Despite fighting back from a 10-point deficit to win the first set, the Binghamton University volleyball team was unable to maintain its momentum, dropping its first conference match of the season Sunday afternoon as it fell to UMBC, 3-1.
The Bearcats (5-11, 0-1 America East) got off to a strong start, winning their first set in a comeback fashion that would characterize their play in the remaining sets, despite falling short in each. The Retrievers (5-11, 1-1 AE) dominated the first half of the first set, leading by as many as 10 points and preventing BU from scoring more than two consecutive points at one time. Then, with BU trailing 22-13, a kill by senior captain Michelle McDonough sparked the Bearcat offense as they went on to score 11 straight points. Two UMBC timeouts during the 11-point run failed to cool off the rallying Bearcats, who found themselves up by a point with the score at 23-22, without any offensive response by the Retrievers. UMBC was able to answer only once, with a kill by junior Iman Kennedy that evened the score at 23, before an attack error by the Retrievers and a kill by BU senior Anna Lejina sealed a BU win. Junior setter Julie Chambers contributed to the victory with seven assists for the Bearcats. Chambers, who had 38 assists for the night, had been missed by the team last Wednesday in its loss to Syracuse University.
‘It was good to have her back,’ Binghamton head coach Glenn Kiriyama said. ‘The players gain confidence when she’s on the court.’
The Bearcat offense was quieted in the second set of the match as they were held to just 15 points, their lowest scoring total of the night. An attack error by UMBC’s Ali Loynachan off a block by Lejina and sophomore Alex Roland to open the set would give the Bearcats their only lead of the game. The score remained close in the beginning of the set until five straight points by the Retrievers resulted in a 14-7 UMBC lead and a BU timeout. The Bearcats returned from the timeout scoring two consecutive points off kills by McDonough and senior Iva Partaleva, both of which came off assists by Chambers, who had seven that set. The Retrievers answered with a four-point run of their own that put them up 18-9, a lead that would, this time, prove too great for the Bearcats to overcome. The set ended with an attack error by McDonough that gave UMBC a 25-15 lead to win the game.
In the third set of the match, the Bearcat offense came out looking re-energized. McDonough led the BU offense with seven kills as it fought through a tight, back-and-forth game where neither team seemed able to hang on to the lead. Following back-to-back kills by McDonough and a UMBC attack error by senior Sabrina Hoeks, the Bearcats took a 16-15 lead. BU soon found itself trailing once again, however, after four straight UMBC points in the form of two Bearcat errors and two kills by freshman Ali Goc. The result was a 20-17 Retriever lead from which the Bearcats would be unable to recover. BU would go on to lose the set 25-20.
In the final set of the match, the Bearcats once again found themselves leading before trying to fight back from a UMBC lead. Trailing by a point, BU took a 17-15 lead off three consecutive kills by Partaleva, McDonough and Roland. The lead would prove short-lived for the Bearcats, however. A five-point run by UMBC put the Retrievers up 22-19, a lead BU could not overcome. They would drop the set 25-21.
‘Overall, our performance wasn’t so great,’ Kiriyama said. ‘We didn’t pass very well ‘ We didn’t perform as well as we could have.’
The Bearcats hit just .145 on the night, compared to the .265 posted by UMBC, and were out-blocked 10 to three. Xiomara Ortiz had a match-high 16 digs on the night. The Bearcats and the Retrievers will meet once more in regular play when UMBC comes to BU for a rematch on Oct. 29.
‘Hopefully, we’re more prepared on our side [next time],’ Kiriyama said. ‘Blocking, passing ‘ We’re going to work on those things and hope we get better.’
Despite an overall inadequate offensive performance that would render BU incapable of winning any of its final three sets, McDonough and Lejina finished with 18 and 15 kills, respectively. The two outside hitters also recorded 13 digs each, earning them double-doubles for the night.
‘Our outsides probably did the best tonight,’ Kiriyama said. ‘They performed pretty well under pressure, both Anna and Michelle.’
The Bearcats conference home-opener is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 8 against the University of New Hampshire.