By Sam Leventhal
In a classic battle between the best of the best, No. 1 versus No. 2, New Paltz University Men’s Volleyball came into town to prove why it’s at the top of the rankings.
The five-set match lived up to the hype with both teams trading sets, but the Hawks proved to be victorious for the second time this season. Junior outside hitter Luis Vega had a dominant performance at the top of the totem pole for every statistic on the Springfield side of the net. Senior outside hitter Greg Woods joined Vega at the top of the kill column with 17 each.
Springfield started strong in the opening set and jumped out to a 5-3 edge, but three errors committed by the Pride put New Paltz up 6-5. The Hawks went on a 4-1 run sending Springfield into a timeout with a score of 14-10. The two teams continued to trade points until Springfield cut the score to a one-point differential. A kill by the Hawk’s Jake Roessler gave New Paltz the set win.
In set two, Springfield jumped out to an early lead and remained in control when a powerful kill from Vega put the Pride up 12-3. Later on in the set, a kill from Ricardo Padilla Ayala put the Pride up 20-12. A 4-0 run from the Hawks forced Springfield head coach Charlie Sullivan into a timeout. Coming out of the break, the Pride ran away with four consecutive points. A huge block from sophomore middle blocker Kyle Jasuta and Vega sealed the deal for the Pride and evened things up at one set apiece.
The next two sets followed a similar story. New Paltz came back from an early Springfield lead in set three and went on to win the set forcing the Pride into a must-win set four. Springfield followed accordingly. Both teams traded points, but eventually Springfield would jump out to a 9-6 lead. New Paltz chopped the lead down to one point but Vega and senior middle blocker Julian Welsh-White put together back-to-back blocks giving the Pride a 15-11 lead. New Paltz once again made a comeback, but that was only temporary. Woods ended the Hawks rally when he landed a kill making it 19-16. Springfield earned the set point at 24-21 and a New Paltz service error forced the match into set five.
In the final set of the battle, New Paltz scored six unanswered points that proved to be the difference.
“Their guy just served six great balls. He won it back there,” Sullivan said. “If we didn’t go down six to zero, we’re probably in a good spot.”
However, the Pride didn’t go down easy. Thanks to three straight errors from New Paltz, Springfield jumped out to a 5-0 run and climb within one point at the switch. The comeback looked promising, but New Paltz would put an end to that vision when Joe Norman put away three kills to finish the set.
The loss wasn’t the outcome Springfield had hoped for, but it was a learning curve.
“If this game was anything, it was a reassurance that we are where we need to be for this time of year. Even if it was a loss, we learned a lot and got better as the match went on,” senior outside hitter Greg Woods said.
These lessons will be put to the test when Springfield plays MIT on Tuesday at Blake Arena.