New Paltz rallies past Wentworth to get NCAA finals rematch

Daniela Detore | Off the Block special contributor

SUNY New Paltz Hawks awaiting its NCAA Tournament semifinal match against Wentworth, walked closer towards the court during final points of the earlier semifinal match between Springfield College and Stevens Tech.

Upon the sweep by Springfield, the crowd demanded the next match.

“We want New Paltz,” all 1,300 fans chanted.

The fans got their wish. The defending national champions New Platz defeated Wentworth in five games on Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts, to setup a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament finals.

Opening up set one, the game was in the hands of the Wentworth. Two consecutive aces by the Leopards put the Hawks on their heels.

With a 16-14 New Paltz lead, a surge of five points came in favor of the Hawks. With two kill from Steven Woessner and two service aces from Nick Denoncourt, a new game was presented to the Hawks.

In the final points of the set, Woessner finished for the Hawks with two more kills leading to a 25-19 victory against the Leopards. The victory was aided by Woessners’ perfect hitting percentage on five errorless swings.

Set two showed a different fate for the Hawks. In a tight game, the grip was beginning to loosen from Wentworth, and New Paltz was beginning to run with the lead.

At 15-12, Collin Ritter of the Leopards stepped behind the service line and brought his team back into the contest. Wentworth, aided by Ritter behind the line, began to gain control of the net totaling six blocks in the set. In addition, the Leopards had back-to-back punishing blocks to tie the set at 15-15.

Wentworth closed out set two with a 25-21 and out-hit the defending national championships in the set .421 to .167.

The Leopards continued their roll into set three improving their hitting to a .457 clip and won the set 25-23. However, New Paltz matched Wentworth’s steady offensive roll. The Hawks hit .353 lead by the veterans Jake Roessler and Woessner who both hit .350 or better.

New Paltz jumped off to a 9-3 lead early in set four shifting the momentum.

“It’s a momentum game, anything can happen” Woessner said in encouragement to his underdog team as they were coming from behind.

Woessner also had a punishing block against Wenthworth’s Jake Reed in the 25-20 fourth-set victory to force a fifth game. Woessner following the big block turned to his teammates, flexed and pointed to his bicep.

Getting hot going into the national championship match, the Hawks finished 15-12 in the fifth set against the Leopards to advance to the finals.

It turned out New Paltz wants Springfield.

“Catch the magic,” Woessner, Anthony Bonilla and Rob Nolan said.