Junior outside hitter Jordan Gels jumps to spike the ball in a game against Hofstra on Sept. 5, 2017. Gels had 13 kills in the game against New Hampshire on Sunday, Sept. 30. ERIC SCHMID/STATESMAN FILE

Stony Brook Volleyball has won three consecutive America East Conference games to start its conference schedule, playing to the potential expected of the defending champions. The Seawolves’ latest victory came in Durham, New Hampshire against the New Hampshire Wildcats, winning 3-1 on Sunday, Sept. 30.

“This is a big conference win for our group,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a press release. “You could see the determination to get it from the start.”

The win over New Hampshire was the first since 2012 and is the fifth-straight win for Stony Brook. The victory served as proof that the Seawolves’ well-disciplined veterans could successfully counter an aggressive offense.

“We put a big emphasis on defense this week and it was the defense that allowed our offense to have success today,” Belzung said. “New Hampshire really keyed on shutting our middles down, and our pins rose to the opportunity to have some seams to attack through.”

Stony Brook jumped out to a 13-4 lead it would not concede in the first set. New Hampshire’s frontcourt was erratic in the set and floundered with a .065 hitting percentage with six attack errors. The Seawolves took advantage of the Wildcats’ disorganization and scored their last three points off attack and ball handling errors, winning the first set 25-15.

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New Hampshire regrouped in the second set but it was still not enough to overcome the momentum of the game, which favored Stony Brook. The Seawolves battled back to take a 13-11 lead despite giving up seven points on attack and ball handling errors in the second set. New Hampshire cut the Stony Brook lead to one, but junior middle blocker Kendra Harlow swatted a ball off two Wildcats’ defenders to hand Seawolves the 25-23 set victory.

Although Stony Brook managed to hold onto the second set win, it was clear New Hampshire found a remedy to fix its weaknesses. The Wildcats forced the Seawolves to commit defensive errors and found holes between the backcourt to score into. Wildcats senior middle blocker Gabri Olhava shut down a Seawolves comeback attempt with back-to-back kills to take the set 25-21 and snap a Stony Brook 14-set winning streak that began on Saturday, Sept. 16 against Colgate.

Both teams traded early leads in the fourth set but a service ace by America East Setter of the Week, junior LeAnne Sakowicz, gave Stony Brook a lead that it held for the remainder of the game. Senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks and junior outside hitter Jordan Gels teamed up to combine for five of the Seawolves’ last 10 points as they took the set 25-19 and the game 3-1.

Brooks and Gels led Stony Brook on the attack with 13 kills each. Junior outside hitter Maria Poole continued her impressive performance after being named the America East Player of the Week for the first time in her collegiate career, finishing with 12 kills and two blocks. Olhava dominated the attack throughout the afternoon with three blocks and 19 kills, the most from either team.

The Seawolves will return to Stony Brook to host their first conference game this season against the Albany Great Danes on Friday, Oct. 5. The contest will be the first time the teams play each other since the Seawolves defeated the then No.1-ranked Great Danes in three sets at Albany last postseason.

“We are excited to return home to face Albany on Friday and would love to see Pritchard packed with red,” Belzung said.

The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.  

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