HOBOKEN, N.J. -- No. 3 SUNY New Paltz advanced to its second consecutive NCAA Semifinal on Friday as the Hawks defeated No. 5 Kean 3-1 (25-16, 18-25, 25-18, 25-17) in the quarterfinals of the 2015 NCAA Division III Men’s Volleyball Tournament at Canavan Arena, hosted by Stevens.
With the win, the Hawks improve to 27-5 overall and will take on No. 1 Stevens Saturday at 4 p.m. in the semifinals. The Cougars’ season comes to an end at 31-5 overall.
Despite a slow start, freshman outside hitter Anthony Bonilla found his groove as the match moved on and finished with a contest-best 13 kills on 23 kills (.478) while nearly recording a double-double with nine digs.Junior First Team All-American setter Christian Smith followed with 12 kills and notched a double-double with a team-high 25 assists and chipped in four digs. Fellow First Team All-American and the Division III leader in hitting percentage, junior middle blocker Christopher Husmann, recorded 10 kills on 14 attempts (.500).
Senior setter John Lutjen distributed 21 assists and found the floor with a match-high four aces. Junior outside hitter Andy Fishman just missed a double-double, registering nine kills and nine digs for the Hawks as New Paltz hit .343 for the match (54-18-105), including a .391 clip in the first set and .389 mark in set number three.
New Paltz started the afternoon by winning the opening set, jumping to a 10-6 edge after trailing 5-3 early on. Smith, Husmann and sophomore middle blocker Steven Woessner each tallied kills during the run to hand the Hawks the lead.
After Kean inched to within three (11-8), the Hawks exploded on a 9-3 run to take a commanding 20-11 advantage. The Cougars looked to rally, however, and climbed to within five points (20-15) after three consecutive attacking errors by the Hawks. But New Paltz recovered and used kills by Lutjen and Bonilla to close out the first set 25-16.
The second set was a different story as Kean exposed the New Paltz defense and handed the Hawks a 25-18 defeat. Despite starting with a 5-3 lead, the Hawks slowly started to let the lead slip away as Kean gained a 17-13 lead, which prompted New Paltz to call timeout. Following another timeout trailing 20-14, New Paltz continued to struggle and surrendered an ace and the ultimate set-clinching kill to Kean to fall in set number two.
New Paltz was trailing 3-0 in the third set but recovered nicely and was able to take a 10-9 lead after kills by Husmann, Bonilla and Fishman, which forced Kean to take a timeout. Both teams traded points until the Hawks claimed a 20-16 lead, thanks to a pair of kills by Bonilla. Bonilla enjoyed two more executions down the stretch and Smith finished the set off with a kill of his own to hand the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
With Bonilla serving in the fourth set, the Hawks claimed a 5-1 lead and increased that edge to 7-2 following another Fishman kill. Kean responded and inched to within 8-6 but New Paltz answered with a 6-2 spurt, capped off by an ace from Lutjen to go ahead 14-8.
The Cougars rallied from that moment and clawed to 15-12 but New Paltz remained focused with its eyes set on a return trip to the national semifinals and matchup with host Stevens as the Hawks closed out the quarterfinal contest on a 10-5 run to eliminate Kean.