NEW PALTZ, NY (March 29, 2017) – The No. 3 ranked Vassar College men's volleyball team stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to shock the defending national champions in No. 2 New Paltz in five games 3-2, as the Brewers pretty much locked up hosting duties for the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Tournament. Vassar knocked off the second-ranked Hawks 20-25, 22-25, 25-16, 25-13 and 17-15.
The win was the Brewers (22-6, 6-0 UVC) 10th straight victory this season, while the 6-0 record and win Wednesday gave Vassar a tie-breaker over the top four teams in the conference. If Vassar picks up just one win on Saturday against either Bard College or Penn State-Behrend, the Brewers will host the UVC Tournament on April 13-15 for the first time in program history.
The match was a tale of dominating play from both teams, with a huge momentum swing during the middle part of the contest. In the opening game, Vassar and New Paltz (21-5, 4-2 UVC) went back and forth in the early going before the Hawks went on a 5-1 run to take 12-9 lead. Vassar would not get any closer in the set, as New Paltz hit .320 and forced VC into eight hitting errors.
In the second set, Vassar hit better with a percentage of .071, but the Hawks continued to finish balls, pounding down 16 terminations in the game to take a 2-0 lead. VC led 8-3 during the early going of the set, but New Paltz powered back and took a 13-11 lead. The Brewers regained the lead at 16-15 on a block by George Diehl and Christian Lizana, but the Hawks notched six of the next seven points to take a 21-17 advantage. The Brewers pulled to within two three times, but New Paltz posted a block to seal the game.
The third set is when things would change for the visiting Brewers, as the offense came to life with the defensive effort amping up. Vassar hit .526 for the set, pounding down 11 kills on 19 attacks, while forcing New Paltz into seven errors. The struggles for New Paltz continued in the fourth as Vassar saw the Hawks post 10 errors and a -.069 hitting percentage, as Vassar hit .333 with eight kills and just two errors to deadlock the match at two games apiece.
In the decisive fifth set, New Paltz took a 7-5 lead after a kill from Jake Roessler, but freshman Yoni Auerbach ended the 3-0 run by the hosts with a kill. Fellow freshman would finally pull VC even at 9-9 with an ace, but the Hawks posted two points at 10-10 to take a 12-10 edge. Lizana hammered down back-to-back kills to deadlock the game at 12-12, and VC had the game's first match point at 14-13 but was denied the win after a block by the Hawks.
Vassar had another chance at 15-14 but New Paltz once again fended off the Brewers once again. In the end though, VC took advantage of a service error followed by an attack error to clinch the win. The victory over New Paltz was Vassar's first over its Hudson River rival since 2012, moving the very competitive series record to 26-24 in favor of the Brewers.
The Brewers were paced offensively by junior Matthew Knigge, who posted 14 terminations on 23 attacks, hitting .478 for the match. The All-American junior also finished with four assisted blocks and four digs. Lizana posted 12 winners for Vassar with four digs as well, and Auerbach contributed eight kills as well for the Brewers.
Senior libero Trey Cimorelli tallied a team-best 12 digs, while fellow senior Quinn Rutledge continued his strong play with an all-around game of four kills, two blocks and eight digs. Junior Zechariah Lee dished out 39 assists, but added four assisted rejections and four digs. Sophomore George Diehl added six terminations as well for VC, contributing the Brewer's lone solo block as well. Vassar hit .265 (46-19-102) for the match.
New Paltz was led by the match-high 16 kills from Anthony Bonilla, as Roessler and CJ Borfitz added 11 finishes as well. Matthew Grace was strong for New Paltz with 41 assists, four blocks and two aces, and Robert Nolan led the hosts with nine digs. The Hawks attacked at a .200 rate on the match, posting more total points scored (68.0-59.0) than VC.
"What a great atmosphere tonight, with four great seniors being celebrated by New Paltz," said Vassar head coach Richard Gary. "We had a great group of fans coming over to help push us to the finish. It's always great to compete hard against a very strong New Paltz team, and Radu has those guys playing a very physical game, which took some time to adjust to."
"There's also the emotional side of these guys having lost a tough one last year, and we were pretty tight as the game started. Luckily these guys have been working on their focus and staying present all year, and by set three we started playing quality points. Now we're going to recover, get some studying done, and prepare for Saturday where we're playing for a chance to host. Exciting stuff."
The Brewers will now look to the final two conference matches of the season, heading to Annandale-on-Hudson, NY to take on Penn State-Behrend (10-12, 1-5 UVC) and Bard (5-18, 0-5 UVC) for a UVC tri-match starting at 11 a.m. in the Stevenson Athletic Center.