Taking its second conference matchup of the season to a fifth set, the Binghamton volleyball team posted a go-ahead point to go up 15-14 on Albany. Returning to the court after a tense timeout, freshman outside hitter Sydney Aguirre sprung a serve over the net, recording a service ace to post the 16th and final point for the Bearcats in the 3-2 thriller over the Great Danes.
“I can’t remember the last time we beat [Albany], that’s how dominant they’ve been,” said Binghamton head coach Glenn Kiriyama. “This kind of win goes a long way and hopefully we can carry this forward.”
This marks the Bearcats’ (6-8, 2-0 America East [AE]) first time beating the Great Danes in over four years. Albany (4-11, 0-1 AE) has consistently sat near the top of the AE conference during those four years and was slated to win the conference title this year according to the 2021 AE preseason coaches’ poll.
“It was a hard-fought match, Albany is always at the top of the conference,” Kiriyama said. “It was a huge win for us.”
The closely contested match saw Binghamton stage a small comeback near the end of the first set where it went on a 7-1 run to pull itself back into the game. BU continued to build upon its momentum and finish off the set with three straight points, winning set one 26-24.
Binghamton went on to lose the next set 16-25. After building a lead early on in the set, the Great Danes forfeited no opportunities to allow BU a chance to jump back into contention. Similarly, BU dropped its third set 17-25, losing momentum after Albany broke through a 12-12 tie to outscore the Bearcats 13-5 and gain a 2-1 advantage.
The fourth set saw BU throw away a seven-point lead to the Great Danes, allowing them to eventually equalize at 24-24. In the seemingly hopeless set, however, BU continued to fight. Both teams traded points until the scoreboard read 29-29 on Albany’s serve. A kill by sophomore outside hitter Stefana Stan and an attack error by an Albany player earned Binghamton the winning two points. The 31-29 set gave Binghamton a lifeline, coming within one point of losing the entire matchup to the Great Danes.
BU’s nail-biting final set marked its second consecutive five-set victory after Binghamton took down NJIT last Friday 3-2.
“We’ve played a lot of tight matches,” Kiriyama said. “They know that they have the ability to push hard when they need to at the end of games.”
The Bearcats’ victory came in part from their defensive play, as they posted a total of 18 blocks and 56 digs during the match. Junior middle hitter Anna Sprys stood at the apex of the defense and recorded 12 of the Bearcats’ 18 blocks herself and had more total blocks than the entire Great Danes roster, which only registered nine.
“[Sprys] pretty much dominated the middle tonight,” Kiriyama said. “She really controlled the net well.”
Senior defensive specialist Emily Rail was also a major contributor on the defensive end for the Bearcats, finishing with a total of 20 digs.
“[Rail] was hustling all over the place,” Kiriyama said. “She made some tremendous digs coming out of nowhere.”
Using that defense as a springboard, BU’s offensive end kept it competitive throughout the afternoon. In addition to Stan’s 15 kills, Sprys hustled in front of net to earn 12 kills for herself as well.
Binghamton is set to challenge its perfect conference record this season with a matchup against Stony Brook. The Bearcats’ last matchup against the Seawolves ended in a 3-0 victory at the twilight of their 2020-21 season, snapping their 36-match losing streak.
The matchup against Stony Brook is scheduled for Friday, Oct 1. First serve is set for 7 p.m. at West Gym in Vestal, New York.