Leaving a rough 0-5 start in the past, the Stony Brook volleyball team earned its first victories of the spring 2021 season by sweeping a doubleheader against the NJIT Highlanders in straight sets on Sunday, March 7 at the Wellness and Events Center in Newark, New Jersey.
“I’m really proud of our group for not only coming in locked in and executing the game plan, but staying focused and continuing to adapt throughout the match,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in a postgame press release.
The wins improved Stony Brook’s record to 2-5 (2-2 AE) as Belzung earned her 50th win as Seawolves head coach after the second match.
After an error-riddled series against UMBC, Stony Brook benefited greatly from NJIT’s miscues in the first match of Sunday’s doubleheader. The Highlanders committed 21 errors against just 19 kills for a hitting percentage of -.024, and the Seawolves’ average margin of victory was 10.3 points per set.
Stony Brook dominated the first set, winning 25-10. The Seawolves broke away by scoring 10 unanswered points to go up 18-4, a run that started with two consecutive Highlanders attack errors and ended with a service ace from redshirt-sophomore middle blocker Enitan Omolewa.
In the second set, NJIT was able to keep pace with Stony Brook as a result of the Seawolves’ mistakes. An early 7-7 deadlock saw the Highlanders score five of those points via attack errors, but sophomore outside hitter Amiyah De’Long led the Seawolves to a strong finish. Her three late kills played a large role in her team scoring seven of the last eight points in the set in a 25-15 win.
Although the third set was the tightest, Stony Brook was able to stave off a late NJIT comeback, not willing to blow another two-set lead. The Seawolves held a 21-12 advantage before the Highlanders rattled off five in a row, with Omolewa and freshman outside hitter Lauren Schmitz trading attack errors twice. A bad set from NJIT freshman setter Kyla Lannert gave Stony Brook the 25-19 set victory and the sweep for its first win of the season.
“Our serving really got us off to a great start and didn’t allow NJIT to get into a rhythm,” Belzung said. “In addition, we were really balanced offensively throughout the day and were able to get kills from different people as we needed them.”
The Seawolves’ attack was balanced in the first match, with five players notching six or more kills. Freshman middle blocker Abby Campbell led the way with eight.
All three sets of the second match were more tightly contested, but Stony Brook still ended up on top in all of them.
NJIT again threatened to come back late in the first set as Stony Brook’s lead grew as large as eight. This time, the Highlanders relied on both kills as well as the Seawolves’ miscues to instill a late scare, but an attack error of their own handed Stony Brook the 25-20 win.
In an uncommon sight, the Highlanders jumped in front during set two, scoring 10 of the frame’s first 12 points. Even though Stony Brook was able to grab the lead back using a 7-0 run, the team did not fully put NJIT away until the very end, breaking a 22-22 tie with three points in a row off two kills and a bad set.
The third set saw Stony Brook come out strong, taking an 8-1 lead and keeping NJIT at distance for the rest of the frame. NJIT arguably played their best in set three, with only four attack errors leading to a .216 hitting percentage, the highest for the team in any of Sunday’s six sets. The Seawolves’ offense was stronger, earning 15 kills and three service aces in a 25-20 set victory.
De’Long led with 13 kills in the second match, and the pair of losses dropped NJIT to 0-5 (0-4 AE).
“It feels good to have a couple wins under our belts as we come back home for a pair against New Hampshire next weekend,” Belzung said.
Stony Brook will need to keep its momentum from Sunday’s victories going into another doubleheader against the New Hampshire Wildcats. The two matches are set to start at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, on Sunday, March 14 at Pritchard Gymnasium.