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Stony Brook women’s volleyball secures CAA playoff berth with sweep at Hofstra

Outside hitter Kali Moore spikes a kill against the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday, Nov. 4. Moore led the Stony Brook women’s volleyball team with 26.5 points in its series at Hofstra. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

It was a Battle of Long Island to remember for the Stony Brook women’s volleyball team, who clinched a berth to the postseason in emphatic fashion.

In their regular-season finale, the Seawolves (16-13, 11-7 CAA) battled the Hofstra Pride (18-11, 8-10 CAA) this weekend. In front of Hofstra’s home crowd, Stony Brook embarrassed its cross-town rival with a victory 3-2 on Saturday before following with an impressive 3-0 win on Sunday.

With the win on Saturday, the Seawolves punched their tickets to the 2023 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) women’s volleyball tournament. The romping on Sunday not only secured them the fifth seed in the postseason tournament, but it also eliminated the Pride from the playoffs entirely.

Head coach Kristin Belzung was ecstatic to see her team take care of business.

“Proud is an understatement,” Belzung said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “I thought our team played disciplined and together today and all weekend. We are excited to get the opportunity to compete as a team again next week. There’s nothing like the postseason and this group has earned an opportunity to fight for a championship.”

Saturday’s marathon kicked off with a highly-competitive opening set that saw Stony Brook staked to a 22-19 lead. A kill by Hofstra outside hitter Clara Bal and a service ace by fellow outside hitter Izadora Stedile cut the Seawolves’ lead down to one point. A kill by outside hitter Kali Moore doubled their lead back to two, but Hofstra setter Beatriz Alves returned the favor to make it another one-point lead. Unfazed by the Pride’s comeback efforts, Moore took over the set with a kill and an ace to win it 25-22.

The second set was a wire-to-wire win for Hofstra, who scored the first five points of the game and never looked back. Stony Brook scored seven of the next 11 points to cut the Pride’s lead down to two, but that was as close as things would get. Three kills by Hofstra outside hitter Yagmur Cinel and another two by Bal helped their team coast to a 25-16 victory.

The Seawolves took a page out of the Pride’s book in the third set, picking up their own wire-to-wire win. After Stony Brook jumped out to an early 7-2 advantage, Hofstra cut its lead down to just one point with a 6-1 run. After that, the Seawolves pulled themselves together and allowed the Pride to beat themselves. Stony Brook finished the set on a 17-9 extended run that saw Hofstra commit eight total errors en route to a 25-16 win.

With the Pride’s back against the wall and their playoff hopes fading, they hung with the Seawolves and took over late in the fourth set to force a rubber game. With Stony Brook leading 20-19, a kill by Stedile and an attack error by Moore put Hofstra on top 21-20. Moore made up for her mistake with a game-tying kill, but three kills by Bal and an attack error by outside hitter Leoni Kunz locked down a 25-21 triumph for the Pride to force a fifth set.

With the playoffs on both team’s minds, Stony Brook and Hofstra went to war in a stirring fifth set. They went back and forth for much of the set, and a double hit by Kunz followed by an attack error by Moore gave the Pride an 11-10 lead. Kunz tied the set with a kill, but Hofstra outside hitter Beatriz Braga put her team back in front with one of her own.

Now down 12-11, pin hitter Ava Jackson spiked the set-tying point off a clean set by setter Torri Henry, setting the final run into motion. The Pride’s defense returned the ensuing serve, but Henry dug the ball an inch above the hardwood and tipped it back up to her teammates. Libero Julia Patsos then set Kunz up perfectly for the go-ahead kill and the Seawolves never looked back. Back-to-back attack errors by Hofstra sealed a 15-12 win for Stony Brook and a fifth consecutive match victory.

Later in the day, William & Mary was swept by the University of North Carolina Wilmington, officially securing the Seawolves’ playoff spot.

On Sunday, Stony Brook spoiled its rival’s season and ended it on the spot. Opening set was a nail-biter, with the Seawolves blowing three different leads as the game neared its end. Five of the Pride’s final six points all came from kills by Stedile, leading to a 24-24 deadlock. However, a kill by middle blocker Katie Hickey and an attack error off the fingertips of Cinel handed Stony Brook a 26-24 win.

The Seawolves had their rally caps on early in the middle set, as they were down 6-0 off the jump. However, Hofstra undid its own efforts throughout the middle part of the set by committing nine attack errors and a bad, allowing Stony Brook to tie it at 19 apiece. The Pride went up 21-19 after consecutive kills by Stedile and Cinel, but a 4-0 run by the Seawolves — punctuated by a kill from Jackson — gave them their first lead of the day. Cinel made it a one-point set with a kill to snap the scoring streak, but she then committed errors on back-to-back attacks to gift wrap Stony Brook’s 25-22 victory.

Facing defeat, the Pride jumped out to a 10-6 lead in the final set, but Jackson and Kunz carried the Seawolves on a 9-2 run to give them a 15-12 advantage. Hofstra got its act together on Braga’s back, who engineered a 12-7 run with five kills to bring it to set point. Now down 24-22, a kill by Jackson and an attack error by Braga tied the game up, and Kunz nailed it down with back-to-back service aces to win the set 26-24 and sweep the match 3-0.

Stony Brook was sloppy over the weekend, hitting at just a .184 clip across the two matches. However, it was outstanding on the defensive end, as it held the Pride to just a .157 hitting percentage, including .130 on Sunday. The Seawolves blocked 26 attacks in the series, including a season-high 14 in the second match. They also recorded 123 digs, but Hofstra actually outperformed them in that regard with 131.

Moore led Stony Brook with 26.5 points, 20.5 of which came on Saturday. Jackson was the team’s only player to reach double-digit scoring figures in both matches, totaling 26 between the two. Kunz scored 24.5 points and led the team with five aces served.

Henry had a down week by her standards, setting up 69 assists in eight sets played. She led the team with 27 digs and recorded a double-double between assists and digs in both matches. Patsos narrowly trailed her with 26 digs, while Kunz tallied 24 and posted a kills-digs double-double on Saturday.

Now the fifth seed in the 2023 CAA women’s volleyball tournament, the Seawolves will show down with the fourth-seeded Charleston Cougars on Thursday at 4 p.m. The match will be hosted at State Employees Credit Union Arena: the home court of the top-seeded Towson Tigers.

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