Down 21-20 in the first set at home against a winless Binghamton team, Stony Brook Volleyball needed to pick up the urgency. Senior middle blocker Kendra Harlow, the match’s leader in kills, delivered a perfectly placed attack just inside the boundary to put the Seawolves back on top. They would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the set.
Stony Brook ultimately pulled together to close out the second set strong and dominate in set three to earn the sweep of Binghamton, a team that they had defeated in three sets earlier this season on the road on Oct. 6. The Seawolves pulled into sole possession of third place in the America East, improving their record to 9-13 (4-3 AE) while the Bearcats dropped to 0-19 (0-6 AE).
“I’m really excited,” Harlow said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “I think that we’re really building momentum in the second half of the conference, and this [win] is important to the team. It felt really good to win on our home court.”
Binghamton posed a challenge early on by playing aggressively near the net, causing most of the points to be decided in the frontcourt. Light bounces that fell just outside the reach of defenders contributed to much of the offense. Seven straight Bearcats points gave them the 14-11 lead in set one, with the rally killed by a service error from sophomore setter Kiara Adams.
Stony Brook fell down by as much as four, but crawled back through timely kills and continued Binghamton service errors. With the Bearcats facing set point, a tense and dramatic rally ended anticlimactically as a blown whistle signified an attack error on Bearcats freshman outside hitter Audrey Haworth, giving the Seawolves the 25-23 comeback victory in the first set.
The front-heavy play led to an overall messy frame, especially on Stony Brook’s side as they committed eight errors — half of their match total — leading to a .105 hitting percentage. Binghamton hit .211 in the first set, but trouble with the serve doomed them as their six service errors cost them the win.
“I wish we would have come out of the locker room more crisp and focused,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “It goes one of two ways: you can allow it to stress you out and let it carry over to the rest of the night, or you can address it and make the changes. I thought our group made the changes, so it was good to see us get better throughout the night.”
The two teams’ paths diverged as the Seawolves would only improve from there on out, whereas the Bearcats’ hitting numbers descended. Binghamton took early control of the second set with a 7-2 lead, although another service error halted their momentum. Stony Brook scored five consecutive points to go on top 13-10 and would never trail for the rest of the match. The Bearcats burned both of their timeouts late in the set in an attempt to slow down the Seawolves, but couldn’t as the home team took the second set 25-18, with senior outside hitter Jordan Gels dealing the final blow with her kill.
Stony Brook dominated early in set three, scoring the first four points and going up 7-2, yet still had to fight off a surging Binghamton that managed to narrow the deficit to just one. The recently-substituted freshman outside hitter Amiyah De’Long made a large impact in her brief time on the court, recording three kills in five total attacks to enlarge the Seawolves’ lead. Stony Brook ended the set strong, embarking on an 8-1 run to close out the set and earn the 25-14 victory.
The Seawolves’ best offensive performance of the night came in the third set when they recorded 12 kills against just three errors for a .409 hitting percentage. The wide margin of victory in the set was also helped by Binghamton’s sloppy play, as the Bearcats committed eight errors while earning eight kills, hitting a flat .000.
“We focused on the defensive side of the game,” Belzung said. “We felt like we needed to be clean in our transition scoring, and I thought we got better at that as the match went on. [Binghamton’s] struggles are not having enough weapons, and I thought we let them score too easily early on.”
Stony Brook effectively spread out their offense in the match, with five players attempting at least 14 total attacks and no one attempting more than 21. Harlow, along with Binghamton junior outside hitter Francela Ulate, led all players with eight kills. Redshirt-freshman middle blocker Enitan Omolewa played a key role in the Seawolves’ frontcourt with one solo block and four block assists.
Looking ahead, Stony Brook is about to enter a crucial part of the schedule with two straight road matches; the first is on Friday, Nov. 8 with the UMBC Retrievers followed by a Sunday, Nov. 10 bout with the first-place Albany Great Danes.
“We know UMBC and Albany really well at this point,” Belzung said. “We’ve got to execute. I think a big piece of that is going to be scoring in transition and trying to make sure we’re not allowing rallies to extend too far.”