The Stony Brook volleyball team took an early two-set lead against the New Hampshire Wildcats on Friday, Oct. 8 at Pritchard Gymnasium only to watch the opposition claw back and force a decisive fifth set.
Needing a win to stay afloat in the conference standings, Stony Brook performed when it needed to the most, moving to 8-10 (2-2 AE) by defeating the Wildcats 15-11 in set five.
The Seawolves were without junior outside hitter Amiyah De’Long and freshman outside hitter Erin Garr, who entered the weekend as Stony Brook’s third and fifth highest scorers, respectively.
“I’m happy that we found a way to grit out a win,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in an interview with The Statesman. “It wasn’t the lineup that we expected to have on the court, but the kids that were on the court stepped up and just played hard and played for each other. We talked a lot about just being a really good teammate and trying to do things that put your teammates in a better situation, and I thought we did those things and it was tough, but it worked.”
Stony Brook took control early in the first set with an 8-5 lead, forcing a UNH timeout. The Seawolves extended their lead to 17-12, but the Wildcats fought back to force a tie at 18-18. Following a Stony Brook timeout, the Seawolves went on a 5-0 run powered by two service aces from graduate libero Kiani Kerstetter and two kills from senior outside hitter Hailey Barden. UNH cut the deficit to two points, but it was too little too late as a kill followed by an emphatic block from redshirt junior middle blocker Enitan Omolewa punctuated Stony Brook’s 25-21 set one win.
The second set began with both teams trading points until the Seawolves took a 15-14 lead, when they went on a 4-0 run to take control late in the frame. Following a UNH timeout down 19-14, the Wildcats put one point on the board before the Seawolves used a 3-0 run to take a 22-15 lead. Another 3-0 run, which included a kill and a block from sophomore middle blocker Abby Campbell, ended the Seawolves’ 25-16 win.
The Wildcats got off to a hot start in the third set, taking a 6-1 lead to force a Stony Brook timeout. The Seawolves fought back and cut the deficit to one point at 14-13, but the Wildcats got back on track after a timeout and extended their lead to 18-14. The Wildcats finished their 25-17 win on a 5-0 run to force a fourth set.
“We gave them a little life in the third set,” Belzung said. “They got into a little rhythm offensively and I didn’t think we stepped up our defensive game to match their offensive effort.”
The two teams went back and forth to start the fourth set, with two points being the largest lead until the middle of the set. The Seawolves led 15-13, but the Wildcats suddenly got hot and went on an 8-1 run to take a commanding 21-16 lead. Stony Brook cut the deficit to three points and forced a UNH timeout at 22-19, but the Wildcats went on a 3-0 run out of the timeout to end their 25-19 set four win.
Stony Brook came out firing in the fifth and final set, taking a 3-0 lead and forcing a UNH timeout. The Seawolves kept the pressure on with a 5-0 run to extend their lead to 8-2 and the Stony Brook faithful had Pritchard rocking.
“We needed the energy from them,” Omolewa said about the fans in an interview with The Statesman. “I’m really happy that they all came out to support us and got loud.”
The Wildcats responded to the pressure with their own 5-0 run to cut the deficit to one, but the Seawolves answered with another 5-0 run to take control up 13-7. UNH put a few more points on the board, but a block by Omolewa sealed Stony Brook’s 15-11 set five and match win.
Sophomore outside hitter Leoni Kunz led the Seawolves with 16 kills and 16.5 points, while Barden, Campbell, and Omolewa each recorded double-digit kills. Sophomore setter Torri Henry led the Seawolves with 44 assists and a career high tying 21 digs.
The Seawolves are in fifth place in the America East with eight games remaining in the regular season. They’ll have another chance to climb the rankings next weekend when they host the NJIT Highlanders on Friday, Oct. 15 at 6 p.m., and the Binghamton Bearcats on Sunday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. at Pritchard Gymnasium.