Senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks during a 2016 game. Brooks led the team with 12 kills and four blocks against Hartford. ERIC SCHMID/STATESMAN FILE

Stony Brook Volleyball continued its relentless 2018 campaign this weekend, sweeping conference rivals Hartford Hawks on Thursday, Oct. 18 and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference-leading Iona Gaels on Sunday, Oct. 21.

“Offensively, we had a great match,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a press release following Sunday afternoon’s victory. “Iona is a tough-serving group so that was something we were concerned about going in. I did not think we defended well and most of that was not executing from a blocking standpoint until that third set when we finally adjusted to their tempo.”

Both Stony Brook and Iona entered Sunday afternoon in the midsts of nine-game winning streaks and leading in their respective conferences. Both teams also had several players that earned weekly awards, with the Gaels sweeping their weekly conference awards. But at the end of the third set, it was clear the Seawolves outmatched their opponents on the attack.

The Stony Brook frontcourt trounced on a fatigued Iona defense in the third set, breaking out to a 10-3 lead. The Gaels were adrift and surrendered 11 of their 22 total attack errors in the set, debilitating any comeback chance they may have had. Junior outside hitter Liz Pulver completed the offensive pummeling with a kill, giving the Seawolves a 25-8 set-three victory.

Iona played from behind for much of the match, but put up more of a fight after trailing 10-4 in the first set. Stony Brook struggled slowing down the opposition following an Iona timeout, and a kill by sophomore setter Jamie Smith tied the game at 16-16. The Seawolves countered with three straight points to regain the lead and make the Gaels use their final timeout of the set. Stony Brook maintained its momentum coming out of the timeout, taking the first set 25-21.

Neither team was able to take a decisive lead in the second set until a kill by graduate outside hitter Emily Costello capped a three-point run, giving Stony Brook the 11-8 lead. The Gaels cut the deficit to two but the Seawolves frontcourt of junior outside hitter Maria Poole and junior middle blocker Kendra Harlow came through with a crucial block for the 19-14 lead. Junior outside hitter Jordan Gels halted the Gaels comeback attempt with a kill to give her team the 25-21 set-two victory.

The 17-point third set margin of victory is the largest that the Seawolves have won by since they defeated the Hartford Hawks in the second set of a four-set victory, 25-8, last season. While the Hawks did not drop a set that badly, the Seawolves handily defeated them 25-16, 25-15 and 25-12 Thursday evening.

“Hartford is probably the best offensive team in our conference,” Belzung said in a press release following Thursday night’s win. “I thought our team did a good job of pushing a couple scoring runs in each set, and finding a way to pick up the shots to allow us to score in transition. In addition, we were in system in serve receive most of the night which stressed them.”

America East Player of the Week senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks commanded the offense and led the team with 12 kills and four blocks against Hartford. Brooks also earned 12 kills and five blocks on Sunday, giving her 238 total this season.

The victory over the Hawks improved the Seawolves’ conference record to 7-0 and marked the beginning of the second half of the season. The Seawolves have now defeated each of their America East rivals to begin conference play for the first time in program history. The Seawolves will play in their final homestead of the regular season, beginning with a matchup against the New Hampshire Wildcats on Friday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

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