The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

26° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

Stony Brook women’s volleyball looking to return to CAA tournament in year two

Middle blocker Abby Campbell leaps to spike the ball against Tarleton State while her teammates get set on Sept. 9, 2021. The Stony Brook women’s volleyball team is looking to return to the CAA playoffs this year. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

Though the 2022 season was not particularly kind to the Stony Brook women’s volleyball team, it salvaged a rough first year in a new conference with a playoff berth. However, the Seawolves’ route to the 2023 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) volleyball tournament just got longer, as the field size has shrunk from eight teams to six. To compete for a championship in year two, they are going to have to improve upon their 10-16 record (5-11 in conference) and eighth-place finish from last season.

The team believes that Stony Brook is strong enough to take the next step this year. All of its players are returning from last season, with the exception of setter Julia Kim, defensive specialist Alex Krawczyk and outside hitter Erin Garr — none of whom were regular starters.

The team ranked in the top half of the CAA in several important statistical categories, such as kills, hitting percentage, service aces and points per set. Though their offense was good, the Seawolves still struggled to clinch a playoff berth, waiting until the last weekend of the regular season to do so.

For Stony Brook to return to the playoffs in 2023, it will have to finish in the top half of the CAA’s standings. But the CAA’s preseason poll has the Seawolves buried at ninth in the conference. Head coach Kristin Belzung believes that the team needs to improve physically in order to prove these predictions wrong.

“We’ve got to find a way to score faster in rallies,” Belzung said in an interview with The Statesman. “I thought last year, we tried to keep the ball alive and compete grittily and have more of a defensive focus on it. This year, I want to see us work faster and be more physical.”

There are specific areas that plagued Stony Brook last year and prevented it from finishing higher than eighth place. The Seawolves went just 2-9 in their Saturday matches, including 1-7 against CAA opponents. Another issue was their late-game performances in the close matches.

Now with a year’s worth of experience playing good teams in late-game scenarios, Belzung believes Stony Brook’s win total should increase.

“That’s one of the things about playing really good competition night in and night out,” Belzung said. “It takes experience when it’s 23-23 to figure out how to earn that victory. I think we gained that towards the end of the year.”

Stony Brook’s solid core of returning players gives the team a positive outlook coming into this year. The team returns three of the CAA’s top 11 scorers with outside hitters Kali Moore and Leoni Kunz, along with middle blocker Abby Campbell.

Moore was fifth in the CAA last year in both points per set (3.74) and kills per set (3.26), earning 2022 CAA Rookie of the Year honors. Campbell was second in the CAA in hitting percentage (.361) and 10th in points per set (3.27). Kunz was the team’s third-leading scorer last year with 306.5 points, finishing just one behind Campbell for the conference’s top 10.

Moore was regarded as one of the best players in the conference coming into this year, as she was selected for the 2023 All-CAA Preseason Team this year.

Meanwhile, Campbell spearheads the group of Seawolves in their senior year whose primary goal is to go all the way.

“We’ve been here for four years,” Campbell said. “That mentality going forward is just that we want to win the championship.”

Kunz was fifth in the conference last year in hit percentage and put up career-highs in scoring numbers. Her 276 kills also fell just short of the CAA’s top 10. She believes that, in order for Stony Brook to improve upon its 2022 record, the team is going to have to be able to win ugly.

“Continue to be gritty and stay hungry,” Kunz said. “We all want it, so it’s going to be about what work we’re putting in outside of volleyball to achieve it. Whatever we have to do to win, we’ll do it”

The Seawolves have other difference makers as well. Setter Torri Henry facilitated the offense at a high level for her first three years with the team and was one of the top players at her position in the CAA last year. Both her 860 assists and 8.60 assists per set ranked fourth in the conference.

Henry is looking to lean into her veteran experience this year, both on the court and off it.

“Individually, I want to expand my decision-making,” Henry said. “I’m also trying to expand my leadership and how I lead. We do have six new freshmen, and I am a senior, so I know what goes on now.”

Henry feels that her decisions with the ball improved in the spring, which may help her rack up even more assists this year. Belzung agrees, noting that she is running the offense “like a coach.”

Stony Brook’s biggest struggle last year was its defense. The team finished second-to-last in opponents hit percentage (.241) and service aces allowed per set (1.81), while also allowing the third-most kills per set (12.75) in the CAA.

One of the best defensive players on the team is libero Julia Patsos. Patsos was ninth in the CAA in digs per set last year (3.51) and led the team with 347 digs. Middle blocker Saige Bradley co-led the team in blocks with 63, tying her with Campbell. Bradley achieved that feat in just 68 sets, giving her an average of .93 blocks per set and ranking 10th in the conference.

Though most of the roster is back from last year, the Seawolves have also added six new freshmen to the squad. Belzung named pin hitter Ava Jackson and defensive specialist Madison Cigna as two freshmen players to watch this year.

“I think Ava Jackson is somebody who’s coming in at a little more of a physical level from a pin perspective,” Belzung said. “She has the ability to ball control and has the ability to score. I also think Maddie Cigna … is coming in read to go. She’s pretty locked in, competitive, feisty and fun.”

Though Stony Brook still has some questions to answer on the backline, Henry believes its versatility in skill will lead it to a successful second year in the CAA.

“I think we’re all very complementary pieces,” Henry said. “Not everyone is going to guess what we’re going to do. We compete, and you can’t ever count us out.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *