The Stony Brook volleyball team in a game against UMBC on Feb. 27. The Seawolves lost all three games at the FAU Invite on Aug. 27 and 28. KATHERINE PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

For the third straight year, the Stony Brook volleyball team began the season with an 0-3 record. The Seawolves were swept at the Florida Atlantic Tournament in Boca Raton on Aug. 27 and 28 despite double-doubles from sophomore outside hitter Leoni Kunz in the first two games.

The Seawolves showed promise in their season-opening match against Florida Atlantic but could not overcome Owls outside hitter Klara Zarnovicka’s 22 kills. Stony Brook rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game but lost the decisive fifth set 15-4.

Like last year, an inability to stop their opponent’s momentum doomed Stony Brook early. Down by one point in the first set, the Seawolves allowed Zarnovicka to go on an eight-point service run and make the score 14-6.

The second set was a similar story, with Stony Brook’s 12-6 lead quickly evaporating. Multiple attack errors by both teams eventually led to a 25-25 tie, but two straight Zarnovicka kills put the game away.

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There was room for optimism in the third and fourth sets, both narrow Seawolves victories. Senior outside hitter Hailey Barden recorded five of her team-high 13 kills in the third set, including one that broke an 18-18 tie and paved the way to a 25-23 victory.

However, the Seawolves were greatly outmatched in the fifth set. Twelve of Florida Atlantic’s 15 points came on kills, and they twice scored five consecutive points to win the match.

The nightcap was even more disappointing. Up 2-0 against Wofford, Stony Brook committed 17 errors in the final three sets, losing all three and dropping their second game of the season.

Kunz’s double-double came in the form of 17 kills and 12 digs, and sophomore middle blocker Abby Campbell tied her career best with a team-high 18 kills on .607 hitting. But the Seawolves, once again lacking star power, had no answer for Wofford outside hitter Meghan Yaffa’s 24 kills.

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Stony Brook took an early lead in the first set and sealed the win with five unanswered kills halfway through, three of them by junior outside hitter Amiyah De’Long.

Stony Brook’s 32-30 second set victory was the highlight of the weekend. After the Seawolves erased a four-point deficit to tie the score at 17, neither team led by more than two points. De’Long and Campbell finally broke the gridlock with consecutive kills to put Stony Brook up 2-0.

It was the last set the Seawolves would win during the tournament. Wofford won the next three sets, all by at least four points. However, head coach Kristin Belzung was still impressed by her team’s effort.

“To say we had to grind through it a bit is an understatement,” Belzung said. “But I’m proud of our effort and I think we have the pieces to be really good — especially seeing how balanced we were offensively. But we have to find a way as a group to finish the job. Sometimes it comes down to guts and while I thought we showed spurts of really exciting things, we need to feel a pit in our stomach about losing these.” 

That balance was not on display Saturday. Redshirt-junior middle blocker Enitan Omolewa impressed with a .533 hitting percentage and nine kills, but the Seawolves lost in straight sets to North Florida.

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Stony Brook notched seven kills in the first 13 points of the first set to take a 9-4 lead but fell victim to yet another opponent rally. The Ospreys won six straight points to take a lead they would not relinquish en route to a 25-21 win.

The Seawolves trailed for the entire second set before finally finding life near the end of the third set. Down 18-15, Omolewa strung together a six-point service run that included two aces and gave Stony Brook the lead, but North Florida earned kills on four of the final five points to escape with a 28-26 win in the set.

“While this weekend wasn’t what we wanted from a results standpoint, I still think we have the pieces to be successful this season,” Belzung said. “We are focused on the process and I thought even the errors we made were good decisions but poorly executed. The execution will follow and we have a week in the gym to work on that.” 

The Seawolves still have 11 games to get back on track before conference play begins. They will travel to Towson, Maryland for a three-game tournament next weekend.

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