After its first weekend of matches was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, the Binghamton volleyball team started off its season against UMBC and Albany on Sunday. The Bearcats were unable to pick up a win in either of their opening games, getting swept by both teams.

“We were all excited to be able to play,” said Binghamton head coach Glenn Kiriyama. “It’s tough [with] all the testing. We feel fortunate we were able to get in a couple [of] games today.”

In the first matchup against UMBC (4-1, 3-1 America East), the Bearcats struggled early and started the first set down 6-0. Although the Bearcats (0-2, 0-2 AE) eventually clawed back to trim the deficit to 23-19, they never captured the lead and ultimately lost 25-19. In the second set, the Retrievers once again took an early lead, but fueled by back-to-back service aces from sophomore outside hitter Audrey Haworth, Binghamton scored three unanswered points to cut UMBC’s lead to 15-12. However, the Retrievers once again pulled away in the second set to win 25-14.

Binghamton was never able to capture a lead on UMBC in the third set and were defeated 25-17. In the match, senior outside hitter Francela Ulate and sophomore middle hitter Anna Sprys led the team in kills with eight apiece. Junior setter Kiara Adams contributed a team-high of 20 assists and senior defensive specialist Elizabeth Kaner had a team-high of 11 digs. However, the Bearcats made a total of 28 errors compared to UMBC’s 11.

“Most of it was our own errors on our sides, and some from passing and some from serving,” Kiriyama said. “It’s a learning process and our players are working hard and hopefully we could and do better next time.”

Later that night against Albany (5-1, 4-0 AE), the Bearcats led early in each of the first two sets, leading 8-4 in the first set and 8-2 in the second set. However, they failed to maintain the momentum and ultimately squandered both leads. Led by Ulate, BU came close to winning in the second set as they built their original lead to 22-17. Ultimately, the Bearcats allowed Albany to go on a 5-0 run to tie the set.

“I saw some improvement from the first to the second game,” Kiriyama said. “We had no offense in the first game. [In the second match], we had 39 kills and hit from a much higher percentage than we did for the first match.”

The Great Danes ultimately beat the Bearcats 26-24 in the second frame. In the third set, Binghamton never captured a lead, losing 25-20. Freshman outside hitter Stefana Stan had a team-high of 11 digs and contributed six kills in the contest while Adams led the team with 28 assists and contributed nine digs.

“We had a couple of tough losses today, but I saw improvement in the second match,” Kiriyama said. “We controlled the ball better and were able to execute better on offense. We were delighted and grateful to be able to play for the first time in over a year.”

Binghamton will have a chance to get revenge against UMBC and Albany as they will face off against both teams on Sunday, March 14. First serve is set for 11 a.m. against the Great Danes at the UMBC Event Center in Baltimore, Maryland.