The opening match of the America East championship tournament was a five-set thriller, but the Stony Brook volleyball team’s season came to a heartbreaking end against the hosting UMBC Retrievers on Friday, Nov. 19.
The fourth-seeded Seawolves played perhaps their best match of the season on Friday, but it still wasn’t enough to hand the No. 1 Retrievers their first loss against an America East opponent. After getting swept by the Retrievers a week prior, the Seawolves looked better prepared from the start and gave UMBC fits all game.
Stony Brook opened the first set with an 8-5 lead, but the Retrievers came back to tie the score at 11-11. The Seawolves took a brief two-point lead before a 3-0 run gave UMBC a 16-15 lead. After Stony Brook took an 18-17 lead, the two teams traded points until the Retrievers pulled ahead 22-21. A strong service run by sophomore setter Torri Henry sparked a 4-0 run to give the Seawolves their 25-22 set one victory.
The Seawolves continued their momentum by opening the second set on a 6-0 run, but the Retrievers worked quickly to force a 7-7 tie. The largest lead after that tie was three points, as the two teams battled back and forth throughout the set. Down 24-23, the Seawolves took a 25-24 lead to set up set point, but freshman outside hitter Mia Bilusic led the Retrievers on a 3-0 run to tie the match at 1-1 heading into the third set.
The Seawolves again jumped out to a big lead, but a 6-0 run put the Retrievers ahead 12-11 before they extended their lead to 21-18. Redshirt junior middle blocker Enitan Omolewa’s two kills led a 3-0 run to force a 21-21 tie and the two teams traded points until the Retrievers earned set point up 25-24. But the Seawolves forced three straight UMBC attack errors to earn a 27-25 win in set three.
The first America East opponent to win two sets against UMBC all season, Stony Brook needed just one more set win to pull off the stunner against a team that dominated conference opponents all year long.
On the brink of elimination, the Retrievers got out to an 11-7 lead in the fourth set. While the Seawolves cut the deficit to one point at 17-16, the Retrievers went on a 5-0 run to hold the lead the rest of the way. The Retrievers’ 25-19 set four win marked the largest margin of the victory for the entire match.
Three of the Retrievers’ matches this season went to a fifth set, but none of them came against an America East opponent. The largest lead at any point in the fifth set was two points and it belonged to the Retrievers until they earned match point up 14-12. With their backs against the wall, the Seawolves flipped the script with a 3-0 run to take a 15-14 lead with the chance to advance to the final round.
However, the Seawolves let the opportunity slip, as Omolewa’s serve went into the net to tie the set before an attack attempt by junior outside hitter Amiyah De’Long also found the net. UMBC graduate opposite hitter Grace Rigsbee’s 13th kill clinched the 17-15 set five and match win to advance the Retrievers to the championship round.
The exciting match lasted over two and a half hours and featured incredible exchanges between both teams. In the title match, the reigning champion Retrievers came back from a 2-0 set deficit to beat Albany in five sets on Saturday, Nov. 20.
The Seawolves came a long way from their 0-4 start to the season, but they will return home empty-handed after this loss.