Riding a two-game winning streak, the Stony Brook volleyball team came close to securing two more key conference victories last weekend but settled for a split as the Seawolves narrowly fell in five sets against the Albany Great Danes on Friday, Oct. 11 only to rebound by sweeping the UMBC Retrievers on Sunday, Oct. 13. With another win and another loss in the record books, the Seawolves currently stand at 7-12 (2-2 AE), fourth in the conference.
“I’m proud of our group for bouncing back and staying focused defensively,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a press release after Sunday’s victory. “I thought we had opportunities to be in a better rhythm offensively but our defensive effort allowed us to compete. We are excited for a little extra training time this week before heading back on the road to New Hampshire next weekend.”
The Great Danes made their return to Stony Brook for the first time since the Seawolves defeated them in a five-set thriller on Nov. 17, 2018, in the America East title game. Friday’s meeting was a back-and-forth battle that lived up to the expectations set by the contentious New York rivalry.
From the opening serve, the match was tightly contested. In the first set, neither team could maintain momentum as the lead changed multiple times. With the score knotted up at 21 apiece, Stony Brook finally broke through, scoring four of the set’s last five points to win 25-22, sealing it on an attack error from Albany junior middle blocker Danielle Tedesco.
The second set initially unfolded in a similar fashion before the tides turned quickly. With Stony Brook holding a slim two point lead, Albany caught fire with seven straight points to go up 15-10, driven by attack errors on senior outside hitter Maria Poole and three consecutive kills from redshirt-senior right side hitter Akuabata Okenwa. While Stony Brook lowered their deficit to two, Albany scored five in a row to put the set out of reach and ultimately won 25-19 to tie the match at one set.
Set three looked to be in the Seawolves’ hands when they took a 22-14 lead to cap off a 14-5 run. The Great Danes would not die easily and were able to crawl back within striking distance by capitalizing on sloppy play on Stony Brook’s end. A combination of attack errors, mental mistakes and errant passes led to Albany scoring eight of the next nine points to make it a 23-22 game. Stony Brook avoided the full collapse and took the set 25-22 after Albany senior outside hitter Chloe Evering’s attack attempt couldn’t make it past the net.
Up three with the ability to win the match in the fourth set, Stony Brook fell apart down the stretch yet again. The Great Danes aggressively attacked the backcourt to their advantage, ending the set on a 12-4 run as the Seawolves had no answer to the offensive firepower Albany set up in front. Okenwa, the Great Danes’ most dangerous offensive weapon, delivered the final kill to win 25-19 and to force the decisive fifth set.
The fifth set established Friday’s match as one of the greatest in recent America East memory. Falling down 8-4, the situation looked bleak for the Seawolves before they took the lead by rattling together five consecutive points. Stony Brook had the advantage and looked to go up by two late in the set when a controversial out call was changed to in by the line judge. Up 14-13, senior outside hitter Jordan Gels’ attack flew out of bounds to tie the game once again. Albany would take a one-point lead on the ensuing kill.
This begun a back-and-forth sequence where Stony Brook faced match point only to repeatedly stave off defeat. Every time the Great Danes got the kill to put them up one, the Seawolves responded with a point of their own. Both teams traded scoring until a service error from senior outside hitter Liz Pulver and a block by Okenwa put an end to the stalemate, with Albany taking the fifth set 20-18 and the match. Okenwa led all players with 19 kills, while Pulver’s 18 led all Seawolves.
Sunday’s matchup against UMBC got Stony Brook back in the win column. In the first set, a 7-1 run broke a 6-all tie and the Seawolves never looked back. Pulver’s kill capped off the 25-20 win in a frame that saw Stony Brook’s best hitting percentage (.300) and UMBC’s worst (.195) of the afternoon.
The Retrievers were on a roll to start the second set, attacking the Seawolves’ frontcourt with well-timed blocks and benefiting from poor passing to take a 15-5 lead. Pulver was then substituted back into the game, sparking a Stony Brook comeback as they chipped away at their deficit and tied the game at 20 before redshirt-freshman middle blocker Nia Wattley secured the set with a block that handed the Seawolves the 25-22 victory.
Set three initially looked like an easy Stony Brook victory after they strung together 11 points in a row to go up 14-3. However, in what could be described as a reversal of the second set’s fortunes, UMBC did not roll over easily and kept the Seawolves on their heels as they started to land their kills. Facing match point, the Retrievers whittled Stony Brook’s lead down to one, but it was all for naught as freshman outside hitter Amiyah De’Long’s kill brought the set to a 25-23 final and a sweep for the Seawolves.
Senior middle blocker Kendra Harlow led all players with 14 kills in Sunday’s match, hitting .542 and committing just one error while also contributing two block assists. The loss dropped UMBC to 3-14 on the season and 0-3 against America East opponents.
Stony Brook will look to build off Sunday’s win when they travel to Durham, New Hampshire to take on the New Hampshire Wildcats on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.