(BASIL JOHN / THE STATESMAN)
The Stony Brook women’s volleyball team will return home to face off against UNH on Oct. 18. (BASIL JOHN / THE STATESMAN)

While some of Stony Brook’s other sports teams have struggled early on in the fall season, the Stony Brook volleyball team has seemingly found their groove. After starting off 4-7, the Seawolves have reeled off six straight wins, including a pair of victories a home this past week over Manhattan and UMBC.

On Wednesday night, Stony Brook hosted the Manhattan Jaspers in what ended up being an exhilarating win for the Seawolves. They took the match 3-1 (25-23,25-22,18-25,25-17), demonstrating tenacity and endurance to pull out the victory.

The first set was tightly contested, as the Jaspers proved to be a tough foe for the Seawolves. The set started out with the two teams swinging back and forth, with the Jaspers taking a 13-10 lead to put Stony Brook on the ropes. But the Seawolves roared back, countering the Jasper’s run by slowly overcoming the deficit. They finally took the lead 23-22 at the end of the set, and soon finished Manhattan off 25-23.

The Seawolves came out swinging in the second set, quickly sending the Jaspers stumbling with a 10-6 lead. But as soon as it seemed like Stony Brook would run Manhattan over, the Jaspers hit back with a big four-point run to knot it up.

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But instead of falling down, Stony Brook came up with a haymaker of their own, matching the Manhattan run immediately with a four-point run of its own. This proved enough to put Manhattan on the ground, as the two teams exchanged blows, without Manhattan ever taking a lead. The Seawolves won the set 25-22.

It seemed like the Seawolves would be able to coast into victory up 2-0 against the Jaspers. However, their opponent was down, but not out, as they came out swinging in the third set, stunning the Seawolves. The Jaspers were obviously not throwing in the towel, as they crushed an outclassed Stony Brook. The Jaspers quick counter had knocked the Seawolves down as they won the set 18-25.

“I think its just effort. When we walk through the motions, and don’t have respect for the opponent, we get bit and we lose,” coach Coley Pawlikowski commented on the third set.

But the Seawolves fought back in the fourth set with a dominating performance. Stony Brook did not pull any punches as they hit the Jaspers hard, going on a six point run to pull out the win against Manhattan. Shelby Tietjen delivered the knockout blow as the Seawolves won the final set 25-17.

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Stephanie McFadden was the leading hitter for the Seawolves, as she put up a match leading 14 kills along with eight digs. Melissa Rigo came very close to a double-double, with nine kills and 11 digs. Tietjen had a great game both offensively and defensively, putting up 11 kills, eight digs and four blocks.

“I think I had a pretty up and down performance today but it was because of my team that got me through this game,” McFadden said after the game.

“It wasn’t one of our best [performances] but I’m glad we walked away with the win at the end. I think that we’re learning and we’re trying to understand what effort is, and when we give that we’re a good team. When we don’t, we’re mediocre,” Pawlikowski said.

On Friday night at Pritchard Gymnasium, the Seawolves were able to win against the visiting UMBC Retrievers in four sets: 25-19, 20-25, 25-19, 25-15.

The home arena proved to be a hostile environment once again, with pep tunes from the marching band and roaring chants from the men’s soccer team, who arrived as a whole in support of their fellow varsity athletes.

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“Effort and energy. Those are two things that we talk a lot about in our gym,” Pawlikowski, whose home record as the Seawolves coach is now 13-2, said. “The energy in our gym was awesome. The band was great, our men’s soccer team was awesome, and our girls were relentless.”

Stony Brook was led by redshirt junior Kathy Fletcher, who had 10 digs and a match-high 17 kills. Her .273 hitting percentage was also the best in the match among players with at least 10 attacks.

Also having double-doubles for Stony Brook were juniors Nicole Vogel and Rigo.

Vogel had a match-high 37 assists to go with 16 digs, while Rigo had 11 kills and 16 digs.

Leading the way for the visiting Retrievers was freshman Paola Rojas who had 13 kills and junior Paige Miller who had a double-double with 35 assists and 14 digs.

After winning the first set 25-19 and leading in the second set 10-4, the match had the look of a straight set affair but the Seawolves played sloppy in the middle to end of the second set, having an attack percentage of just .086. The UMBC Retrievers took advantage, coming back to win the set 25-20.

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“After the first set I think we had in our mind that the second set was going to be the same,” Fletcher said. “UMBC brought it a lot more during the second set. We knew going into the third set that we needed to play our game. We made too many errors in the second set. We just needed to play our game and keep it on our side.”

The third set was the most competitive set of the match and was tight until the very end. After going back and forth for much of the set, the Seawolves found themselves in a 20-19 lead late in the set. From there, the team won the final five points of the set, ending three of them via the kill. Stony Brook had 14 kills in the third set alone, the most for either team in any set.

From there, the Seawolves had momentum and won the fourth set handily, by a score of 25-15.

The defense was especially impressive, holding UMBC to a team hitting percentage of .000 in both the third and fourth sets. Redshirt junior libero Lo Hathaway was especially important in the defensive effort, recording 13 digs, many of which were diving or one-handed.

The most prominent player of the night was undeniably Fletcher, who did not sub out of the game for a single point all night and now has 35 kills through just two conference games.

“My team really sets me up for success,” Fletcher explained. “They talk to me a ton. The middles especially pull my block. They’re a huge reason why I’m getting most of my kills.”

Pawlikowski was happy with Fletcher’s performance, but said it was more of a team effort, with someone different stepping up each match.

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“It seems to be that one person will lead us in one match and someone else in the next, and that’s what we want. It’s someone different every match that leads, and that’s really what shows the depth of our program.” she said.

The red-hot Seawolves will now go on a three game road trip, with games at Sacred Heart, Albany and Binghamton in the upcoming week before returning home on Oct. 18 to play UNH.

Zach Rowe contributed to this report.

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