After watching the Springfield College Pride fight their way past the Stevens Ducks, the SUNY New Paltz Hawks went and took on the Wentworth Institute of Technology Leopards who won in five sets; 25-19, 25-21, 25-23, 25-20, 15-12.
Set one featured a lot of back and forth play from the two oppositions, until a Wentworth service error turned the tables for the Hawks. New Paltz entered a five-point run which dug the Leopards into a hole too deep to climb out of. Final kills from Nick Denoncourt and Anthony Bonilla iced the first set, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
Set two opened up similarly to the first, but New Paltz found a short run coming from down one, to putting themselves four. This run included two service aces, both aimed at Wentworth outside hitter Jon Roat bringing the score to 15-11. Wentworth then turned an eight point swing into production at the hinges of setter Collin Ritter. After Ritter was dismissed from the service line, the Leopards would only allow the Hawks to gain four more points before taking the set 25-21, and tying the set count at one.
Set three was extremely close through the set. With the momentum shifting from set two, Wentworth was able to gain control at the tail end after a service error from the Hawks, a kill from Jon Roat and an attack error from Steven Woessner gave the Leopards the set win.
With their tournament life on the line, the Hawks knew it was time to perform and they came out firing on all cylinders in set four. The 2016 champions went on a 6-2 run to open the frame. New Paltz was able to keep this advantage and really find some momentum as they rode out a five point differential taking the set 25-20.
“Volleyball is such a momentum game, it’s insane,” Steven Woessner said. “Like Wentworth today, we were up like four or five points [in set two] and then Collin [Ritter] went back and served 10 balls in a row. That brought the momentum towards them, they won [set two] and then [set three]. Then we took the next two.”
Set five was tight from the first hit, with both teams trading points until a kill from Woessner turned to a three point swing for the Hawks. Wentworth would scrap together what points they could in the final stretch, but ultimately, it wasn’t enough to catch up before a huge strike from Anthony Bonilla landed for a crosscourt kill and New Paltz confirmed their spot in the title game.
Woessner finished the day with 18 kills at a .517 clip, while teammate Anthony Bonilla nailed 13 kills producing a hitting percentage of .000. However, Bonilla’s numbers don’t indicate his impact against the Leopard’s. Bonilla came up swinging when it mattered and shined bright in the high pressure moments, completing the kill that sent his team to the title.
This National Championship is a repeat of the one we saw in 2016 where the Hawks beat the Pride in four sets to raise the hardware. Having experienced in this setting before, New Paltz is ready to go out and make a run at the system that has worked so well for Springfield all season long.
They play amazing when they are in the system, so our job is to bring them out of system,” Hawks coach Radu Petrus said.