Baruch sports makes push in the postseason, as men’s and women’s volleyball teams fight through their regular seasons


Denis Gostev | Baruch Athletics

Isaiah Hinton

For the Bearcats, the basketball and swim teams for both men and women competed in their postseason, while men’s volleyball continued their regular season.

The men’s volleyball team fought hard and kept it close for all three sets against the St. Joseph’s College of Long Island Golden Eagles. 

Unfortunately, the Bearcats failed to capitalize on any opportunities to put the nails in the coffin of the match, falling in straight sets. Early in the first set, Baruch took control, forcing multiple errors from the Eagles. 

However, St. Joseph’s flew back to leave their mark on the set, winning 25-19. The second set was arguably showed the Bearcats at their best and their worst. 

Down 11-4 early, Baruch gradually clawed their way back into the match. Kills from Meni Musheyev, Defang Han and Artem Zinkin kept Baruch in the set. 

However, it was the performance of Steven Lopez that put the Bearcats in the lead late in the set. The Bearcats were not able to apply a killer finish, allowing St. Joseph’s to take the set and the match. 

Even though the Bearcats lost all three sets, they were even with the Golden Eagles in kill accumulation. Baruch is back in action in conference play against Medgar Evers College.

From the regular season to the postseason, the men’s and women’s swim team competed in the Metropolitan Collegiate Conference Swimming and Diving Championships. 

Competing with schools from Division I, II and III, the Bearcats held their own across the three days of the competition. The women earned 297.5 points, while the men scored 284 points, en route to a ninth place finish for both squads. 

For the ladies, senior co-captain Nicola Ousmanova broke the school record she set for the 100-yard backstroke, finishing eighth. Junior co-captain Amanda Lee finished 14th in the 50-yard freestyle, while finishing 12th in the 100-yard backstroke. 

The women finished in the top 10 for the 200 and 400-yard freestyle and medley relays. Ousmanova and Lee, as well as senior co-captain Andrea Gasic, were part of all four relays. 

For the men, Dayan Ordabayev broke the school set by himself twice in the 50-yard freestyle. Other standout individual performances include Erik Kantar, who finished in the top 24 in both the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke and Evan Nikolic, who finished 12th in the 100-yard butterfly. 

The men also finished in the top 10 in the 200 and 400-yard freestyle and medley relays. The final meet for the Bearcats will take place at the United States Naval Academy for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Finals. 

Transitioning from the pool to the basketball court, the regular season is long gone, replaced by the pageantry of the postseason. 

For the women, they hosted a CUNYAC playoff game for the first time in a few years, as the fourth-seeded Bearcats took on the Cardinals of York College.

Although the pomp and circumstance of the playoffs has the ability to melt even the most experienced player like an ice cream cone, Coach Olivia Colbert stressed the philosophy of the coaching staff to not put any added pressure on the ladies.

“We didn’t put any pressure on them, we’re a great team at home, we have a really good home record, we shoot better at home and play with more confidence. A lot of girls did step up on that,” said Colbert.

 However, she did add, “If there was pressure, it was moreso coming from the want to win, knowing we split with York in the regular season, and we respect them as competitors.”

The ladies started the game slowly, trailing by as much as eight points during the first quarter. Since the Bearcats had already played York twice, they already had familiarity with their opponents. 

The team stuck to the game plan they used in February, according to Colbert, which involved focusing on “trying to get rebounds, trying to minimize their advantage with size, with their player Mac in the middle and committing to our press and our zone defense.” 

Execution was key and their defense allowed Baruch to come back, tying the game to end the first and keeping the deficit to five at halftime. 

The Lady Bearcats fell behind by 11 points in the third quarter, but used the sharp shooting of Daniela Zirpolo and second team CUNYAC All-Star Melinda Spahiu to fight back and take the lead in the final quarter. 

However, York used their free throws to take the game, as Baruch fell 57-52. Spahiu had 9 points, while Frances Snyder led the team with 14 points. 

First-team CUNY All-Star Nia Dawson had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, with Zirpolo also getting a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in the losing effort. 

Although their tourney run ended in heartbreaking fashion, this season is by no means a failure. 

This season was their first winning campaign since 2014-15 and even though their opponents might have had a size advantage or a bigger team, the ladies’ heart and fightback was evident in a way that can only be described as admirable. 

“I couldn’t recall a moment where the girls just laid down and took a L,” said Coach O. The development of the squad was on full display this season, as many of the players were returnees from last year’s team. 

From the first day of practice, Dawson’s athleticism was apparent, according to Coach O and her evolution into an All-Star was a testament to her raw ability. 

Spahiu elevated her game in a way that she is more of an all-around player, playing defense and rebounding, all for the goal of victory. 

About this season, Colbert  stated, “it was a good season, we saw a lot of upsides and a lot of bright sides.”

“We are very hopeful going into next season, very confident going into next season. We have seven returners who are all going to be upperclassmen, who are already used to our system, to what our goals are,”, she added. 

 When asked about the expectation for next season, Coach O had two words — “to win.” For now, the Bearcats will wait to see if they are invited to the ECAC Championships this month. 

The men had earned a bye into the semifinals where they faced off against the Lightning of Lehman College. 

The Bearcats started the game fast-paced, but it was Lehman who took the lead heading into the first timeout. 

Although their leading scorer Adnan Bajrami went scoreless in the first half, junior guard Michael Richards was on fire. 

Driving to the hoop and scoring threes, Richards did it all, also providing tight defense en route to 18 points. Captain George Smyth Jr. had 6 points and 9 rebounds as the Bearcats jumped to a 6-point halftime lead. 

In the second half, Baruch jumped out to a 13-point second half shortly before both teams went cold. 

For about seven minutes, the Bearcats did not make a single field goal, as the Lightning switched to a zone defense. 

However, Lehman consistently shot themselves in the foot with bad shots and turnovers, as they also went through a scoring drought in the half. The end of the game saw Baruch break Lehman’s defense by feeding the rock to Smyth Jr., who finished the game with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Richards finished with 21 points on the way to a 70-57 victory. 

The Bearcats move on to the final of the CUNYAC Tournament, where they will face the Bulldogs of Brooklyn College.

Editor’s Note: Erik Kantar is the Photography Editor of The Ticker.