Top-Ranked Men’s Volleyball Continues Towards Goal

Third-year setter Matthew Grace is currently leading the team in assists with 433 on the year. (Photo courtesy of Jay Shelofsky)

After a 3-0 (25-16, 25-10, 25-6) win over Bard College Wednesday night, a back-and-forth match with Hunter College last weekend resulted in Hunter handing the men’s volleyball team their first loss since Jan. 16. New Paltz split the Hunter College individual, losing to Hunter 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 10-15) while also beating Lasell College 3-1 (25-15, 25-14, 15-25, 25-21).  

The win and weekend split give the Hawks an 8-2 record, staying undefeated in the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) at 2-0. New Paltz will play in another tri-match at Kean University this upcoming weekend, before hosting reigning National Champion Springfield College next Wednesday on Feb. 20.

“We’re just putting the bar higher and higher,” said third-year outside hitter Riley Dolan. “These guys have expectations nothing short of winning a National Championship, and we’re taking it one step at a time.” 

The Hawks came out firing against Lasell, scoring in bunches to take an early 9-4 lead in the first set. Up 12-8, a 7-0 run by New Paltz allowed the Hawks to jump ahead to 19-8, and take full momentum in the set. A kill by first-year middle blocker John Ronan pushed New Paltz ahead, and gave the Hawks a 25-15 set win. 

With New Paltz up 10-7 in the second set, a 4-1 run pushed the Hawks ahead 14-8, and forced a Lasers timeout. It was not enough to stop New Paltz’s offense, who quickly climbed ahead to take a 19-13 advantage. A kill by third-year outside hitter Aaron Carrk rallied four unanswered points to put the Hawks up by double digits, cruising to the finish line to take a 2-0 lead in the match at 25-14. 

Dropping the third set 15-25, New Paltz fought hard to take the lead back from Lasell in the fourth set, tying it at 15 on two kills by fourth-year outside hitter Nick Smith. With the Hawks down 18-19, a kill by fourth-year outside hitter Bradley Schneider spurred another 4-0 run for New Paltz, gaining the lead 21-19 and forcing a Lasers timeout. Tied at 21, the Hawks mustered four more unanswered points to seal the set, 25-21, and the match 3-1. 

New Paltz had little time in between matches with Lasell and Hunter, and as a result never jumped ahead by a large margin in the first set against the Hawks. With the set tied at 16, a 5-1 run by Hunter gave them a 21-17 lead, and forced New Paltz head coach Radu Petrus to call a timeout. It was not enough, as Hunter cruised to the end to win the set 25-21. 

Coming out firing in the second set, a kill by Schneider sparked a 4-0 run for New Paltz to take a 10-4 advantage, and forced a Hunter timeout. The Hawks continued to score in flurries to earn a 25-20 set victory and tie the match at one. 

A back-and-forth beginning to the third set, New Paltz gained their largest lead at 16-11 after a Smith kill. Hunter quickly answered with seven unanswered points, grabbing the lead back at 18-16 and taking the momentum of the set with them. Tying the set three times towards the end, kills by third-year middle blocker Nick O’Malley and Schneider put New Paltz in a good position down 22-23. It would not be enough, as a kill and attack error allowed Hunter to squeak by and take the set 25-22, gaining a 2-1 lead in the match. 

With Hunter and New Paltz fighting for position again in the fourth set, a kill by Smith down 9-10 sparked a 6-0 run for the Hawks, pushing ahead to take the lead at 14-10. With Hunter creeping behind 20-22, two kills by Carrk and a kill by third-year middle blocker Tevin Skeete sealed the set for New Paltz 25-20, and tied the match once again. 

After Smith gave New Paltz a 1-0 advantage in the fifth, New Paltz never gained the lead again in the match. A 4-1 run by Hunter gave them the set 15-10, and handed the Hawks their first loss in over a month. 

“It was more mental towards the end,” Petrus said. “A few bad decisions in our offense gave them the game.”

New Paltz will return to action this weekend when they take on Kean University and New Jersey City University Feb. 16 at the Kean University Tri-Match. 

“Spirits are high, we just don’t want to take our high ranking for granted,” O’Malley said. “We want to start conference play really strong, and we want to make sure that we treat every opponent as the toughest team in the nation.”