The Men’s volleyball team opened up their season with a pair of wins last weekend in Owings Mills, Maryland.
On Saturday, Jan. 24 the Hawks played matches against two preseason nationally-ranked programs in the Stevenson Tournament. They defeated both Rutgers-Newark and host No. 14 Stevenson University in four sets.
The Hawks won their first match of the day against Rutgers-Newark 3-1 (20-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-20).
Hawks outside hitter, first-year Anthony Bonilla, recorded a match-high 16 kills while hitting .458 and chipping in seven digs. Third-year co-Captain Christian Smith tallied a match-high 35 assists to contribute to the Hawks’ first win of the season.
Later in the day, the Hawks defeated Stevenson University 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 25-19, 25-17).
Hawks third-year middle blocker Christopher Husmann recorded a match-high 17 kills with a hitting percentage of .636. Fourth-year setter John Lutjen tallied 24 assists, a team-high for the match, while third-year co-Captain Kevin Nardone led the Hawks in digs in both matches, tallying 23 in total on the day.
Last season, the Hawks were crowned United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Champions for the first time in team history. They then advanced to the 2014 NCAA Div. III Tournament and were defeated by No. 3 Juniata College in the semifinals.
The Hawks were listed No. 4 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top-15 Preseason Poll and were predicted to finish second in the 2015 UVC Preseason Coaches Poll. With both wins, the Hawks remain ranked at No. 4 in the AVCA Division III Men’s Coaches Top 15 Week 1 Poll released on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
Many accolades were awarded to members of the Hawks last season, including Head Coach Radu Petrus, who was titled AVCA National Div. III Coach of the Year, as well as the CaptainU College Coach of the Year for Div. III.
Four returning starters are back on the roster for the 2015 campaign, including two preseason All-Americans, second-year middle blocker Steven Woessner and Smith. Smith was elected AVCA First-Team All-America and First-Team All-UVC last season. Last season, Woessner was elected AVCA Second-Team All-America, AVCA Division III Newcomer of the Year, Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Men’s Volleyball Rookie of the Year, UVC Co-Rookie of the Year and MVP of the UVC Tournament.
Woessner finished last season ranked in the top-20 of the NCAA with a .358 attack percentage and 50 aces en route to being named the 2014 AVCA Newcomer of the Year. Smith led the NCAA with 12.34 assists per set last season and earned First-Team All-American honors.
Smith said the team did a good job of being persistent and battling back strong during both matches last weekend.
“Ultimately, I was really pleased to come away with two victories on opening weekend,” he said.
Losing four Hawks from last year’s roster – libero Victor Tuminelli, outside hitter Brian Smith and middle blocker Brian O’Connor to graduation and two-time AVCA First-Team All-American outside hitter Tim Ferriter to transfer – the Hawks look to repeat last season’s performance and achieve their ultimate goal: an NCAA Championship.
“The veteran players know the way to get to the top,” Petrus said. “Hopefully we can do it again.”
There are 20 members on the Hawks roster this season, including seven new first-year additions.
“This year the team seems to be closer together on and off the court and losing Tim and Brian will be difficult to overcome, but we’ve done a great job thus far,” Husmann said. “We have the same mindset this year as we did last year so we don’t plan on changing much.”
Petrus said the addition of seven freshmen will benefit the team because they will get better each day and contribute to the team’s depth.
“They did well this past weekend, but hopefully they will be better,” he said. “We have to work, but we have a chance to be better. The key players who know the game help the freshmen to give them some ideas and encouragement. They are good.”
With a record of 2-0, the Hawks travel to New York City to take on New York University Thursday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.