to prove it and live up to the preseason expectations.”

The team lost in the 2013 UVC semifinals to Stevens, whom they already defeated 3-0 this season. Stevens, along with UVC’s No. 1 Nazareth, are two of the teams Smith said the team was looking forward to playing most this upcoming season.

“They’re definitely dates you circle on the calendar,” Smith said. “But we want to take it one game, one set at a time. There are four graduating seniors, and it sounds scary, but this is the last time all of us will play together as a team, so we have to enjoy it.”

Tuminelli said games against teams like Stevens and Nazareth are check points for the Hawks, and are games where they further intensify practices by scrimmaging more with one another.

He also said while the UVC playoffs are weeks away, he and his teammates are already thinking of the possibility of winning a championship.

“The key idea is to always have championships in the back of your mind, but to never look too far into the future,” Tuminelli said. “We make sure we always focus in practice. If we look too far ahead, we can fall apart in big games and get too cocky.”

The team’s first home game will be on Feb. 5 against Springfield College. The match will be at 6 p.m. in the Hawk Center.