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Volleyball kicks off title defense in South Florida Tournament

Senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks jumps to spike the ball in a game against Binghamton. Brooks recorded two consecutive kills against the Jacksonville Dolphins on Friday, Aug. 24. GARY GHAYRAT/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook volleyball team demonstrated its improved offensive prowess at the South Florida Tournament this weekend, starting off the season with two victories in three games. The Seawolves topped Jacksonville in five sets and swept San Jose on Friday, Aug. 24, but dropped the final tournament game to USF on Saturday, Aug. 25 in five sets.

Game 1: Stony Brook 3, Jacksonville 2

Stony Brook trailed 8-4 to the Jacksonville Dolphins early in the first set off five consecutive attack errors by its frontcourt. The Seawolves responded with an impressive eight-point run to recover from the early deficit, taking a 12-9 lead and eventually winning the first set 25-14. The second set was much tighter, with neither team trailing by more than three points until senior middle blocker McKyla Brooks recorded two consecutive kills, giving the Seawolves a 25-20 victory.

Jacksonville refused to back down in the third set and began targeting a weakened Stony Brook backcourt. Dolphins graduate middle back Sara Dyslin trounced on the Seawolves struggling liberos, scoring seven consecutive points with five coming off service aces to give her team a 10-point lead. Despite their best efforts and a four-point run in the closing stages of the set, the Seawolves were unable to overcome the deficit and lost the third set 25-19. The Dolphins carried the momentum earned into the fourth set and edged out the Seawolves 25-22, forcing a fifth set.

A Dyslin attack error proved costly for Jacksonville as Stony Brook took a lead it would not relinquish in the fifth, winning the final set by a score 15-6 for their first victory of the season.

Head coach Kristin Belzung reflected on her satisfaction with the Stony Brook athletes maintaining their composure after the victory.

“Jacksonville stressed us with a fast tempo offense, and I was impressed with our composure in the fifth set after struggling to adjust in the third and fourth,” Belzung said in a press release.  “Our seniors played like seniors and carried us offensively.”

Game 2: Stony Brook 3, San Jose State 0

Stony Brook took on the San Jose State Spartans Friday evening in both teams’ second game of the day. Reminiscent of how their first game began, the Seawolves trailed by four points in the early stages of the first set but battled back to tie the game at 18-18 off a kill by junior outside hitter Maria Poole. The team’s backcourt improved from its earlier struggles and junior defensive specialist Kardasia Hitchcock forced back-to-back Spartan attack errors to give the Seawolves a 22-19 lead. Stony Brook would go on to win the first set 25-21.

The Seawolves went on a five-point run in the middle of the second set after junior middle blocker Kendra Harlow and graduate outside hitter Emily Costello recorded two kills each to put the team up 19-13. Stony Brook held on to the lead and won 25-20.

Stony Brook began the third set with a 5-1 run, gaining a lead the team would not give up. The Spartans battled back in a last ditch effort to tie the game at 24-24, but back-to-back kills from Costello and Brooks were enough to give the Seawolves the three-set victory with a 26-24 win in set three. The duo were juggernauts on offense and led the team with 56 combined points off 52 kills in their first two games.

Game 3: University of South Florida 3, Stony Brook 2

Stony Brook and the University of South Florida Bulls traded three 25-21 set victories, putting the Seawolves down two sets to one. The Bulls seemed to have the forth set won after they hurdled to a 19-16 lead, forcing coach Belzung to call a timeout. The Seawolves came out of the break rejuvenated and completed the comeback with a 27-25 win to force a fifth set.

Stony Brook started the set with a 3-1 lead but fell two points behind after attack errors by Costello and Harlow. Costello gave the Seawolves a 6-5 lead with a service ace but two straight kills from Bulls junior outside hitter Jac’cara Walker were enough to give her team the lead. The Bulls went on to win 15-10 and take the match in five sets.

The Seawolves will have a short turnaround as they travel to Hempstead, New York to compete against the Hofstra Pride in the “Battle of Long Island.” The cross-island rivals will play on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m.

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