HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Defeating a team three times in one season is a tall order, but SUNY New Paltz as more than up for the challenge, sweeping Stevens Institute 25-21, 25-20, 25-19 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III championships hosted by Juniata at the Kennedy Sports Center on Friday afternoon.
The No. 2 seeded Hawks had defeated the No. 7 Ducks two previous times during the 2014 season, and prevailing for a third time concerned head coach Radu Petrus heading into the match. Those fears were put to rest by a solid match played by a New Paltz team competing in its first NCAA championship. The Hawks were nearly flawless in the final two sets, committing just five attack errors and hitting .400 and .300 respectively. Conversely, Stevens dipped significantly throughout the match, hitting just .093 in the final set, due in large part to 22 New Paltz team blocks that kept the Ducks from generating any sustainable offense. Stevens never held a lead in the match and only played to one tie, 6-6 in the third set.
Sophomore Tim Ferriter, a First-Team All-American selection, led New Paltz with 10 kills, the only Hawk player to reach double figures in kills. He hit .333 for the match with a .333 attack percentage. Freshman Steven Woessner, who was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) newcomer of the year, had seven kills and only one attack error for a team-best .429 hitting percentage. Sophomore Christian Smith, who earned First-Team All-American honors from the AVCA, had 16 set assists and a team-best seven digs. Junior John Lutjen had 14 set assists.
The first set was the tightest and most competitive, though the Ducks never led at any juncture. New Paltz held a 10-6 lead early in the set, but Stevens managed to stay within two to three points throughout. Despite committing nine errors and earning just 11 kills, Stevens hung tough in the set. In fact, a kill by senior Gabe Shankweiler got Stevens within 21-20. The Hawks answered with four consecutive points, and a set-ending kill by Woessner for a 25-21 win.
The second set was only tied once, at 6-6, and throughout much of the set, Stevens was in striking distance. The Hawks ran away with the set after a kill by Christian Smith put New Paltz ahead 20-16. A Woessner kill sandwiched between two Stevens attack errors put the Hawks up 23-16 and subsequent Stevens miscues allowed New Paltz to close out the set 25-20.
The Hawks got off to a fast start in the third set, building a 10-3 lead following a Lutjen kill. That seven point margin grew exponentially throughout the set and grew to 21-12 following another timely Christian Smith kill. A Ferriter kill put New Paltz ahead 24-19 and the Hawks closed out the set 25-19.
Shankweiler led Stevens with 13 kills.