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Stony Brook women’s volleyball’s playoff push continues against UNCW

Pin hitter Ava Jackson jumps to spike the ball against William & Mary on Saturday, Oct. 28. Jackson is the reigning conference Rookie of the Week. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

After last weekend’s huge sweep, the Stony Brook women’s volleyball team has an opportunity to continue ascending in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) standings.

The Seawolves (12-13, 7-7 CAA) will host the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks (10-14, 7-7 CAA) this weekend at Pritchard Gymnasium for a two-match series. Both Stony Brook and UNCW are part of a four-way tie for fifth place in the CAA alongside Charleston and William & Mary. Opening set is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Seawolves’ strength is their offense, as they rank fourth in the CAA with 16.51 points per set. The dynamic duo of outside hitter Kali Moore and Leoni Kunz are leading the charge in Stony Brook’s offensive scheme. Moore — the reigning CAA Offensive Player of the Week — is fourth in the CAA in kills per set (3.28) and fifth in points per set (3.87). Kunz is ninth in the conference with 2.91 kills per set. Her 3.32 points per set is just shy of the CAA’s top 10.

Outside hitter Abby Stanwood adds additional firepower to an already stacked Seawolves’ offense, averaging 2.45 kills and 2.60 points per set. Middle blocker Abby Campbell is another important cog in Stony Brook’s offensive plan, as she is its third-leading scorer with 2.76 points per set.

Pin hitter Ava Jackson had a breakout weekend against William & Mary, which earned her CAA Rookie of the Week honors. She is the team’s fifth-leading scorer with 2.40 points per set.

The offense is run by setter Torri Henry, whose 10.80 assists per set leads the CAA. 

Attack errors have been the Seawolves’ Achilles’ heel all season long. However, they cleaned up their attack errors this past weekend, launching themselves to fourth place in the conference with a .212 hitting percentage.

A big aspect of Stony Brook’s offense is its efficiency from the service line. The team is second in the CAA with 2.04 service aces per set. Henry’s 39 aces are the second most in the conference, while Moore is fifth with 36. Libero Julia Patsos is third on the team from the service line, tallying 30 aces. Overall, seven different Seawolves have served double-digits aces, as Campbell, Jackson, outside hitter Lauren Schmitz and defensive specialist Madison Cigna have also been effective.

UNCW’s offense is quite the contrary. The Seahawks rank in the bottom half of the conference in most offensive categories, but they are fifth in points per set (16.08). The team will look for outside hitter Katie Lanz along with middle blockers Grace Melnick and Caitlyn Callahan to kickstart its offense.

Lanz is seventh in the CAA with 3.16 kills per set and eighth with 3.55 points per set. Callahan is the team’s second-leading scorer with 2.45 points per set. Melnick is currently averaging a .342 hitting percentage, which is good enough for seventh in the CAA.

The Seahawks have a duo of setters — Bella Schall and Morgan Galligan — to set up easy points for their offense. Schall leads the team with 5.92 assists per set, while Galligan trails her at 4.93. The strong duo have UNCW ranked fifth in the CAA in assists per set (11.93).

Stony Brook’s defense has struggled this year, allowing the second-worst hitting percentage (.221) in the conference. However, the Seawolves’ 15.77’s digs per set is second-best rate in the CAA. Patsos is at the forefront of that, as her 4.30 digs per set are the third-most in the conference.

Stony Brook has trouble defending at the net. The team’s 1.54 blocks per set is the second-worst figure in the CAA. Campbell’s 57 total blocks (four solo and 53 assists) leads the team, while Kunz is not far behind with 50 (four solo and 46 block assists).

The Seahawks are similar to the Seawolves defensively, as their 15.19 digs per set is one spot below the Seawolves on the conference’s leaderboard. Libero Jadyn Barry leads UNCW with the seventh-most digs per set (3.52) in the conference. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are third-worst in the CAA with 1.76 blocks per set. Callahan has been a bright spot for the team, leading it with 71 total blocks (11 solo and 60 block assists). Melnick has contributed 67 total blocks this year, which is second on the team.

Due to their tie in the standings, the Seawolves will also be scoreboard watching this weekend. With William & Mary facing fifth-place Northeastern and Charleston facing fourth-place Hofstra, Stony Brook will have a chance to distance itself from the middle of the pack with a sweep. A series split may not help the team in regards to making the 2023 CAA women’s volleyball tournament, pending the results of the matches around the league.

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