A three match sweep by the Women’s Volleyball team in the third round of SUNYAC pool play ensured the Lady Hawks a regular season title and confirmed they will host the SUNYAC Championship.
The team topped SUNY Oswego 3-1 Oct. 25 before defeating both SUNY Cortland and SUNY Potsdam 3-1 on Oct. 26 during the final round of SUNYAC play at Buffalo State.
Head Coach Matt Giufre said the team, who has an overall season record of 28-5 and conference record of 9-0, wanted to finish the season as strong as they started and knew these last few matches would solidify everything the Lady Hawks had been working for all season.
“We are so excited to be hosting SUNYACs this year, it kind of gives us a push start that we don’t get anywhere else,” fourth-year captain Marissa King said. “It also gives us a confidence boost, because we know what we can achieve since we earned the right to host. Now we just have to finish what we know we are capable of.”
The Lady Hawks debuted at No.5 in the intitial NCAA New York Regional rankings. They have three wins against regionally-ranked teams in the New York region and two wins against teams that are regionally-ranked in other regions. The regional rankings will now be released on a weekly basis and help determine which teams make the NCAA Tournament.
Giufre said the home court advantage that comes from hosting the championship was always a sought after benefit of receiving the regular-season conference title. However, it was at Saturday’s match against Cortland, he said, where the importance of a supporting crowd really showed.
The Men’s Soccer team, who were in Buffalo to play a game of their own against Buffalo State, came to cheer on the Lady Hawks. In that moment Giufre said he saw a change of drive and passion within the team’s play.
“That sort of support provides a bubble of energy, the same type of energy that we have when we play at home,” he said. “When we have that energy, it definitely gives us an edge over whoever we’re playing.”
The Lady Hawks will face Potsdam or SUNY Plattsburgh in the semifinal match Saturday, Nov. 9., Giufre said.
“Either team we face will be coming off of a win, and either team coming off a win with that sort of confidence already will be dangerous,” he said, adding Buffalo State and SUNY Fredonia have performed well within the conference and will also be stiff competition for the SUNYAC title.
Giufre said the team will continue to be backed by King, along with key players fourth-year captain Carrie Hack and second-year outside hitter Becca Borquist, who have progressed from “very good players to dominant forces on the court over the last few weeks.”
Borquist said although the team leads the conference and has been performing at a high level, they are continuing to work hard to progress.
“We still have improvements to make,” Borquist said. “There’s always something to get better at, and our hard work that is put into getting better allows for our successes.”
During practice the team is looking to stay sharp and “tinkering with a few things on offense,” Giufre said, along with structuring drills to be “opponent specific.”
“At this time in the season, preparing for the SUNYAC Championship, your 100 percent now isn’t what it was three months ago,” Giufre said. “I just tell them to give 100 percent of whatever your 100 percent is right now.”
The team beat Vassar College 3-1 on Wednesday night in a non-conference match, winning the three games 25-18, 25-18 and 25-19. Borquist had 10 kills and five digs, while King added 26 assists. As a team, the Lady Hawks had 12 aces and posted a .391 hitting percentage, while limiting Vassar to a .146 hitting percentage.
In preparation for the SUNYAC Tournament the Lady Hawks will attend the Skidmore Invitational Nov. 1-2, where they will take on Union College, Kean University and Skidmore College.