Junior outside hitter, Jordan Gels, jumps to spike the ball in a game against Hofstra on Sept. 5, 2017. ERIC SCHMID/STATESMAN FILE

The Stony Brook volleyball team may have started out slow in its match on Friday, Sept. 21 against the Hartford Hawks, but once Stony Brook got into a rhythm, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the match.

The Seawolves swept all three sets to open up American East conference play on an extremely high note. Coming off the Stony Brook Invite by Holiday Inn Express tournament in which the team took the final two matches and showed moments of dominance despite collapsing in its only loss, momentum was on the Seawolves’ side as they traveled to Connecticut. The victory increased their winning streak to three, while their overall record improved to 7-8.

“Each match in conference play is a dog fight, so to start 1-0 feels great,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a press release. “We gritted out a come-from-behind first set and then settled into our serve and pass game really well. Hartford is very good offensively and we made some adjustments throughout the match to keep them off balance.”

Stony Brook fell behind early in its first set against Hartford, trailing by five and struggling to catch up for most of the set. However, with the score 22-17 in the Hawks’ favor, the Seawolves mounted a furious comeback, embarking on an 8-3 run to tie the set at 25-25. After both teams traded points, the Seawolves notched the set victory when a kill from junior outside hitter Jordan Gels and an attack error from Hawks sophomore middle blocker Brittany Braun pushed them ahead, 30-28. A key to the Seawolves’ rally was their .277 hitting percentage in the opening set, compared to the Hawks’ .178.

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The Seawolves established dominance early on in the second set, pouncing on the Hawks early to take a 10-4 lead. Hartford trailed by at least five points for the rest of the set. Another kill from Gels, who led all Stony Brook players with 12 in the match, sealed the deal for Stony Brook as the team won 25-18.

Both teams saw the ball substantially better in the second set, with the Seawolves hitting .419 and the Hawks hitting .345. In the middle of the set, senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks earned three straight kills. Brooks led Stony Brook with five kills in the set, and her 11 kills on the night boosted her career total to 1,056.

The third set started out in a more competitive fashion, with the Hawks taking an early lead. The Seawolves managed to take back control of the game, going on a 7-1 run to gain a 15-10 advantage. Hartford mounted a comeback attempt, taking advantage of several Stony Brook attack errors to pull within one. The Hawks could not stave off defeat, as the Seawolves scored four of the match’s last five points. Junior middle blocker Kendra Harlow delivered the finishing blow, as her seventh kill of the night won the set 25-21.

Gels led the team with 14 points Friday night, yet it was Hartford junior middle blocker Jenna Bridges who posted the best statline of the night with a game-leading 14 kills and 16.5 points.

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The Seawolves have now won nine straight sets, earning sweeps in three straight matches. The team looks forward to its next match on Friday, Sept. 28 against the UMass Lowell River Hawks, who are currently 1-13 with a 0-1 record in conference play. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the Costello Athletic Center in Lowell, Massachusetts.

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