Sweet Sixteen

Photo by Holly Lipka.

The Men’s volleyball team extended their winning streak to 16-straight matches.

The Hawks finished off an undefeated March by beating Hunter College on Thursday, March 26 and then beating Elmira College and Bard College in the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Crossover on Sunday, March 29.

The Hawks defeated Hunter College 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-16). The team executed their gameplan with efficiency, achieving a .508 hitting percentage while holding Hunter to a .173 hitting percentage. New Paltz had seven players with at least three kills and only trailed once in the entire match. Hawks third-year co-Captain Christian Smith was the star of the night, compiling a statline of six kills, nine assists, four digs, four blocks and a .667 hitting percentage. Hawks third-year middle blocker and NCAA Div. III hitting percentage leader Christopher Husmann continued his solid campaign with a flawless hitting night, managing four hits out of four attempts.

In the first game of the UVC Crossover on Sunday, March 29, the Hawks defeated No. 11 Elmira College 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-20). This was another Hawks victory over another nationally-ranked opponent, making their record 10-2 against top teams in the nation. The Hawks played lockdown defense, holding the Soaring Eagles to a negative hitting percentage (-.057). First-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla led the way for the Hawks with six kills and three digs. Five players recorded five kills for the Hawks, including third-year outside hitter Andy Fishman, second-year Steven Woessner, fourth-year setter John Lutjen and Husmann.

In their second game on Sunday, the Hawks finished their weekend with a shutout of Bard College 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-15). The victory secured the No. 2 seed for them in the UVC playoff bracket, as well as a first-round bye. First-year setter Mitchell Kennedy finished the game with a hitting percentage of .889 and a match-high 27 assists. Fellow first-year middle blockers Ryan Cole and Nick Denoncourt also played well, with Cole tallying eight kills and Denoncourt finishing a perfect six for six on attack attempts.

Kennedy has been named the Corvias Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III North Region Rookie of the Week, announced on Tuesday afternoon.  He was also named the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Rookie of the Week for the period ending March 29.

Head Coach Radu Petrus said that his goal for the UVC Crossover was to incorporate all of his players in the two matches, with more of his younger players getting experience in the second match.

“Since we have such a large roster we like to prepare our younger players for the future,” Petrus said. “It’s good preparation for us.”

The Hawks  remained at No. 3 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Men’s Coaches Top 15 Week #10 Poll, released on Tuesday, March 31.

The Hawks defeated No. 10 Baruch College 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-22) on Wednesday, April 1. The Hawks now have an overall record of 22-3.

Fishman led the Hawks with 15 points and 15 kills. Husmann led the team with a .692 hitting percentage.

Mental preparation has been the cornerstone of the success of the Men’s volleyball team this year. Petrus, Smith and third-year co-Captain Kevin Nardone all spoke about how the team’s resiliency and commitment to improving and focusing on each game has paid off with consistent victories against quality opponents. They said there was a certain growth in the team’s mentality over the course of the season and now they are simply focused on winning one game at a time.

“We don’t really think about the win streak, we just take it game by game and focus on the next opponent,” Smith said. “Overall, we just want to enjoy every game this season.”

Nardone said the biggest thing the team is thinking about is their upcoming game against Springfield.

“We played a tough five-setter against them earlier in the season, and we want to make a statement against them, hopefully,” he said. “I think we’re going to be more mentally prepared to play them.”

The Hawks’ last loss was at home on Wednesday, Feb. 25, against Springfield College. The schedule for the rest of the week has the Hawks playing three matches in the Springfield Tournament this upcoming weekend. The Hawks will play Southern Vermont College on Friday, April 3. On Saturday, April 4, the Hawks will play against  host No. 6 Springfield College and then against Ramapo College.