Hawks Hold Off NJCU, LaRocco Reaches Milestone

JERSEY CITY, NJ — SUNY New Paltz, the No. 7 ranked team in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III national poll, collected 69 kills and used its all-around lethal jump serve to survive a comeback bid and held off New Jersey City University, 3-2, by scores of 30-22, 30-9, 21-30, 27-30, 15-7, in a Northeast Collegiate Volleyball Association Metro Division match at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center.

With the victory, SUNY New Paltz improved to 21-9 and 7-3 in the division with its fourth consecutive victory.

NJCU fell to 20-12 overall, and at 4-6 in the division, are officially eliminated from contention for the 2005 NECVA Tournament. NJCU is 1-8 against nationally ranked opponents this season.

The story for New Paltz was senior outside hitter Mike LaRocco (Hauppauge, NY/Smithtown), who entered the match needing 12 kills for 1000 in his career, and achieved the milestone in game five, before finishing with 13 (13-8-30, .167), a match-high 17 digs, and five service aces.

Senior outside hitter Chris Ganje (Halfmoon, NY/Shenendehowa) was flawless on attack in three games, with a match-best 14 kills and no errors in 18 attempts, good for a .778 percentage, while adding eight digs and three solo blocks. Junior opposite Ryan Bullard (Smithtown, NY/Hauppauge) was the other dynamic server in the match, as five of his 20 jump serves landed for aces. He also collected 10 kills (10-2-18) and hit .444, with six blocks.

Sophomore middle blocker Joshua Spiro(Island Park, NY/West Hempstead) tallied 11 kills (11-3-18) and hit .444, while junior middle blocker Greg Jackson (Central Square, NY/Paul W. Moore) tacked on nine kills (9-3-16), and hit .375. Spiro and Jackson each had three blocks. Junior setter Kevin Buggs (Tonawanda, NY/Canisius) dished 41 assists. NP hit .300 as a team, with 69 kills and 27 errors in 140 tries.

After NP won game one, the Hawks opened up a 15-1 lead in game two, and increased it to 21-4, behind the jump serves of Bullard and LaRocco, and a remarkable .909 hitting percentage in the frame, with 20 kills and no errors in 22 swings. For the match, NJCU had just a .773 reception percentage, as 20 of 68 chances landed for aces.

The Hawks played only three starters in game three, and NJCU capitalized, hitting .379 (14-3-29) after a .000 and .167 percentage in the opening two games.

NJCU opened up a 20-14 lead in game four as all starters but Ganje returned to the lineup. With its hopes of reaching the conference playoffs on the line, NJCU battled in game four, hitting .371 overall, with 19 kills (19-6-35).

However, in game five, SUNY New Paltz built a 5-2 edge, which expanded to 11-3, as Bullard again used his dominant jump serve to gain control for the Hawks. SUNY New Paltz put the match away, 15-7.

Freshman middle blocker Nick Conklin (Fairless Hills, PA/Pennsbury) was NJCU’s top hitter with a .316 percentage, with nine kills (9-3-19). Sophomore middle blocker Damon LaSalle (Clifton, NJ/Clifton) had five blocks, while sophomore opposite Robert Griffiths (Edison, NJ/John P. Stevens) chalked up eight digs, seven kills, and four blocks.