Stony Brook Volleyball was in prime position to open America East Conference play with a win on Friday night. The team topped UMBC by a dominant 25-14 margin in the third set to take a two-set-to-one lead entering the fourth game.
Unfortunately for head coach Coley Pawlikowski’s Seawolves, the home Retrievers fought back to win the last two sets of the match, taking victory; 24-26, 25-23, 14-25, 25-14, 15-10; at the Retrievers Athletic Center.
UMBC’s comeback was propelled by improved play from its offense. The Retrievers hit a combined .091 on attack over the first three sets.
Shots that were being dug out at the beginning of the match began finding the hardwood, however. In the fourth and fifth sets, Stony Brook allowed UMBC to hit .355 and .375, respectively.
Junior outside hitter Abbie Mirabella starred for the Retrievers, with a match-best 19 kills on a .368 clip. The six-rotation six-footer added 14 digs in the contest.
On the other side of the net, freshman opposite-side hitter Maria Poole and sophomore middle blocker Taylor Wilson shined for a Stony Brook team that otherwise had an off-night on offense. Wilson had 11 kills and four blocks, while Poole produced nine kills, erring only once.
Mistakes piled up for the rest of the Seawolves hitters. Freshman outside hitter Jordan Gels had eight errors, hitting negative .033 and sophomore middle blocker McKyla Brooks did not look like her usual self.
Brooks, Stony Brook’s leader in kills and hitting percentage this season, only had a 7:6 kills-to-error ratio, sailing a few easy opportunities long and out-of-bounds.
The Seawolves showed resilience early in the match. The Retrievers took a 24-21 first set lead, with three set-point opportunities but failed to capitalize. Stony Brook rattled off five consecutive points, on the service of Gels, to take the opening frame.
After UMBC took a close second set, Stony Brook was dominant once again at the beginning of the third. The Seawolves began the game on a 11-1 run, including a string of three straight aces by freshman libero Kardashia Hitchcock, as the Retrievers were unable to adequately retrieve.
Alas, Stony Brook failed to put the match away. After winning two straight five-set matches on the previous Saturday and Tuesday, the final set stumped the Seawolves in their conference opener.
Mirabella recorded seven kills in the fifth set, one more than the entire Stony Brook team did in the decisive set, to put the match away.
Stony Brook will go on the road for one more non-conference match — on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Sacred Heart — before America East play resumes on Oct. 2 in New Hampshire, where the Seawolves will face the three-time defending champion Wildcats.