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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Series sweep rises Stony Brook women’s volleyball to fourth place with one week left

Outside hitter Leoni Kunz (17) attacks the ball against the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday, Nov. 4. Kunz led the team with 33.5 points and recorded 34 digs in the series sweep. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

In a battle of maritime-themed nicknames, it was the Stony Brook women’s volleyball team that had the upper hand all weekend.

In their home finale at Pritchard Gymnasium, the Seawolves (14-13, 9-7 CAA) bettered their playoff odds with a pair of wins over the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks (10-16, 7-9 CAA). After winning a tight 3-2 battle on Saturday, Stony Brook followed up with a sweep on Sunday to take the weekend and ascend to fourth place in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

Saturday’s match opened with a shootout. A trio of kills from outside hitter Kali Moore and another two from both pin hitter Ava Jackson and middle blocker Abby Campbell staked the Seawolves to a 10-4 start. Stony Brook held onto the lead for most of the rest of the game and Jackson brought it to set-point. However, now trailing 24-19, UNCW outside hitter Margo Huff notched a kill to spark a 7-1 scoring run for the Seahawks.

With the game stretching into extra play, setter Torri Henry delivered a rare kill which knotted the score at 26. Both sides exchanged points until a service error from libero Julia Patsos gifted UNCW a 29-28 lead. The Seawolves rebounded with kills from Moore and Campbell to go in front 30-29. Needing a point to keep the set alive, UNCW outside hitter Katie Lanz’s attack attempt went awry, handing the Seawolves a thrilling victory to open the weekend.

The second set was just as competitive for much of the game. With Stony Brook up 18-17, the Seahawks took off on a 7-1 run to go up 24-19. With their backs against the wall, the Seawolves scored four unanswered points, but a kill by UNCW outside hitter Sarah Thompson ended the festivities in the second set.

The Seahawks once again delivered a massive barrage of points, flying out to a 9-3 head start in the middle set. Despite numerous short-scoring bursts from Stony Brook, the deficit proved to be too much to overcome, as it succumbed by a score of 25-21.

Facing a do-or-die fourth set, the Seawolves found themselves trailing early 7-6. Subbing in for the serve, defensive specialist Sammie Sheppard delivered two service aces and ignited a string of six unanswered points for Stony Brook. However, UNCW methodically clawed its way back into the game and two attack errors by Jackson put it back on top 16-15.

However, the Seawolves were unfazed. Henry delivered two kills as part of a 6-0 run to take a 21-16 lead. A comeback attempt by the Seahawks proved to be too little, too late, as an attacking error by Lanz won the set 25-22 for Stony Brook to knot up the match.

In the abbreviated fifth set, two kills by Louis helped the Seawolves jump out to a 7-3 lead from which they never looked back. Struggling to find consistency in its offense, UNCW committed five attack errors which allowed outside hitter Leoni Kunz to seal the match with a kill.

With Stony Brook in need of a win and the postseason tournament approaching, head coach Kristin Belzung was proud of her players for not folding after going down two sets to one.

“We’ve been trying really hard to stay one point at a time,” Belzung said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “If you start to think about all the big picture things, that gets really stressful in the moment … our kids have done a really good job at just keeping that short-term mindset.”

Sunday’s opener was another tightly-fought battle with both sides squared at 13 points apiece. A pair of aces by outside hitter Lauren Schmitz spearheaded a 5-0 scoring run for the Seawolves, which gave them a lead for good. Three total UNCW errors and kills by Moore and Kunz pushed the game to set point. Huff’s serve was off target, giving Stony Brook a match-opening 25-21 victory.

The second set took no time to decide a winner with the Seawolves jumping out to an instant 11-3 lead. Moore and Louis both contributed multiple kills down the stretch to salt the 25-12 blowout, putting Stony Brook a win from a series sweep.

The Seahawks looked to rebound and stave off a sweep. Both sides exchanged blows in a match that featured 15 ties and seven total lead changes. With the score tied at 19, the set became the Kunz show, as the senior carried the team to victory with three kills over the final seven plays. Moore chipped in with a kill, and a pair of errors by UNCW nailed home Stony Brook’s 25-20 triumph.

Kunz credited her late-game heroics to her team’s preparation and a personal desire to win.

“I’ve always been competitive,” Kunz said. “Drills in practice help us stay confident in those moments and play smart but aggressive.”

The Seawolves’ offense was far more efficient, as their .260 hitting percentage far exceeded the Seahawks’ .158 mark.

Kunz played one of her most mistake-free weekends of the season, netting a .375 hitting percentage. Her 33.5 points led the team, headlined by 17 kills in Saturday’s match. Moore was the team’s second-leading scorer with 29 points across the two matches on 27 kills. Jackson and Campbell each had 21 points on the weekend. Jackson set a career high with 14 kills in Saturday’s action while Campbell registered 10.5 points on both ends of the series.

Henry continued her dominance as the floor general with 90 assists across eight sets this weekend. She has separated herself as the clear leader in assists per set in the CAA with 10.84. She also contributed in other facets of the game with eight kills and 23 digs throughout the series.

As usual, Patsos led the defense with 36 digs. Kunz also turned in a strong defensive effort with 34 digs, including a career-high 25 on Saturday. At the net, Stony Brook blocked 15 of UNCW’s attacks in the series. Louis led the team with 10 total blocks, all of which were assists. Campbell had five total blocks, including the team’s only solo block throughout the series.

The Seawolves will look to extend their four-match winning streak across town in the Battle of Long Island when they take on their rivals: the Hofstra Pride. The Pride are 18-9 overall, but just 8-8 in CAA play after suffering a devastating upset of a sweep at the hands of Charleston. The two losses have sunk Hofstra to seventh place, which leaves it one spot out of the 2023 CAA women’s volleyball tournament. Opening set is scheduled for 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday in Hempstead, N.Y.

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