Freshman LeAnne Sakowicz did not see one point of playing time for Stony Brook in the volleyball team’s first set against Iona on Wednesday night.
Two hours later, the versatile rookie was perhaps the star of the match.
Sakowicz registered 10 kills and three aces, while committing just one error, as she helped spark the Seawolves to a four-set (25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 25-18) victory in the team’s home-opener against the Gaels.
“She’s one of the best utility players that we have in our gym,” head coach Coley Pawlikowski said of Sakowicz. “She can set, she can defend, she can pass, she can attack and she can block.”
It was in the second game that Pawlikowski scanned her bench for some energy, calling on Sakowicz to step onto the court.
“We were looking for some consistency and flow,” Sakowicz said. “I knew when I went out there that I had to bring energy and be a consistent player to help the team win.”
Sophomore setter Morgan Kath totalled 49 assists in the match, a career-high. Kath’s even offensive distribution allowed four Seawolves to reach at least 10 kills, including freshman opposite-side hitter Maria Poole, who had six kills in the second set alone.
“Lefties on the right side are very strong,” Kath said. “In that scenario, [Poole] was working really well on the back pin. It was just a matter of working with our middles to run away from her so she could get an open look.”
The first two sets of the match were close, as Stony Brook edged out Iona, 25-23, in the first set before the Gaels tied the score with a 25-21 win in the second.
Some of Stony Brook’s slow start can be chalked up to Iona’s offensive play. The Gaels, instead of looking for traditional spikes on the attack, opted often to use off-speed shots over the block and into the gaps of the Seawolves defense.
“It was a much different style of volleyball than we’d seen in our first two weekends,” Pawlikowski said. “That was something we were slow to adjust to. Once we did, the game started to change.”
But the Seawolves’ improved second-half play had more to do with just a defensive adjustment. Sophomore middle blocker McKyla Brooks, after registering just two kills in each of the first two games, recorded four kills in the third set then six kills in the fourth set to finish with a game-high 14.
Brooks, coming off a Rookie of the Year season last fall, was dynamic in the center for the Seawolves, spiking downward at indefensible angles. Four of Stony Brook’s final seven points of the match were from the star’s right arm, lighting the fuse for the home crowd’s impending eruption.
“The fans, that was so cool!” Sakowicz exclaimed after her first home match. “All the people from the athletic department, the people from our dorm, everyone, it was such a cool vibe.”
The next three matches for the Seawolves, however, will again be on the road. Stony Brook will play at the Art Carmichael Invitational in Kingston, Rhode Island over the weekend for a trio of contests. The team will face tournament host Rhode Island, Notre Dame and San Diego State.
FEATURE IMAGE CREDIT: EVEILN MERCEDES/THE STATESMAN