The women’s volleyball team’s season has come to an end, losing 3-0 (16-25, 11-25, 13-25) to the No. 2 team in the AVCA national top-25 coaches poll, Johnson and Wales University, in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
“We talked about coming out aggressive, and tried do things to make them uncomfortable,” said Hawks coach Matt Giufre. “Unfortunately, we didn’t pass well enough to get going on offense and, as good as our defense is, if you can’t score you can’t win at this level.”
Staying in contention early with the Wildcats, a kill by third-year middle hitter Kerri Neville kept New Paltz within one, down 7-8. Johnson and Wales came back with four unanswered points, making Giufre use his first timeout at 7-12.
The stoppage did not work to the Hawks’ advantage, as the two teams went back-and-forth, with the Wildcats on top, 17-11. New Paltz used its last timeout, in hopes of breaking up momentum.
Johnson and Wales could not be stopped, as they continued to score thoroughly, taking the set 25-16, and the lead, 1-0.
The second set tied at four, an 8-2 run by the Wildcats pushed them in front, 12-6, and made Giufre use his first timeout of the set. Johnson and Wales came out with four more unanswered points, sitting on top 16-6 and forcing the last Hawks timeout.
Continuing their prior success, the Wildcats kept pushing, taking the second set 25-11, and full control of the match at 2-0.
Staying in contention until the end, New Paltz grabbed an early lead in the third, when a kill by second-year outside hitter Julie Greenspan put them in front, 5-4. In typical fashion, Johnson and Wales came through with a 7-0 run to take the lead back at 11-5, causing the first Hawks timeout of the set.
The Wildcats continued to power through in the third, scoring in bunches to step in front by 10 at 22-12. They would eventually win the set, 25-13, and take the match 3-0 to move onto the next round.
“I’m so grateful that the young women on our team got to experience a championship season,” Giufre said. “After last season’s disappointing finish, they raised their level of expectations. I saw a greater determination each day, and the way they care about each other is special to be a part of.”
Earning its ninth NCAA tournament win in program history, New Paltz beat Franklin and Marshall College, 3-0 (25-20, 28-26, 25-22) in the first round of the tournament.
Beginning the match with two even teams, third-year outside hitter Madison Van Pelt got the Hawks going, coming out early with three kills to take a 3-0 lead. The Diplomats answered quickly with four points of their own to take the lead back, 4-3.
With New Paltz down 10-7, a 5-0 run gave them back the lead, 12-10, forcing a Franklin and Marshall timeout. A close set throughout, featuring eight ties, Giufre was forced to use his first timeout after giving the Diplomats back the lead, 19-18.
His message was heard, as another 6-0 run by the Hawks gave them full possession of the set, 24-19. A kill by Neville sealed the set, 25-20, allowing New Paltz to take a 1-0 advantage.
Although the Hawks never fell behind by more than four throughout the set, New Paltz gained their first lead of the second at 20-19, off a fourth-year setter Meredith Dignan kill. It was part of a five unanswered point run that pushed the Hawks in front, 22-19.
A kill by Van Pelt sent New Paltz on top 24-21, but Franklin and Marshall would not go down easy, as they proceeded to score three unanswered points of their own to tie the set at 24. With the Hawks not falling either, a kill by fourth-year outside hitter Taylor Cimillo gave them the lead, 25-24. However, once again the Diplomats came back, taking a lead of their own at 26-25.
Giufre called a timeout and just like earlier, New Paltz took advantage following the huddle. A kill by Neville sparked a 3-0 run to take the set, 28-26, and the lead in the match, 2-0.
The Hawks and Franklin and Marshall took multiple shots at each other early in the final set, tying the score seven times before its 12-all stalemate. A kill by the Diplomats pushed them ahead and forced New Paltz to trail for a large amount of the rest of the set.
With Franklin and Marshall up, 22-20, a kill by Van Pelt was the answer the Hawks needed. They piled on with a 5-0 run, which allowed New Paltz to take the set, 25-22 and the match, 3-0.
“Getting the win in the first round validated that we deserved to be there,” Dignan said. “This season was everything that I could have ever hoped for and more.”
The loss in the second round marks the end of a historic season for SUNY New Paltz, a team that earned its third-ever State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) title to gain a bid to its sixth NCAA tournament appearance. The Hawks graduate two seniors, Dignan and Cimillo.
“Playing in the NCAA tournament was an awesome learning experience,” Greenspan said. “Next year, I expect the team to come out with the same competitiveness, positive mindset and attitude to push us towards another successful season. I’m very excited.”