Having just won their first home game of the season on Tuesday against St. Francis Brooklyn, the Stony Brook volleyball team played their final tournament to start the season in New Haven, Connecticut from Friday, Sept. 20 to Saturday, Sept. 21. In the Yale Invitational, the Seawolves dropped matches against host Yale as well as Army but notched their fourth victory of the year by defeating Sacred Heart in five sets.
“[Saturday] was a mixed bag,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a press release. “We were the most disciplined we have been defensively against Sacred Heart and gritted out a win. We turned around and lacked effort and care for our basic shot responsibilities and the consequence was an ugly loss to a smart and physical Army team. With America East play starting next week, we will look to tune up with a week of training before heading to Hartford.”
Senior outside hitter Liz Pulver and junior libero Kiani Kerstetter were named to the All-Tournament team after Pulver earned 26 kills and Kerstetter recorded 45 digs over the three matches. Pulver had previously been named to the All-Tournament team of the Home2 Suites Tallahassee Seminole Invitational and the Bulldog Invite, while Kerstetter received the honor at the James Madison University Invitational.
Stony Brook currently stands at 4-10 with conference play in front of them. At this time last year, the team was 6-8 and two games deep into the 17-game winning streak that would send them to the NCAA Tournament. Among all America East schools, New Hampshire currently boasts the best record at 9-3 entering Sunday, Sept. 22. However, not all non-conference schedules are created equally; New Hampshire has faced one non-ranked Power 5 opponent (Rutgers) whereas Stony Brook has had to contend with three Power 5 schools, two of which were ranked.
In Friday’s contest against the Yale Bulldogs, Stony Brook played close to begin the first set but saw Yale slowly slip away after three straight kills put the Bulldogs up by six. An attack error from Pulver gave Yale the set, 25-17. Set two was more of the same, where the Bulldogs scored six points in a row to lead by nine and ultimately win 25-14.
The third set was the most competitive of all, where the Seawolves used a 7-2 run to erase a five-point deficit and tie the score at 19. Two consecutive kills from Yale junior outside hitter Kathryn Attar would prove to be the dagger, giving the Bulldogs the set 25-21 and the sweep.
Regrouping for Saturday morning’s bout versus the Sacred Heart Pioneers, Stony Brook quickly scored the first six points of the first set and never trailed. As the team’s lead was whittled down to two, the Seawolves secured the frame with four straight kills to end it 25-19, three coming from freshman outside hitter Amiyah De’Long.
Stony Brook appeared to be heading for a 2-0 match lead, having led Sacred Heart for almost all of the second set and holding onto a 23-21 advantage. The Pioneers racked up four in a row to even the match up, utilizing two Seawolves attack errors and two kills from redshirt-senior outside hitter Makayla Dole. In set three, the Seawolves had to play from behind, staring down a 14-8 Pioneer lead but narrowed it to one after a Pulver kill made the score 20-19. Sacred Heart ultimately took the set 25-20 on a kill from sophomore setter Sarah Ciszek.
With the Seawolves one set away from another disappointing loss, Sacred Heart jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the fourth set and appeared to be in the driver’s seat. Stony Brook refused to go down easily, stringing together four points in a row to force a Sacred Heart timeout. It was the start of a 10-2 run that put the Seawolves in the lead. Junior middle blocker Nicole Jones, who missed all of 2018, recorded the decisive kill to give Stony Brook the 25-19 win and force the winner-take-all fifth set.
The fifth set was closely fought, and both teams found themselves with eight points apiece after a back-and-forth struggle. Two Sacred Heart attack errors turned the tide in Stony Brook’s favor, and two more kills gave the Seawolves a sizable advantage. Facing match point, senior middle blocker Kendra Harlow got the kill and gave Stony Brook the 15-11 win.
Coming back hours later to take on the Army Black Knights, Stony Brook struggled to put up a fight as the Seawolves were swept handily. The team could not defend against Army’s offensive firepower and committed several attack errors leading to a 25-8 defeat in the opening set. Despite getting the first two points of the second set, the rough stretch continued as Army won 25-11.
The Seawolves’ best offensive showing of the match came in set three, where they scored almost as many points as the other two sets combined but still ultimately fell short, losing 25-18. For the match, Stony Brook hit .040, recording 19 kills to 15 errors. In comparison, Army held a .424 hitting percentage on the back of 49 kills and only seven errors.
Pulver’s 26 kills throughout the tournament were a team-high, and she leads the team with 133 on the season. After missing Tuesday’s game, De’Long returned to action and picked up where she left off by earning 24 kills, including a game-high 13 against Sacred Heart.
Stony Brook will begin America East play on Friday, Sept. 27, facing the Hartford Hawks in West Hartford, Connecticut at 7 p.m.