Junior outside hitter Maria Poole’s kill sailed past a slew of Binghamton players and hit the ground as Stony Brook Volleyball celebrated on yet another rival’s court, wrapping up an improbable regular season. Ending the year on a 15-game winning streak, the 19-8 Seawolves finished a perfect 12-0 in conference play. It was the first time a team had gone undefeated in the America East since Albany went 10-0 in 2009, and their 12-0 conference record was the best in the history of the program.
Stony Brook was greatly challenged in their first matchup of the weekend on Friday, Nov. 9, as it barely edged out UMBC in five sets. The Seawolves found themselves down in an early hole as the Retrievers came out of the gate strong to win the first set 25-21. At one moment, UMBC scored six consecutive points and had a seven-point lead. Stony Brook, who hit a paltry .098 in the set, could not defend against a strong UMBC attack.
The Seawolves regrouped for the second set — hitting .362 and committing only four attack errors — but the Retrievers would not go down easily. Their 16-8 lead was whittled down to two points near the set’s end, but Stony Brook took the frame as an attack error on UMBC junior middle blocker Franchesca Reed put the finishing touch on a 25-21 win.
The third set was tightly contested until Stony Brook began to pull away, going on an 8-2 run that brought the score from a 15-16 deficit to a 23-18 advantage. Again, an attack error marked the set point, this time at the hands of UMBC sophomore outside hitter Carmen Freeman. The 25-19 set victory brought the Seawolves one set away from victory.
Stony Brook appeared to be in line for the victory, with a 23-20 lead in the waning moments of the fourth set. But UMBC mounted an impressive comeback, racking up four straight points and six of the set’s last seven to postpone Stony Brook’s celebration with a 26-24 win of their own. The Seawolves shot themselves in the foot in the fourth set, hitting .121 and committing nine attack errors.
With both teams at two sets apiece, the game was decided in the fifth set, a situation Stony Brook had not been in since their Sept. 14 collapse against Bryant – the last time they had lost. In a back-and-forth battle, the Seawolves jumped ahead at just the right time, winning 15-11. The match point was decided by another Freeman attack error. With their 14th straight win, the Seawolves improved to 18-8 (11-0) and clinched the America East outright.
Stony Brook traveled to Binghamton to face its in-state rival for the Sunday, Nov. 11 season finale. The 5-20 Bearcats looked to upset early, leading 16-8 midway through the first set. However, Stony Brook put together a furious comeback, embarking on a 14-3 run to close out the frame with a 25-21 victory. Despite being out-hit .273 to .282 by the Bearcats, the Seawolves took advantage of several attack errors to shift the momentum of the match in their favor.
Their first set collapse appeared to drain the life out of Binghamton, who was not competitive for the rest of Sunday’s game. The Bearcats specifically faltered in set two, hitting .000 and allowing the Seawolves to score the first five points. It was a deficit they could not crawl out of, as Stony Brook’s .400 hitting percentage helped them win the second set by a score of 25-14.
The sweep was completed quickly, as Binghamton used its first timeout of the third set already down 11-4. Poole’s aforementioned kill was the winning dagger, helping the Seawolves take the set 25-16 and the match in straight sets. Eight of Stony Brook’s 12 conference wins were sweeps, and Binghamton was no stranger to the broom – the Bearcats were swept in an October match on Long Island. Poole led all players with both 16 kills and 18 points.
The America East Championship will come to the Pritchard Gymnasium as No. 1 seeded-Stony Brook seeks to return to the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves, armed with home field advantage, will take on the Hartford Hawks in the semifinals on Friday at 6:30 p.m.