Weekend road trips to Baltimore and Albany ended in disappointment as the Stony Brook volleyball team dropped both matches in a three-day span to fall to 9-15 (4-5 AE) on the season. The Seawolves lost in four sets to the UMBC Retrievers on Friday, Nov. 8 before traveling upstate to face the Albany Great Danes on Sunday, Nov. 10, where they achieved the same result. Despite the two-game losing streak, Stony Brook was still able to clinch a spot in the America East playoffs.
“While we didn’t start the way we needed to I am proud of our group for adjusting and finding ways to compete, especially from a defensive standpoint,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a press release after the Albany match. “This is the most high error we have been and that prevented the defense from being enough to take us to a fifth set. We are looking forward to honoring our seniors on Friday in a key match to determine our conference tournament seeding.”
Friday’s match against the Retrievers saw the home team gain the initial advantage when four consecutive points put UMBC up 8-5. Although the Seawolves would tie the score up at 11, another four-point run — this one consisting of three kills and service ace — allowed the Retrievers to go up 15-11. Stony Brook had to play from behind for the remainder of the set and could never eclipse UMBC as they fell 25-21. While the Seawolves barely earned an edge in hitting percentage (.226 to .219), the Retrievers had one more kill.
The second set ended in the same final score, but it was Stony Brook that controlled the momentum early on. By scoring the first four points of the frame, the Seawolves built themselves a cushion that allowed them to go up 15-12 before the Retrievers mounted a run that put them in the driver’s seat. Six unanswered points swung the pendulum in UMBC’s favor 18-15, and Stony Brook did not help themselves by committing four attack errors during the stretch. The Seawolves never took the lead back and lost set two 25-21.
Unwilling to go down in a sweep, Stony Brook overcame an early 11-6 deficit, using a 9-2 run in the third set to take a 15-13 lead. It was the first dominant stretch they had mounted all night, but UMBC quickly scored three in a row to get the lead back. From there, the two squads fought back and forth, with neither team taking a lead greater than one. The set went into extra points where Stony Brook faced match point down 26-25; two attack errors from UMBC freshman outside hitter Kamani Conteh and a kill from senior middle blocker Kendra Harlow helped the Seawolves prevail 28-26.
The Seawolves faced a large hole early in the fourth set down 5-0 but used a four-point run to go up 10-9. Stony Brook’s largest lead of the set was two at 14-12, but they collapsed late and allowed UMBC to take the set and match unthreatened. The Retrievers scored 13 of the match’s final 15 points to take the set 25-16.
Senior outside hitter Maria Poole tied for the match-high in kills with 16, a single-game season-high for the Norwegian native. For the match, the Seawolves hit .199 compared to the Retrievers’ .265 as UMBC had more kills and fewer errors in fewer total attempts.
Facing the first-place Albany Great Danes on Sunday, the Seawolves were initially competitive in the first set before the Great Danes dominated late to take the frame 25-14 in a blowout. Errors were the death of Stony Brook, as they committed 11 errors against 11 kills for a .000 hitting percentage. Meanwhile, Albany had 13 kills against just two errors to hit .314, their best hitting set of the afternoon.
Albany did not hit well in the remainder of the match, but Stony Brook hit even worse. The second set saw the Great Danes go up early 9-3, but the Seawolves flipped the script during a 12-4 stretch that gave them a 15-13 advantage. Miscues continued to haunt Stony Brook as six of Albany’s final 12 points came as a result of a Seawolves error, and they ultimately lost the second set 25-22. Stony Brook committed another nine errors and hit .088.
The Seawolves were more competitive in set three, battling the Great Danes wire-to-wire. Late in the frame with Albany up 18-17, Stony Brook scored three in a row to take a two-point advantage but Albany quickly followed with four unanswered points to go up 22-20. The Seawolves were able to respond with four straight of their own, with three of those points coming off Great Danes attack errors. Albany senior outside hitter Chloe Evering got a kill to bring the score to 24-23, but Poole sunk the dagger with her own kill to win the set 25-23 for Stony Brook and keep the Seawolves alive.
Even though the fourth set initially began in a 7-7 deadlock, Albany began to pull away after four straight points and would widen their lead to as large as five, going up 20-15. With the match about to get away from Stony Brook, the Seawolves pulled themselves together and tied the set by scoring the next five points, three coming off kills and the other two off attack errors. The promise of the winner-take-all fifth set seemed so close, but Albany put the game away with their own five-point run to win 25-20 and take the match in four.
The Great Danes clinched the No. 1 seed in the America East playoffs with their victory. Despite losing two in a row, the Seawolves still clinched a spot in the postseason tournament, but they will not host it at Pritchard Gymnasium like they did a season ago.
Stony Brook plays their final regular season match of the year at home on Friday, Nov. 15 against the New Hampshire Wildcats, who are currently second in the America East with a 6-2 conference record and 16-7 overall.