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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stony Brook women’s volleyball’s season ended by Towson again

Setter Torri Henry (center) sets the ball to outside hitter Leoni Kunz (right) against the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday, Nov. 4. The pair may have played their final match with Stony Brook after being eliminated by Towson. IRENE YIMMONGKOL/THE STATESMAN

With a chance to advance to the championship match of the 2023 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) women’s volleyball tournament, the fifth-seeded Stony Brook women’s volleyball team was finally stopped by the top dog.

After breezing through the quarterfinals, the Seawolves (17-14, 11-7 CAA) took on the top-seeded Towson Tigers (24-5, 16-2 CAA) on their home court on Friday. Despite keeping the score close for much of the day, the match ended with Towson sweeping Stony Brook 3-0. The Tigers will now host second-seeded Delaware for the championship match tomorrow.

The Tigers set the tone early, building a 6-1 lead on the back of two kills from outside hitter Irbe Lazda. However, the Seawolves promptly responded with a 12-7 run led by pin hitter Ava Jackson’s three kills to tie the set at 13 apiece.

Both sides continued to go toe-to-toe until Towson pulled away late. After a kill from Jackson to cut Stony Brook’s deficit to 18-17, the Tigers thwarted any hopes of a comeback with a 7-2 run to close out the first set. Outside hitters Leoni Kunz and Kali Moore committed three attack errors in a row during the stretch, securing the 25-19 defeat.

The second set was competitive until late. Towson once again jumped out to an advantage, as an attack error from Jackson gave it a 10-5 lead. Following Jackson’s error, the sides traded three points before the Seawolves went on a run themselves. Two attack errors by the Tigers and a service ace by setter Torri Henry cut Towson’s lead down to 13-11.

With Stony Brook inching closer, the Tigers looked to their stars to provide the spark they needed. A kill from middle blocker Aayinde Smith stopped the Seawolves’ run before the 2023 CAA Player of the Year — outside hitter Nina Cajic — took over. Cajic unleashed five kills to spearhead an 11-2 run to close out the second set and hand Stony Brook a 25-13 loss.

Cajic continued to dominate in the third set. With the teams even at four points, her attack found the hardwood once again to give Towson the edge. Cajic’s kill sparked a 5-1 run by the Tigers over which she scored four times. The Seawolves trailed by at least two points for the rest of the set until an ace by outside hitter Lauren Schmitz capped off a 5-1 run, cutting Towson’s lead down to 16-15.

Still, Stony Brook could not deliver when it needed the most — a theme of all three sets. In the third set, it had four chances to tie the game following Schmitz’s ace but failed to do so. 

Cajic’s seventh kill of the set gave her team a 24-21 lead, bringing things to match point. A kill by middle blocker Abby Campbell cut the Seawolves’ deficit to 24-22, but Kunz’s serve went wide and out to the right, nailing down the 25-22 loss and the sweep.

Head coach Kristin Belzung commended her players on their effort throughout the year.

“This team’s growth from the beginning of the year to now has been fun to be part of,” Belzung said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “Each person got outside their comfort zone to come together and push for results down the stretch and I’m so proud of them. This is definitely not the way we wanted it to end but I’m thankful for the fight from this group all year, and [now] they have set a standard for this program moving forward.”

The Tigers were the superior offense on Friday, as their .342 hitting percentage nearly tripled Stony Brook’s .125 clip. Cajic led all players with 18 kills, which was eight more than the next player. She was efficient, as she hit at a .359 clip. Cajic scored 19.5 points, followed by Lazda’s 11.5.

Jackson led the Seawolves with 10 points — all of which came from kills. Campbell notched 8.5 points while leading the team with a .438 hitting percentage. Moore and Kunz — the team’s leading scorers this year — both struggled, as they combined for 13 points on an .073 hitting percentage.

Henry had a down performance by her standards. She tallied 27 assists across three sets and recorded only six digs. However, she served four aces.

Stony Brook had a tough day defensively, as well. It had just 44 digs and a single block compared to Towson’s 58 and seven. Libero Julia Patsos led the team with 13 digs, followed by Moore’s nine. Campbell and Henry shared the squad’s only block.

With the curtain now closed on their 2023 season, the Seawolves will turn their sights towards the offseason, where several roster decisions have to be made. They are graduating six players, but all of them have an extra year of eligibility remaining due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only time will tell if this match was their last in a Stony Brook uniform.

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