Montclair State University’s women’s volleyball team has had no shortage of entertaining games this year, and this game easily topped them all.
The Montclair State Red Hawks overcame an extraordinary effort by the New York University (NYU) Bobcats to win 3-2 in front of a large and rambunctious crowd at Panzer Athletic Center on Thursday, Oct. 18.
The arena was decked out in pink throughout the game to promote breast cancer awareness month. Montclair State even wore black and pink warmup shirts during the pregame in honor of those who survived breast cancer.
With the win, the Red Hawks improved to 15-6 on the year, while NYU dropped to 14-12. Despite adversity hitting the Red Hawks at every turn, this win proves that they are a poised and focused team in tough situations.
The first set featured had momentum swing back and forth throughout. After a fast 4-0 start from the Red Hawks, the Bobcats would turn it up a notch going on an 8-1 run after a quick timeout. At one point NYU had a 17-11 lead and seemingly had all the momentum.
However, led by freshman outside hitter Leah Higgins, Montclair State went on another big 10-4 run to tie the game at 21. With all of the momentum behind them, Montclair State finished off NYU in the first set, 25-23.
Higgins was an absolute force in the first set and throughout the game, as she had eight kills in the first set alone and finished the game with 10 kills. She was pivotal late in the set, swinging the momentum in favor of the Red Hawks.
Higgins noted that she was especially motivated throughout the game, speaking about how she had lost a family member to breast cancer.
“I had recently lost my aunt to breast cancer, and I really wanted to ball out for her today,” Higgins said.
Montclair State rushed out to a 15-9 lead in the second set, making several key blocks throughout the set. NYU would continue to push through, scoring eight of the last 10 points by both teams to tie it up at 17. A back-and-forth affair continued thereafter, with both teams trading leads. But with the scored tied at 22, NYU converted off two kills and a great block by junior Kelly Kratez to win the set, 25-23.
Momentum swung once again in the third set, as Montclair State seemingly dominated with ease. They scored six straight points to start and never looked back, converting on several errors by the Bobcats.
Senior Natalia Majkut (12 kills) and freshman Carly Waterman (15 kills) played extremely well and scored most of Montclair State’s points in the set. However, NYU stayed within striking distance for most of the set until the Red Hawks scored six of the last eight points, scoring the game winning set point with an emphatic kill by Waterman.
NYU would show their resilience as they pulled through in the fourth set, with freshman middle blocker Abby Ausmus leading the way with four kills and two blocks that both led to scores. She was NYU’s top player with a jaw-dropping 17 kills in the match. This set up a pivotal fifth set.
The fifth and final set was a back-and-forth affair with both teams trading leads and making several key plays. However, it seemed like the Red Hawks were in danger when a big kill by Ausmus gave the Bobcats a 13-11 lead with game point approaching. However, several by NYU down the stretch, including a service error gave the Red Hawks four straight points and the match victory, 15-13.
Despite all of the adversity throughout the game, Montclair State showed that they play at a high level in pressure situations against good teams. Leading scorer Waterman, who finished with 12 kills, credits a positive mentality for why they are able to play well in these situations.
“We just keep staying positive no matter if we are down or not,” Waterman said. “We know that we can make a comeback at any time if we continue to play with high energy.”
Once again, Montclair State also benefited from a terrific home crowd, and many of the players have stated how much it means to have such a great support system for the team. Head coach Eddie Stawinski believes that this has always been a great advantage for the team.
“We love it, and we are so lucky to have great support from family, friends, alumni and other student-athletes,” Stawinski said. “They are truly like another player for us on the court.”
The Red Hawks will finish up their regular season on Oct. 23 as they face Hunter College. With the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament approaching, the team is taking things one day at a time.
“We just want to get better day by day, and to use these tough nonconference games to our advantage,” Waterman said. “The conference championship is the goal though.”