ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Nationally-ranked No. 2 SUNY New Paltz can add yet another trophy to its collection, as the second-seeded Hawks downed eighth-seeded New York University 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-22) in the championship final of the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) tournament on Sunday afternoon at Nazareth's Kidera Gymnasium. Freshman middle blocker Steven Woessner was named the tournament most outstanding player.
It marks the Hawks' first-ever UVC title, and New Paltz becomes the first team other than Nazareth to hoist the championship plaque. The Golden Flyers won the title from 2011-13, but NYU upset the top-seeded hosts in the quarterfinal round of the tournament on Saturday to ensure a changing of the guard at the top of the conference.
New Paltz once reigned as one of the elite powers in collegiate men's volleyball, winning five Eastern Collegiate Volleyball League (ECVL) "B" Tournament championships (1975, 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1986). The Hawks have now ushered in a new era of excellence, bringing home the team's first title since a 2002 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) championship. Furthermore, it marks the first non-ECAC conference championship for a New Paltz varsity men's athletic program since the Hawks' men's swimming team won a State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) title in 1988-89.
New Paltz moves to 27-3 overall and earns the UVC's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. The entire NCAA tournament field will be announced on Monday, with the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds occurring from April 25-27 at Juniata in Huntington, Pa. NYU finishes its season at 18-11 overall.
Woessner totaled 13 service aces for the tournament, including five in the championship match, to earn the tournament most outstanding player honor. Even as a freshman, Woessner understands the significance of the Hawks' championship for both the program and the College.
"It's one of the greatest feelings, especially as a freshman, to win a UVC championship," Woessner said. "It's a great thing for the program. It will help put New Paltz on the map, and things can only go up from here."
Woessner, who also earned UVC Co-Rookie of the Year honors earlier on in the week, said that the championship experience was enhanced by the teammates around him.
"It's definitely a great feeling to win with this team, who I consider family," Woessner said. "We definitely have our goals set on a national championship in a couple of weekends. The team still has work to do, but we will play our best down the line."
The Hawks' aggressive approach on the service line and on the attack paid off, with New Paltz landing seven service aces and hitting .329 with 39 kills and just 14 errors in 76 total attempts. With neither team able to produce much defense at the net -- the Hawks finished with a 4-1 edge in total team blocks -- the back rows shined, particularly for New Paltz. Three Hawk student-athletes finished with five or more digs, and the team combined for 29 total -- an average of 9.67 per set.
Brian Smith and Tim Ferriter keyed the Hawk attack with 10 kills each, while Christian Smith and John Lutjen dished out 18 and 16 assists, respectively. Brian Smith paced the back row on defense with six digs, while Christopher Husmann posted two solo blocks.
For NYU, freshman outside hitter Chase Klein led the way with eight kills and three service aces, while senior setter Connor Mortland doled out 23 assists in his final collegiate match. Sophomore outside hitter Colin LaPorte was instrumental defensively with seven digs.