Junior outside hitter Maria Poole in a match against UMBC in 2017. Stony Brook Volleyball currently has an 8-0 record in the America East conference. SAMANTHA MONTES/STATESMAN FILE

Stony Brook Volleyball has performed to the expectations of being the reigning America East Champions so far this season. The Seawolves defeated each of their conference rivals in the first go-around of the league schedule and swept the Hartford Hawks in both of their contests.

The team has remained atop the America East standings since the first week of play and has the best overall record at 15-8 and conference record of 8-0 as of Saturday, Oct. 27.

Stony Brook currently finds itself as a prepotent force on the leaderboard and ranks at the top of the conference in kills, blocks and hitting percentage per set. The team has been dominating the weekly awards, having already won a school-record of 13 with three weeks remaining in the regular season. This comes as a remarkable turnaround after the team failed to win a weekly award in 2016.

Junior setter LeAnne Sakowicz has proven to be a formidable candidate for Setter of the Year. Sakowicz has been successful in rallying the team in close games and putting her teammates in scoring position throughout the season. She leads the America East with 804 assists and ranks in the top 100 in the nation.

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“I have to owe it to my teammates who give me the assists,” Sakowicz said. “I just keep working night in and night out.”

Sakowicz has been named the Setter of the Week seven times this season, but she remains focused on contributing to the team’s success over her own.

“[It’s] great,” Sakowicz said after winning her fourth-consecutive weekly award. “It is not really about the rewards — I am more rewarded in how we are doing as a team and how we are improving throughout the season. The results are awesome to have but it’s all about these girls.”

The award makes her the first Stony Brook Volleyball player to win at least seven weekly awards in one season since outside hitter Melissa Rigo in 2012. Rigo won a school record  seven America East Rookie of the Week awards and capped off the season by taking home the Rookie of the Year title. Still an avid supporter of the team, she noted how Sakowicz has transitioned seamlessly as a vocal leader on the floor.

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“She is the quarterback, essentially by being the setter,” Rigo said. “Her play, not that it is dependent on them winning, is such a main factor on getting them to that point. She is setting them up in all the right ways and you can just tell this season that the confidence is there. To see that someone is about to break [the record] is awesome.”

Sakowicz has benefited from being able to set up a veteran frontcourt against novice defenses. Outside hitters graduate Emily Costello and junior Maria Poole and senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks have played as the archetype frontcourt for the conference to emulate, each earning Player of the Week honors this year.

Brooks has excelled in her role as the Seawolves’ leading scorer by earning 238 total kills so far. She became the 11th Stony Brook player to earn 1,000 career kills and passed Rigo for ninth place with 1,137. Rigo, who began following Brooks back when she was in high school, praised the senior’s ability to dominate on the hardwood.

“Seeing her hit this career milestone is incredible,” Rigo said. “It is awesome to see the growth she has. She is not done yet, she is going to do some special things for this team at the end of the season.”

The backcourt has constantly made its presence known late in sets, extending serves with strong digs that convert to Stony Brook points. Sophomore libero/defensive specialist Kianni Kerstetter has picked up from leading the America East with 535 digs last season by earning three Defensive Specialist of the Week awards for her consistent play this year. Kerstetter currently leads the team with 322 digs and an average of four per set.

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Kenneth Fermin

Kenneth is a sophomore journalism major. Kenneth started writing for the sports section in his first semester freshman year and was promoted to assistant sports editor as a sophomore. He also has a great passion for sports broadcasting, working for WUSB 90.1 and Stony Brook Sportsbreak in the past. Contact: [email protected]

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