The trip to Albany has always been a difficult one for Stony Brook Volleyball. The team had not beaten its in-state rivals on their court in the regular season since 2012. The Seawolves sung a different song on Sunday, Nov. 4, sweeping the Great Danes to win their 13th straight game. Stony Brook was able to celebrate on enemy turf, having clinched first place in the America East regular season – the third school sport to accomplish the feat this season – and home field advantage for the postseason tournament.
“This was obviously a big match for our team and to see us come in focused and locked in made for a fun match,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a press release. “Defensively I thought we made Albany uncomfortable, and that allowed us to get some good offensive opportunities. We also did a great job putting pressure on them from the service line. Looking forward to closing out on the road and proud of the team for earning the right to host the America East Championship the following weekend.”
Stony Brook dominated the game early on, getting off to big leads in each of the three sets. While Albany came into the game second in the conference and just a game behind in the standings, they looked outmatched by Stony Brook’s high-octane attack throughout the match. The Great Danes were forced to burn through their timeouts quickly to draw up new game plans, whereas the Seawolves did not use a single timeout the entire game. The first set saw Stony Brook go on a 19-4 run, turning what was once a tie game into a 21-6 blowout. The Seawolves won the first set 25-12, out-hitting the Great Danes .312 to -.070.
If Stony Brook looked vulnerable at any point on Sunday, it was during the second set, which was the closest of them all. Neither team saw the ball well, with Stony Brook hitting .128 compared to Albany’s .095. The Seawolves jumped out to a quick lead, but both teams traded points from there as the Seawolves’ lead never eclipsed six points. A kill from Albany freshman outside hitter Grace Cozad and an attack error on Stony Brook graduate outside hitter Emily Costello cut the lead to 23-20, but junior outside hitter Jordan Gels dealt the finishing blow with a kill to win the set for Stony Brook, 25-20.
Stony Brook performed its best in the third set, hitting .400 and racking up 18 kills. Despite earning the first set point, Albany found itself in an early hole that it couldn’t crawl out of. The game ended with a kill from senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks, giving Stony Brook a 25-11 third set victory. It was the second time this season that Stony Brook topped Albany. The game was reminiscent of last November’s playoff match, when Stony Brook swept Albany on the road in a stunning upset.
Gels led all players with nine kills, while Brooks was atop the leaderboard with 10 points. The Seawolves improve to 17-8 (10-0), while the Great Danes fall to 14-9 (8-2). Stony Brook has swept seven of its 10 conference matches and its 13-game winning streak is the longest in school history as a Division I program. It is also the team’s first regular season conference title since its 24-8 (11-1) season in 2007.
Stony Brook’s next challenge comes on Friday, Nov. 9, as it travels to Baltimore, Maryland to take on the 6-18 (2-8) UMBC Retrievers. The game will begin at 7 p.m. at the UMBC Event Center.