Men’s volleyball win CUNYAC title, Jack Centeno named MVP


John Neves | Baruch Athletics

Edgar Llivisupa, Sports Editor

In a nail-biter between CUNY Athletic Conference volleyball heavyweights, the No. 2 Baruch College Bearcats triumphed over the No. 1 Hunter College Hawks at Baruch College ARC Arena, 25-19, 27-19, 25-21, 26-24.

The Bearcats were on a championship point after a blocking error by Hunter’s Chris Scandole, with Jack Centeno credited with the kill.

However, the Hawks staved off six-straight championship points to tie the game 24-24.

The momentum immediately swung back in the Bearcats’ direction after Hunter’s Sherrod Cole committed a service error. The Bearcats secured the title after a block by Justin Iloulian.

The match was closely contested with 35 tied scores and 12 lead changes throughout.

“I think the way the game ended, it was just desperate for two teams battling all season long, 11-1 and 11-1,” Baruch’s head coach, Kevin Edwards, said. “Tonight, I mean, it could have gone either way, but I’m happy that it ended up my way.”

Emotions were high on both sides and each teams received a yellow card in the third set after Akil Vaughn had a kill that bounced off the face of a Hunter’s Chris Scandole.

“We talk about using the energy of both sides of the crowd because I know Hunter has that raucous atmosphere as usual and we have a nice following as well and I told them, ‘No matter what noise you hear, just believe it’s for you, no matter what you hear,” Edwards said.

Baruch had a higher hitting percentage in every set, even in the second set where Bearcats hit .071% compared to Hunter’s .040%. By the end of the night, Baruch hit for .248% and Hunter hit for .140%.

The Hawks led the night with 62 digs compared to Baruch’s 39 digs. Meanwhile, Baruch led with 13 blocks compared to Hunter’s six blocks.

After the conclusion of the CUNYAC Men’s Volleyball Championship game, CUNYAC First-Team All-Star Centeno was named tournament MVP after recording a career-high 26 kills against the Hawks.

Centeno’s performance was a stark improvement from the semifinal game against City College of New York Beavers when he recorded only six kills.

“Last game, I was not happy with myself,” Centeno said in the CUNYAC broadcast after being awarded MVP. “I just didn’t play well in the semifinal game. My team came through for me. I wanted to repay my team back with a great performance…it just ignited something in me, I wanted it so bad.”

Centeno committed seven errors in the game to hit for a .292% average in the match. He also had five digs.

His first kill was the first point of the game. He also secured the first set for Baruch.

In the second set, Centeno led the Bearcats to set point after consecutive kills. However, he committed a service error which allowed the Hawks to come back and win the set.

“I’ve been waiting for that performance all season long to be honest with you, because last night in the semifinal, he was still a bit tentative,” Edwards told the CUNYAC broadcast after the match. “And I could see like it was getting to him, because the moment was getting closer and closer and closer. And I kept telling him ‘Hey that moment will come’ and that moment came 22 times. I needed every single one.”

Stallone Shankar and Vaughn were selected to the All-Tournament Team along with Hunter’s Scandole and Cooper Moran.

As CUNYAC champions, the Bearcats automatically qualify for the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Division III Tournament. They will face (to be announced soon, Edgar will add it in).

This was their third match of the season.

Hunter leads CUNY in championship titles with 21 and with Baruch’s win the Bearcats are second with 12 titles and are 10-7 all-time in finals matchups.

The Lehman College Lightning was the only other team to win a volleyball tournament this century in 2002.

This is Baruch’s second consecutive title after the cancelation of the 2020-2021 season.

This was also the last conference-title game for Edwards who will leave after coaching men’s and women’s volleyball at Baruch for five years. He will work full-time as director of programming and head coach at QBK Sports, an indoor volleyball facility in Long Island City, Queens.

“Leaving the indoor game for a little while is a bit sad and exciting at the same time. So, I’m happy that I’m leaving the guys on a high note” Edwards told CUNYAC. “For me, personally, I think the last five years was a lot of growth, as well taking these kids from schools, bringing them into a program, a winning program, and then challenging them to win right away. Then pandemic [we] had two years off. We came back and we only came back with one mentality, one mentality to defend our title.”

Edwards said that while he is stepping away from his role as Baruch’s head coach, he has not left his sport behind.

“It’s the end for me but as I said…my door is still open…I’m not going away from the game. I’m still in the game, but I’m a Bearcat for life.”

During the broadcast, Baruch College’s President S. David Wu spoke about the school’s strong athletic conference showing this season.

“Our students are not only top notch academically and they are also leading the CUNY Athletic Conference,” President Wu said. “We are now the number one standing on the commissioner’s cup by a pretty long shot and very proud of that and so I firmly believe academics and athletics come together. We are going to expand on that and continue to do well.”