Junior outside hitter Maria Poole in a match against UMBC in 2017. Poole earned conference honors after leading the Seawolves to a 3-0 victory against Hartford last week. SAMANTHA MONTES/STATESMAN FILE

Junior outside hitter Maria Poole is not your ordinary volleyball player. She earned conference honors this week after leading the Seawolves to a 3-0 victory against Hartford on Friday, Sept. 21. Poole notched 10 kills in the game while marking a league-best .625 hitting percentage. This isn’t new for her.

In her native country, Norway, playing for ToppVolley in Mizuno Ligaen, Poole was named “Best Opposite” at the Norwegian Championships three years in a row from 2014 to 2016 before taking her talents to Stony Brook University.

Poole’s transition from Norway to Stony Brook was a natural one. Aside from earning an America East all-rookie selection in 2016, she tied for second on the team in aces (23), third in blocks per set (0.34) and points per set (2.54). She was also named to the America East All-Conference team in 2017. 

Poole shows determination and passion to be better in every game. Each time she is on the court, Poole finds ways to contribute to the overall success of the team.

“She was definitely frustrated at the beginning of the season because she wasn’t producing,” graduate outside hitter Emily Costello said about her teammate. “She figured out how to change that, and her mentality going into games. She thinks about killing the ball and making every ball better. She’s focused on doing shots rather than kills, for her it’s not just about swinging hard but where the defensive players are not on the court. She’s been doing a lot better.”

At the Stony Brook Invite this year, Poole notched 33 kills, with a season-high 14 kills against Bryant. Her performance earned her All-Tournament honors. 

Head coach Kristin Belzung has been a key factor in Poole’s continued growth since joining the program, and she has taken advantage of Poole’s 6’2” size as well as her skill set.

“We are fortunate to have someone like Maria on the right side that has such a big arm,” Belzung said. “The way our system is, our middles get the attention because they are both very good. Because the middles get so much attention, it opens up a seam for Maria to score through. We’re finally getting her in a position where she is in the same rhythm during games, and she has taken advantage of that against opponents.”

Poole currently has 123 kills and a 0.44 blocks per set percentage. She is on track to break her collegiate career high for kills this year which stands at 262 from 2017. But for Poole, it isn’t just about the stats. 

“Keeping the energy high, and having fun on the court, it’s really important to have both,” Poole said about what she focuses on. “Whether it be practice or game you want to enjoy what you do but at the same time you want to better yourself, not just for you, but for your team.” 

Poole has benefited from Costello’s veteran leadership on the court, and Costello believes that Poole is ready to take on a leadership role within the team.

“Maria is the type of player who can be mad and produce on the court,” Costello said. “Certain players you have to calm them down, whereas Maria, you let her go, let her get mad, then tell her to relax for the next ball, and then she kills the next ball. She scores important points on the court, and that will help when she is a veteran leader.”

Poole is looking to continue her hot streak as conference play rolls on. If she maintains her dominance on the court, there will likely be more accolades coming her way and potentially a chance to help lead the Seawolves to an America East Championship for the second year in a row.

The Seawolves’ next game will be on Friday, Oct. 5 against the Albany Great Danes at 6:30 p.m. in Pritchard Gymnasium.

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