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Stony Brook women’s volleyball keeps season alive with monumental sweep

Middle blocker Abby Campbell (right) leaps to spike a set from setter Torri Henry (left) against William & Mary on Saturday, Oct. 28. Campbell had her best series of the year with 28.5 points and nine total blocks. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

With its postseason chances hanging on by a thread, the Stony Brook women’s volleyball team reinserted itself into the playoff picture with a pivotal sweep.

The Seawolves (12-13, 7-7 CAA) returned to Pritchard Gymnasium for their penultimate home series of the season against the William & Mary Tribe (12-12, 7-7 CAA). Stony Brook won the final three sets on Saturday to claim a 3-1 victory and cruised to a 3-0 sweep to close the weekend on Sunday.

The action kicked off on Saturday with a back-and-forth marathon in the first set. Trailing 19-18, kills by pin hitter Ava Jackson and middle blocker Abby Campbell sparked a 3-0 run to go up 21-19. After falling behind, the Tribe delivered a 4-0 spurt to go back in front 23-21. A kill by Campbell and Jackson tied the game again, and both teams traded points to force the set into extra action.

With the score tied at 27, William & Mary outside hitters Sarah Callender and Katherine Arnason provided back-to-back kills to clinch a 29-27 victory.

Despite the final score, head coach Kristin Belzung was impressed by her team’s performance in the first set.

“I think the reality is we were playing really well in the first set,” Belzung said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “The score of that set to me didn’t indicate how well we were playing.”

Belzung’s feeling aged well, as her team’s strong play eventually turned into wins. The Seawolves barrelled out to a 16-7 start, headlined by five kills from outside hitter Kali Moore. While the Tribe put together an 8-2 run to close the gap, Stony Brook responded with a 6-2 stretch to erase any doubt. After reaching the set point, a kill from outside hitter Leoni Kunz sealed a convincing 25-19 victory, evening the match at one set apiece.

The third set saw the Seawolves jump out to a six-point opening lead, aided by three William & Mary attack errors. This lead proved to be enough, as Stony Brook never let it slip away despite numerous comeback attempts by the Tribe. With her team leading 19-16, Jackson came up with a pair of kills and an ace, fueling a set-winning 7-2 run.

Needing just one more win to claim a weekend-opening triumph, Stony Brook came out hot once again. Kunz, Moore, Campbell and Jackson each registered kills on an 8-2 run, but William & Mary hung around on the back of a big performance by outside hitter Maddie Meyers. The game reached a 19-19 tie before the Tribe took the lead with back-to-back kills from middle blocker Olivia Exposito and outside hitter Taylor Burrell.

Now trailing 21-19, a pair of kills by Kunz sandwiched another by Moore, giving the Seawolves a one-point lead. However, a bad set by setter Torri Henry knotted things up at 22, but Campbell and Jackson picked her up with a kill each to move the game to set point. On the ensuing play, libero Julia Patsos served an ace which nailed the match in Stony Brook’s favor. 

Sunday’s opener was a competitive affair. With the set knotted at 14 all, the Seawolves claimed the lead on an attack error from Burrell. The miscue catapulted them to a 5-0 run, giving themselves a 19-14 lead. William & Mary never recovered, as Moore and Kunz closed the set out with consecutive kills to secure a 25-19 win.

The Tribe seemed to regroup and bounce back in the second set, as seven Stony Brook errors staked them to a 13-11 early lead. However, a pair of kills from Campbell as well as contributions from Moore and Jackson gave the Seawolves a 16-13 lead. Four kills by Callender helped lead William & Mary on a 9-5 run to go up 22-21, but a pair of her errors around a kill by Jackson gave Stony Brook a 24-22 lead. A kill by Callender made it a one-point set, but a kill by Kunz saw the Seawolves celebrating a 25-23 win.

Another hard-fought beginning had the third set evened at 16 after a pair of mistakes by the Seawolves. Jackson once again put the team on her back by unleashing three kills in a four-play span, giving it a 20-16 lead. After that, Jackson and company walked to the finish line, with Kunz icing the set and giving them a 25-20 win to secure the sweep.

Belzung praised the team’s well-rounded effort on Sunday.

“I think that’s been something that we’ve been shooting for in terms of building the program over the past few years is having balance in our roster,” Belzung said. “It’s been exciting to see people rise to that, too.”

Stony Brook’s offense was as efficient as it has been all season long. Its .319 hitting percentage across the weekend easily trumped the Tribe’s .217. It was the first time in three weeks in which the Seawolves offense saw their hitting percentage eclipse the .300 mark.

Moore led Stony Brook with 32 kills between the two games. Her performance Saturday was among her best of the season as she recorded a double-double (17 kills and 21 digs) while also hitting at a .375 clip. She also led the team with 33 total points over the weekend.

Her higher hitting percentage can be attributed to a slightly more methodical approach.

“I think we really wanted to have variability in our offense,” Moore said. “Just mixing in those tips when we didn’t think we could really get a big swing really helped us.”

Jackson was a major contributor with 27.5 points, coming by way of 22 kills, three aces, and five block assists across the weekend. Her .370 hitting percentage on Sunday was the highest of the season in matches that she played more than one set. Campbell had a big weekend as well, scoring 28.5 points and leading the team with nine blocks (three solo and six assists). Kunz was the fourth 20-point scorer this weekend with 26.5 points.

Henry totaled 97 assists, bolstering her stranglehold on the Coastal Athletic Association’s (CAA) leaderboard. The senior also tallied 29 digs this weekend including a season-high 17 on Sunday.

The Stony Brook defense turned in one of its strongest outings of the year. The team totaled 123 digs. Moore’s 33 digs and Patsos’ 27 led the pack.

The Seawolves will spend the week at home before taking on the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks at home. The Seahawks are 10-14 this year and 7-7 in CAA play after being swept in two matches by Delaware. Opening set is penciled in for 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

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