Albany entered Sunday afternoon’s volleyball match at Stony Brook as a clear favorite to win. After all, the Great Danes boasted three senior starters, an America East preseason favorite selection and an 8-game win streak, dating back three weeks.
For large portions of the contest, Stony Brook challenged Albany’s authority. The Seawolves took the opening set, narrowly dropped the second, then won the third in convincing fashion to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
But Stony Brook seemed to peak too early. Albany won the fourth and fifth set, seizing victory in the match, as the home team’s energy was visibly drained.
“We showed glimpses of fight, of push,” head coach Coley Pawlikowski said. “We just have to do that throughout the match. That’s what we need to take away from today.”
The final line score was 19-25, 27-25, 18-25, 25-14, 15-7.
In the third set, the Seawolves’ backcourt defense was brilliant. Freshman libero Kardashia Hitchcock and freshman utility player Leanne Sakowicz combined for 10 digs in the set, diving all over the Pritchard Gymnasium hardwood to keep points alive.
After the teams switched sides to begin the fourth game, the once-contagious Seawolves energy seemed to have evaporated and the team ran out of gas. Albany hit .500 as a team in the fourth then .417 in the fifth, pulling away with the win.
“We fought hard at times and at other times we didn’t,” Hitchcock, who had a career-high 17 digs, said. “[In the third set] we were energized. When we’re energized we pass better. At the end we kinda died out.”
The deflated defense was less consistent with its passing in the final two sets, making the Stony Brook offense more predictable.
Middle blocker McKyla Brooks, who had 10 kills and two errors in the first three sets, was ineffective at the end of the match. Albany was able to set up its block more consistently on Brooks, the America East leader in hitting percentage, shutting her down for three kills and four errors in the fourth and fifth games.
“We weren’t putting them in as good of situations as we have been,” Pawlikowski said of Brooks and middle blocker Taylor Wilson. “We needed our four other attackers to produce more, freeing them up up a little bit.”
Freshman opposite side hitter Maria Poole notched 15 kills in the match, hitting a team-best .265 overall. Sophomore setter Morgan Kath had a career-high 58 assists.
Taylor Wilson’s family came all the way from southern Indiana to watch Stony Brook face Binghamton in an America East volleyball match on Friday night.
The sophomore middle blocker did not disappoint, leading the Seawolves to a four set; 17-25, 25-17, 25-23, 26-24; victory over the Bearcats at Pritchard Gymnasium.
Wilson buried a career-high 21 kills — including the final point of the match — on a .462 hitting percentage, as Stony Brook won its home conference opener.
“I’ve been waiting to play good volleyball ever since I got here,” Wilson said. “It didn’t mature my freshman year, but it’s here now, and I’m ready to keep rolling through the season.”
Wilson’s offensive efforts were nearly equaled by Brooks, who had 19 kills in the match, also a career-high.
“Ky [Brooks] played a consistent match,” Pawlikowski said. “Taylor, after game one, got in the air, she worked hard and did a really good job for us. In order to do all that, we need ball control. Our ball control was there and we were able to run our middles quickly. That’s where we found success.”
The match opened on a slow note for Stony Brook, who entered the night winless in conference play, having dropped contests on the road against UMBC and New Hampshire.
Binghamton emerged with the first set, propelled by a 7-0 run late in the set in which Stony Brook struggled to produce a side-out. The home team dominated from that point onward.
“We responded really well,” Brooks said. “Because we never should have lost the first set, in my eyes. We came back fired up and ready to win the next three games.”
The Bearcats had an set point opportunity in the fourth game, up 24-23, but they threw it away on a service error. Two points later, Wilson buried her final kill of the match to seal the game.
Stony Brook will not play again until Friday, when the team opens a two-match road trip at UMass Lowell at 7 p.m.. The following day, the Seawolves will face the Hartford Hawks at 5 p.m..