The Binghamton volleyball team traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia over the weekend to compete in the Mountaineer Invitational. The Bearcats dropped their two Thursday matches to Delaware State and West Virginia, 2-3 and 1-3, respectively. However, the Bearcats bounced back immediately, defeating Merrimack in three straight sets on Friday.
“I’m happy that we were able to pull off a win on the last day of the tournament,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “I like the fact that we continue to be challenged … We were challenged all weekend long … We distributed the ball really well this weekend, and our defense continues to get better.”
Binghamton’s (8-4) first matchup came against the Hornets (10-3), as the Bearcats suffered a five-set loss. After dropping the first set in extra time, 27-25, BU rebounded, winning the next two sets 25-23 and 25-18, respectively, to take a 2-1 lead in the game. Its advantage ended there though, as Delaware State took the final two sets 25-22 and 15-4, respectively. Despite the loss, freshman outside hitter Giulia Bonifacio led Binghamton with a career-high 20 kills in the game.
“We just kind of ran out of gas,” Yaeger said. “We came out flat to start, and I knew that [Delaware State] was going to take advantage of it. If we played the best ball that we could’ve played, we would’ve won in three … We looked tired … They just had more gas in the tank than we did.”
Soon after dropping their first game to the Hornets, the Bearcats took on West Virginia (6-6) in an evening matchup. After going down 2-0 to the Mountaineers, BU took the third set 25-22. However, this was the Bearcats’ only set victory against WVU, dropping the fourth set along with the match.
“West Virginia was so physical,” Yaeger said. “They were so big and so scrappy on defense … It was hard to get them out of system and we challenged them, it was tough. Again, we looked tired, but still, we fought … it’s exciting that we can compete with teams like that.”
Junior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva and Bonifacio led the offensive charge with a combined 22 kills in the match. Freshman setter Lottie Scully also added 30 assists of her own.
On Friday, BU bounced back during its match against Merrimack (2-8) after starting the tournament 0-2. Binghamton took an eight-point lead in the first set, however, the Warriors did not back down, cutting into the Bearcats’ lead late in the set. Merrimack eventually cut its deficit to two, with BU leading 23-21, but llieva registered two straight kills to secure the set. BU took the second and third sets 25-10 and 25-17, respectively to win its first and final match of the tournament.
“I was very excited that we were able to come out of there with a win,” Yaeger said. “We distributed the ball really well, we blocked, we did all the things that we’re good at. Going into the Merrimack match, one of our goals was to worry about ourselves first and what was going on, on our side of the net … and secondly, to be more aggressive. I wanted them to be as aggressive as possible. I always tell them that the more aggressive team is going to win and that’s exactly what we did.”
Bonifacio continued her successful weekend on the court, providing consistency both offensively and defensively throughout the tournament for Binghamton. The Bearcat registered 40 kills and 27 digs over BU’s three matches.
“[Bonifacio] brings much consistency for us,” Yaeger said. “She’s just a very versatile player, and she can do it all. Even when she’s at the serving line … she challenges the other team with her serves … and she’s a good blocker. She continues to get better and it’s very exciting.”
Binghamton returns home to face Niagara on Tuesday evening, Sept. 20. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m at the West Gym in Vestal, New York.