After getting off to a sluggish start nearly three months ago, the Binghamton University volleyball team defeated Stony Brook University in five sets (24-26, 27-25, 26-24, 28-30, 15-12) on Sunday to clinch a playoff berth and the No. 2 seed in the America East postseason tournament. The Bearcats now stand at 11-17 overall and 8-4 in America East play.
Heading into Sunday’s game, four teams (Binghamton, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, University of New Hampshire and Stony Brook) were tied for second place in the conference standings. With University at Albany having already secured a playoff spot, only three remained up for grabs in the four-team postseason tournament, and the Bearcats faced a near must-win.
“We all knew coming into the match it was do or die,” said Grace Vickers, junior middle hitter and captain. “Every single one of my teammates played at the top of their game. We studied Stony Brook all week and we knew what was in store. We knew it would be a battle. My girls fought hard and we came out on top.”
The pace of Sunday’s match was set immediately as Binghamton and Stony Brook pushed the opening set into extra points. The Seawolves edged out BU 26-24 in the opener, but the Bearcats bounced back in the second set, which again saw extra points. After falling behind 14-10, Binghamton took off on a 4-2 run to knot the score at 16. After seven more ties, the Bearcats found themselves trailing 24-23, a point away from another defeat. But a kill from Vickers kept the Bearcats alive, and Binghamton took the set on a pair of terminations from senior middle blocker Alex Roland.
After Binghamton and Stony Brook split the next two sets, the Bearcats captured the final set, 15-12, the only set not to see extra points. With the victory, Binghamton punched its ticket to the postseason for the eighth time in the last nine years after failing to qualify last year.
“The match was extremely close,” Binghamton head coach Glenn Kiriyama said. “There were so many important points in that match. It was an amazing match to be a part of. But to do it in a fifth game, it just shows that we work hard in the match and that they don’t give up. The girls continue to perform at a high level constantly.”
Sunday marked the fourth five-set match that the Bearcats have had during their America East season. After going 1-5 in five-set matches out of conference, Binghamton has not dropped one in conference play.
Sophomore setter Amanda Dettmann recorded her first career triple-double of 53 assists, 14 digs and 10 kills on Sunday en route to earning America East Setter of the Week honors. Senior outside hitter Iva Partaleva added 21 terminations, while junior libero Xiomara Ortiz had a team-high 22 digs.
UMBC also beat Stony Brook this past weekend to tie Binghamton’s America East record of 8-4 and earn a date with the Bearcats in the opening round of the conference playoffs. New Hampshire finished in fourth and will face tournament host Albany in the first round.
“Being in the conference tournament, knowing my team, we’re all going to step up,” sophomore setter Alexa Zbytniewski said about the team’s upcoming match. “We’ve worked so hard. We have gone through a lot this season. Everyone’s on the same page and we’re ready to turn it on against UMBC.”
Binghamton and UMBC are set to face off at 7 p.m. on Friday at Albany’s University Gym.