ROCHESTER, N.Y. – For the first time in program history, the top-ranked SUNY New Paltz men's volleyball team has captured its first NCAA Division III Tournament title, defeating No. 2 Springfield, 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 26-24), in the championship match on Sunday afternoon at Nazareth College's Kidera Gymnasium. The win also marks the first NCAA title for any New Paltz team.
"They deserve this. They worked hard and it was our dream to be national champions," said head coach Radu Petrus. "Every coach wishes to have this group of players when you can have a lot of options and they can follow the strategy.
"I think this is huge because this is the first time that the university and the department have this trophy. For the program it's important because the recruits may be more interested in the program and I can keep the same level in the future."
Senior setter Christian Smith was named the NCAA Tournament MVP, while junior opposite Joe Norman and senior outside hitter Andy Fishman were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Hawks conclude the 2016 season with a 33-2 overall record and a 30-0 mark against Division III teams. Springfield ends the season with a 24-8 overall record.
Springfield took off with a 5-2 lead in the first set but the Hawks pushed a 5-0 run, which included three Norman kills, for a 7-5 edge. New Paltz extended its lead to 10-7 but Springfield rallied to cut the deficit to 10-9 on a service ace and two kills by Luis Vega. However, junior middle blocker Steven Woessner responded with a kill and service ace of his own to keep the Hawks ahead. New Paltz led by four points through the rest of the set for a 22-18 lead before senior middle blocker Christopher Husmann added two of the final three points to clinch the 25-18 set win for the Hawks.
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In the second frame, the teams traded early points but New Paltz would soon run ahead to a 6-4 lead. The Pride ended up trailing by two points until Springfield capitalized on two New Paltz errors to tie the score at 14-all. Both teams battled for the lead but the Hawks would grab the upper hand on a Pride service error and a Fishman service ace. The Pride made quick work of leveling the score to 23-all but the Hawks would take the set, 25-23, on a Fishman kill and a Springfield ball handling error.
Similar to the second set, the third frame saw both teams trade points before the Hawks pulled away on a Springfield service error and a Woessner kill for an 11-9 lead. Sophomore outside hitter Anthony Bonilla landed a kill to keep the Hawks ahead but the Pride rattled off three-straight points to pull ahead, 13-12. Still New Paltz would not be deterred, pushing four unanswered points to retake the lead and send the Pride into a timeout. Coming out of the break, Springfield evened the score and began an intense battle for the lead. New Paltz closed in its third set win, capitalizing on a Norman kill and a Springfield error to make it a 23-22 match but a New Paltz service error returned the ball to Springfield. Junior outside hitter Luis Vega and sophomore outside hitter Richard Padilla Ayala floored a kill each to give the Pride the set win and send the match to a fourth frame.
The Hawks and the Pride came out swinging in the final set, keeping the score close until Springfield recorded a 3-0 run for an 11-9 edge. The Hawks managed to close the gap to 15-14 but three unanswered points from the Pride handed Springfield an 18-14 advantage as New Paltz called for a timeout to regroup. The Hawks rallied coming out of the break, pushing a 4-0 run for a tied score. Once again the teams battled to take the win but Norman landed a kill to bring the score to 25-24 before sophomore outside hitter Ben Cohen sealed the win on an overpass kill.
New Paltz concluded the match with a 4-3 edge in service aces and a .291 (63-26-127) clip, while the Pride held an 8-7 advantage in blocks and hit .276 (47-18-105).
Norman floored a career-high 21 kills and hit .444 (21-5-26). Woessner finished the match with a .533 (10-2-15) clip off 10 kills and contributed four blocks (two solo, two assists). Fishman added 17 kills for the offense, while Smith (Massapequa, N.Y./Massapequa) dished out 51 assists and defended 11 digs.
For Springfield, senior right side Greg Woods led with 19 kills while Vega and Ayala contributed 13 and 11 kills, respectively. Junior setter Luis Garcia Rubio distributed 42 assists in the loss, while freshman libero Eli Irizarry Pares provided 11 digs for the defense.