On Tuesday, March 15, the men’s volleyball team moved up to the first place ranking in the week eight edition of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Div. III Men’s Coaches Top-15 Poll, putting them in position to host the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Tournament in April.
Over the past week, the Hawks notched their 19th straight win and their 11th consecutive conference win dating back to last season, with some highlights coming against former No. 1 Springfield and conference foe Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In the match against Springfield on Wednesday, March 9, third-year opposite Joe Norman led the offensive, hitting .429 (13-4-21) on 13 kills while second-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla floored 10 kills to hit .375 (10-4-16) for the match. Fourth-year co-captain Christian Smith dished out 34 assists and fourth-year outside hitter Andy Fishman defended five digs.
For the Pride, third-year outside hitter Luis Vega tallied nine kills and four digs to lead the team while third-year right side Trevor Mattson chipped in six kills. Third-year setter Luis Garcia Rubio doled out 20 assists in the loss. Fourth-year middle blocker Julian Welsch-White collected eight blocks for the Pride.
The first set proved to be the most competitive portion of the match, as the teams traded points throughout the set, leveling the tally to 23-all until Norman and third-year middle blocker Steven Woessner each floored a kill to give New Paltz the set win. In the second and third sets, the Hawks held Springfield to 21 and 17 points, respectively.
Hawks head coach Radu Petrus said he is content with the team’s performance against Springfield and is happy that it is not the last home game for the team.
“We were motivated to beat them,” Petrus said. “The first set was tough and it was close, but after that Springfield dropped, they couldn’t play and execute their strategy right. It was a good match — now the conference tournament will be at New Paltz because we’re at the top of the conference.”
On Saturday, March 12, New Paltz played their final home game of the regular season against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which the Hawks won 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-20). The Hawks held an 8-0 advantage in service aces and a 7-3 edge in blocks while hitting .342 (37-12-73) for the match.
The first set saw the Hawks stay ahead by limiting scoring opportunities for the Engineers. Eventually, New Paltz gathered a 24-16 lead before Husmann floored the kill to cap off the set win for New Paltz.
The second set saw both teams locked in a battle for the advantage. Kills by Norman and fourth-year middle blocker Christopher Husmann handed New Paltz a 10-8 edge over the Engineers, but MIT would respond with three-straight points to take the lead. After another tug-of-war battle, the Hawks seized control of the score on a Fishman kill and service ace, before taking advantage of an MIT attack error for a 17-14 edge, forcing the Engineers into a timeout. Coming out of the break, the Hawks extended their lead to 24-19 on a 7-5 burst before Norman floored the kill to clinch the set.
The third set saw the Hawks with a comfortable 19-10 lead. Despite the Hawks maintaining the lead, the Engineers capitalized on several New Paltz attack errors to lower the deficit to four but were unable to fight back anymore, as an MIT blocking error handed the Hawks the victory. With the win against Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this gave the Hawks their 15th home win in a row dating back to last season.
Smith said the team played strong and did an excellent job of executing on their opportunities that brought them to becoming the No. 1 seed heading into the UVC Tournament. He expects the team to continue playing this way throughout the rest of the season.
“We did a great job against MIT in putting them away early in sets and that allowed us to play with a comfortable lead throughout,” Smith said. “It’s a good feeling to be the number one seed heading into the UVC Tournament because we get to host the conference tournament, which hasn’t been done in program history. Also it’s great because we get a chance to play two more games in front of our home crowd thathas been great all season. I expect us to maintain focus and keep up our solid play and improve in many aspects of the game.”
The Hawks next travel to Rochester to participate in the Purple and Gold Invitational against California Lutheran University and No. 8 Nazareth College on Saturday, March 19. Following the Invitational, the Hawks take on Hunter College in a nonconference matchup on Wednesday, March 23 before participating in the UVC Crossover at Vassar on Saturday, March 26.
The Purple and Gold Invitational is being held in the same building as the NCAA Div. III Tournament that will take place in mid-April. Petrus hopes the team will come out with a win and get a taste of the environment for the NCAA Tournament in the process.
“We scheduled these matches because we really want to get accustomed and more comfortable with the ceiling and the environment that is over there,” Petrus said. “Also, Nazareth recently lost one of their games and maybe we’re expecting them to come in to fight hard to try and beat us. They will have something to prove and build their overall record going into the UVC Tournament.”