By Monica D’Ippolito
CORTLAND – The State University of New York at New Paltz was at SUNY Cortland facing No. 2 seeded The College at Brockport in the SUNYAC Semifinal Friday.
The Hawks got out to a slow start but came back to tie the match at a set apiece before falling in four, 14-25, 25-22, 23-25, 9-25.
The last time the two teams met was on Sept. 23 in an early regular season match at Brockport. SUNY New Paltz was up 2-1 and held match point at 25-24 after tying the set at 24. The set went back-and-forth until 26-all where the Golden Eagles then won to extend to a fifth, which they also won, 15-13.
Friday night in the Hawks’ second-straight trip to the SUNYAC Semifinal, they had an opportunity for redemption as they looked to advance to the championship for the first time since 2018 but struggled in the opening points of the match and got down to a quick 4-0 hole forcing coach Matt Giufre into his first timeout.
SUNY New Paltz was within five points until midway through with the Golden Eagles scoring seven of 10 points to take a comfortable, 18-9 advantage and eventually closed out on a 6-2 run to gain a 1-0 lead. SUNY New Paltz hit less than .200 in the set, while the Golden Eagles were a productive .400 to earn the first set victory, 25-14.
The Hawks tied up the match in the second, getting a spark by Victoria Konicki in the middle as the senior pushed her team ahead, 19-18 to turn some momentum toward SUNY New Paltz with Brockport calling a timeout following the lead change. Out of the break, Konicki answered with a kill before helping her team to a 23-18 lead, getting up for a double block with Makenzie Bills on the right side. The Golden Eagles worked back to 23-21, but the Hawks finished the set on a kill by Mackenzie Williams.
SUNY New Paltz re-took the lead late in set three with Letisha Perez helping tie the score on a solo block off a free ball, knotting the set at 19-all following a tough serve in by Williams. Brockport was forced to call a timeout with the Golden Eagles regrouping to take back control. They earned a 22-20 advantage off an ace by Andrea Coyle who found free space in the back corner of the court. Brockport added on at 23-20, blocking Perez on a swing off a bump set by Cate DiGiacomo.
Coyle helped the Golden Eagles to set point on another ace, but Katie Steele extended the set on a big swing on the outside for the Hawks, which also gave her team some life. They followed up with two more points on blocks by Bills and Konicki, and a kill by Steele to cut the score, 24-23. The rally halted there though, as Brockport took set three on a swing by Coyle with Perez getting a touch for a dig and Waddell running toward the back of the court to set the ball toward the net, but a miscommunication allowed the ball to fall before SUNY New Paltz could get the ball back over, closing set three, 25-23.
The Golden Eagles then won the match in the fourth, closing out on a 6-0 run to win the set, 25-9.
The Hawks hit .077 on the night, while Brockport finished at a .235 clip. Perez and Williams recorded a team-leading 12 kills, apiece. Konicki had six kills and a team-leading three blocks. DiGiacomo finished with a team-leading 12 kills and 11 digs. Waddell followed with nine digs to go along with an ace and an assist as she was named to the All-Tournament team.
SUNY New Paltz finishes the season at 21-4 overall and graduates a strong senior class in Waddell, Konicki, Bills, Steele, Haylee Scarincio and Nicole Kleinegger.
“When I think about that group, what I’m most proud of is their individual transformation from freshmen to senior year,” Giufre said. “They came in and didn’t know what this was all about. They had a season taken away from them and really just grew up a lot as people and grew their self-confidence, the way they carry themselves, the way they expected more of themselves. I’m so proud of them and it was a pleasure and privilege to watch them grow up.”
That senior group helped the Hawks to one of their best regular seasons in four years, winning 20-plus games for the first time since 2018 while earning a spot in the regional rankings and aided in back-to-back conference semifinal appearances this season and last.
“They had a freshman and junior season that was mediocre at best, and they really just decided and rallied the team around them and decided this year was going to be different. They put a lot of pride in and a lot of work in to write a better story and they flat out did,” Giufre continued. “I think of them as athletes and as students and as citizens of the College and they just grew up so much. They are role models of what a career should look like start to finish. They are definitely a very influential group. We have to figure out how to fill their shoes, but it won’t be easy.”