The SUNY New Paltz Men’s volleyball team defeated No. 6 Nazareth College in the UVC Tournament semifinals before losing to No. 1 Stevens Institute of Technology in the finals.
The hard-fought weekend provided the Hawks with a solid tune-up before the upcoming NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball Tournament.
In their first match on Saturday, April 11, the Hawks completed a comeback after falling behind 2-0 to the Golden Flyers, ultimately winning the match by a score of 3-2, (19-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20, 15-13).
Third-year middle blocker, United Volleyball Conference (UVC) First-Teamer and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American Christopher Husmann led the Hawks, providing a .476 hitting percentage along with seven blocks. Second-year middle blocker and UVC Second-Teamer Steven Woessner contributed with six kills. Fourth-year setter John Lutjen, who had nine kills, 26 assists, nine digs and five block assists, cemented the rally with a match-clinching ace.
For Husmann, this is his first All-American selection. This makes him the fifth different player in program history to win AVCA All-American honors and is the third to be selected to the First Team.
Smith has now been named First Team All-American for two-straight years and is just the second player in Hawks’ history to earn All-American honors in multiple years.
Head Coach Radu Petrus spoke highly of his team’s resilience in the face of a two-set deficit against Nazareth.
“We lost the first two sets and thank goodness we didn’t lose the third set,” Petrus said. “We just changed up our combinations, and just tried to stop their offense.”
Third-year outside hitter Andy Fishman echoed his coach’s sentiments after the match.
“The comeback that we made against Nazareth was a statement that we will never go down without a fight,” Fishman said. “We may have started off slow, but we gathered together as a team and came out with some fire in the third set.”
On Sunday, April 12, the Hawks fell to Stevens 3-1, (23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 24-26). The tight championship match resulted in the host team winning the automatic bid for the NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball Tournament. SUNY New Paltz won an at-large bid.
The Hawks had a hitting percentage of .281 and had to play catch-up for most of the match. Third-year co-Captain and AVCA All-American Christian Smith had 12 kills, a .545 hitting percentage, seven digs, a block assist and 31 assists. First-year outside hitter Anthony Bonilla finished with 11 kills and nine digs, while Fishman recorded 10 kills and five digs.
“Our service was off that day, and their defense was better than ours,” Petrus said. “But we still have room for improvement, and if our service game gets better then it will give us a chance to beat them.”
The Hawks currently sit at 26-5 and will play No. 5 Kean University in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball Tournament. That match will be played on Friday, April 24, at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
“We have had two weeks to prepare for the NCAA, and we have been really focused on our serving, as well as our blocking and defense,” Smith said. “The serve is what has driven us so far this year and we need to execute from the line in order to be successful in this tournament”
The last time the Hawks played Kean was at home in New Paltz on March 4, when they defeated the then No. 1 team by a score of 3-0.
“There are a lot of great teams at the upcoming NCAA Tournament and we are working to be the best of them all,” Fishman said. “We have not played our best yet.”