After its most successful season since 2011, the Stony Brook volleyball team is looking to make the jump to becoming a national contender this upcoming year. But with a schedule stocked with some of the nation’s best teams, head coach Coley Pawlikowski and her squad will not be in for an easy ride.
The team finished the Penn State Classic at a 1-2 clip, falling to Villanova and the two-time defending champion Penn State Nittany Lions. To close out the tourney, the defeated the Buffalo Bulls in four sets.
“[Penn State] is the most winningest team in our country,” Pawlikowski said. “They’ve won at least seven national championships, which is more than any other program. Just for our kids to see that this is no longer what we’re aspiring to be, this is the direction that we’re going. This is what it takes to get you there and this is what it looks like when you’re there.”
The Seawolves’ tough schedule continues with the LBSU/LMU Mizuno Invitational, where they face Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount. Both programs finished in the top 50 RPI rankings last year, with Long Beach finishing at 28 and Loyola Marymount at 44.
“We’re really excited about playing an aggressive schedule this year,” Pawlikowski said. “I think that the athletes on our team right now, they will learn from all of our experiences and handle all of our experiences and we’re just excited about it.”
Although they will be facing tough competition this year, the Seawolves are more than up to the challenge. Returning this year are senior setter Nicole Vogel, redshirt senior outside hitter Kathy Fletcher and redshirt senior libero Lo Hathaway. Vogel and McFadden are coming back to the team after competing in Europe, along with sophomore middle blocker Cydney Bowman.
“My defense definitely got better in Europe,” Vogel said. “I got to learn a different role and by learning a different role and let other people go through really will help me be a better teammate to everybody. Then if I end up being put in that role during a game or during practice, I’m better equipped to help everybody out.”
Not only will Vogel be relied on for her improved defense, but her leadership qualities as well.
“I want to more or less be a role model with leadership, not so much tell people what to do,” the senior said. “If I’m doing something wrong, one of the freshmen should be able to tell that I’m doing something wrong. I want it to be to the point where I want them to look at me and be like, ‘oh okay, that’s how I should be, more or less,’ not so much as me telling people.”
The Seawolves will face these tough teams without key members from last season, including former outside hitter Melissa Rigo. Stony Brook enters the season as one of the top teams in the America East, finishing third in the preseason rankings , behind New Hampshire, who they lost to in the America East Championship last year, and Albany. As with all America East matchups, Stony Brook will face both teams twice next season, facing Albany on Oct. 11 and Nov. 6 and New Hampshire on Oct. 17 and Nov. 13.
After making it to the the America East semifinals last year, the Seawolves are looking to finally go all the way. With the team making leaps and bounds in the last two seasons under Pawlikowski, Stony Brook will be looking to capture its first America East title.