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Volleyball to face Albany in rematch of 2012 AE title game

When the Binghamton and Albany volleyball teams last met, the America East’s NCAA tournament bid was on the line. This time around, however, both teams are simply looking to take advantage of the fresh start afforded to them by conference play.

Tycho McManus/Contributing Photographer The Bearcats gather during their home-opening win over Siena on Sept. 17. Binghamton carries a 2-11 record into its America East opener against Albany.

The Bearcats (2-11) lost their first eight games of 2013, setting the mark for the program’s worst-ever start, while the young Great Danes (0-12) have been swept in 11 of their 12 matches.

On the surface, neither team has displayed championship potential. But they each entered conference play in similar states last season before making their respective runs to the title match.

Binghamton carried a 3-12 mark into the America East slate, while Albany came in with a 4-11 record.

But could that portend a return to glory for Binghamton?

“It’s always hard to say,” BU head coach Glenn Kiriyama said. “Every year’s a little bit different, and it comes down to one game here or there, one point here or there but they know they can turn it around. They know that they have the capacity to win conference. They’re still motivated, and hopefully they’ll perform a little bit better here.”

Kiriyama said that pre-conference play served as a learning period for his team, which returned several important players but also lost key hitters Iva Partaleva and Alex Roland.

“We hope that they’ve learned something,” Kiriyama said. “A lot of it is just learning what they need to work on, and then we just try and keep getting better working on those small things.”

Kiriyama said Binghamton still needs to work harder on improving its serve-receive, as doing so should help raise the team’s .147 hitting percentage. That mark ranks No. 278 among the NCAA’s 344 Division I teams. In fact, the Bearcats currently rank between Nos. 264 and 286 in every major category except aces per set, where they stand at No. 179.

Albany, on the other hand, has posted even worse numbers. The Great Danes only cracked the top 300 in digs per set (No. 240) and blocks per set (No. 299).

Following Sunday’s match, Binghamton is scheduled for two more away tilts before returning home for six straight.

Play against the Great Danes is set for 5 p.m. Sunday at University Gym in Albany, N.Y.