The Stony Brook volleyball team remains in second place in the America East after splitting a two-game series against the Albany Great Danes and NJIT Highlanders on Friday, Nov. 5 and Sunday, Nov. 7.
The Seawolves (13-12, 7-4 AE) opened the weekend at Pritchard Gymnasium but fell in straight sets to the Great Danes, who clinched a playoff berth with their win.
The Great Danes took an early 6-2 lead in the first set, forcing a Stony Brook timeout. Albany kept scoring out of the timeout, but a 4-0 Seawolves run cut their deficit to one point. The Seawolves forced a tie at 11-11, but a 4-0 Albany run forced another Stony Brook timeout at 15-11. The Seawolves scored two points following the timeout, but the Great Danes regained control with an 8-0 run en route to their 25-16 set one win.
The Seawolves fought back from an early deficit to take a 6-5 lead in set two, but a 6-1 Albany run gave the Great Danes an 11-7 lead and forced a Stony Brook timeout. Following the timeout, the Seawolves came within one point before later forcing a 17-17 tie, but they were never able to retake the lead. Up 22-21, Albany took advantage of two consecutive Stony Brook errors to help close out their 25-22 set two victory.
The Great Danes looked to put the Seawolves away as they jumped out to a 14-7 lead in the third set, but a 5-0 Stony Brook run forced an Albany timeout with a 14-12 score. Albany regained control after the timeout and extended its lead to four points before a 4-0 run gave them a 24-16 lead. The Seawolves managed two more points, but it was too late to mount a comeback as Albany clinched a sweep with their 25-18 win in set three.
While Stony Brook’s .121 hitting percentage marked their fourth-lowest of the season, it was a slight improvement from the .110 percentage they posted in their matchup with Albany on Oct. 3.
“I thought we played really tentative,” head coach Kristin Belzung said in an interview with The Statesman. “We started on our heels and we couldn’t fight ourselves back out of being on our heels to get back on the attack. I thought we saw flashes of some really good things, but we couldn’t string points together in a way that would allow us to win the match.”
Stony Brook bounced back on Sunday with a road win in straight sets against NJIT.
After getting out to an early 10-4 lead in the first set, the Seawolves went on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 16-6. The Highlanders cut the deficit to six points, but another 6-0 run gave the Seawolves a 24-12 lead. NJIT managed only one point before a service error punctuated Stony Brook’s dominant 25-13 set one win.
Looking to bounce back, the Highlanders took a 7-2 lead to start the second set, but the Seawolves worked quickly to force an 8-8 tie before a 3-0 run gave them an 11-9 lead. The Seawolves extended their lead 17-13, but the Highlanders kept it close the rest of the way. Down 24-20, the Highlanders looked to mount a comeback, but they only managed two points before a kill by freshman outside hitter Erin Garr punctuated Stony Brook’s 25-22 win in set two.
The Seawolves opened the third set with a 6-0 run and later used a 4-0 run to take a commanding 12-3 lead. After that point, eight points was the Seawolves’ smallest lead, as sophomore middle blocker Abby Campbell’s six kills helped keep the set out of reach. A kill by redshirt junior middle blocker Nia Wattley ended the Seawolves’ 25-13 set three win and match sweep.
Campbell led the Seawolves with 12 kills, while Wattley recorded a season-high seven kills. The Seawolves committed only 11 attack errors and recorded a .280 hitting percentage on Sunday.
“It was good to come in today and execute at a high-level,” Belzung said in a press release. “I thought our defensive effort really locked in and put us in good situations. Overall, we were able to score thanks to being in system and giving our attackers some additional court to work with. This was an important match for us to come in focused and ready to roll and I am proud of our team for doing that.”
Stony Brook heads into its final game with a postseason berth already secured. The America East championship tournament teams have been set, with Albany and New Hampshire clinching the final two spots this weekend. The Seawolves currently hold second place in the conference, but they can fall as far as fourth place if they lose their regular season finale and Albany and New Hampshire each win their respective final games.
Stony Brook will look to clinch second place against the first-place UMBC Retrievers (16-11, 11-0 AE) on Friday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. in Pritchard Gymnasium.