Stony Brook Volleyball concluded its historic 2018 season with a three-set loss against the No. 4-seeded Brigham Young University Cougars in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Nov. 30.
Although the outcome did not go the Seawolves’ way, head coach Kristin Belzung is proud of the program in their most successful season in Division I history.
“I am incredibly proud of our group for walking in and competing with confidence from the start,” Belzung said in a press release. “We could not get into any kind of offensive rhythm and credit BYU for stressing us at the net and scrapping in the back court. Proud of our defense for stepping up and working to extend rallies. Thank you to everybody back on Long Island for your incredible support all season.”
Stony Brook suffered its first defeat since it fell to Bryant in a five-set loss on Sept. 14. The Seawolves followed up the loss by going on a program-record 17-game winning streak and concluded the season with a final record of 21-9.
The Seawolves looked to build off last year’s first round tournament appearance against the eventual champion Nebraska Cornhuskers and use it to their advantage in another tough matchup. The Cougars ranked fifth in the NCAA RPI with a record of 27-1, but had lost star junior outside hitter McKenna Miller to an ACL injury earlier this month.
Stony Brook looked to make history in the first set by responding to a four-point BYU lead with a 10-3 run of its own, taking an 11-8 lead. An America East team had never won a set in the NCAA Tournament, much less an entire match, but the Seawolves led for the majority of set one. Their lead lasted as late as 19-18, but the Cougars earned seven of the frame’s last eight points and won the set, 25-20.
The match began to unravel from there, as BYU built upon its momentum and never relinquished it. The Cougars aggressively overpowered the Seawolves in the second set by utilizing well-placed blocks and high-velocity kills on the attack. Meanwhile, BYU’s relentless defense held Stony Brook to a -.250 hitting percentage and 11 errors as they handedly took the set, 25-13.
“I thought we looked timid, and we didn’t really follow our game plan in the second set the way we wanted to,” Belzung said. “We’ve got to pass better to allow us to get into a better offensive rhythm, and then we’ve got to feel comfortable taking some swings and maybe making an error here or there and try to get BYU back on their heels a little bit.”
Stony Brook entered the third set with their backs against the wall, but failed to respond as BYU jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead. The Cougars later followed up by scoring six straight points and ultimately won the set 25-12 off a service ace from senior outside hitter Roni Jones-Perry to finish the sweep.
Junior middle blocker Kendra Harlow led the Seawolves with five kills, seven points and a .214 hitting percentage. West Coast Conference Player of the Year Jones-Perry led the game with 17 kills and 21 points.
Senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks finished her collegiate career with 1,206 total kills, the ninth-most in Stony Brook history. Graduate outside hitter Emily Costello led the Seawolves with 314 kills this season and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the America East Championship. Although senior server Carla Souffront only played 25 sets for the team, she had an integral role acting as a player-coach by scouting opposing teams and motivating her teammates on the sidelines.
“[I am] thankful for McKyla, Emily and Carla’s impact on the Stony Brook community and our volleyball program,” Belzung said. “They are strong women who will continue on to incredible things in their future, and I am thankful to have gotten to coach them.”
As Stony Brook bids farewell to its three seniors, it will use the offseason to train toward a potential three-peat as America East champions next season.