On Tuesday evening, the Binghamton volleyball team hosted Niagara in its last match before America East (AE) play begins. The Bearcats swiftly took care of the Purple Eagles as they shut them out in three sets.
“I thought we got better and better as the game went on,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “We used our hitters. We were able to distribute the ball really well. That’s always gonna be a reason for us to succeed … Everybody was getting set tonight and everyone was getting kills. It wasn’t just one person … We just played error-free volleyball.”
BU (9-4) got off to a hot start in set one, going up 6-1 before the Purple Eagles (3-9, 1-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference [MAAC]) had to burn their first timeout. The Bearcats would not relinquish their lead as they went on to defeat Niagara 25-16.
The Bearcats have not had a home game since their first tournament of the season back in late August. Binghamton has competed in three-straight away tournaments since then, earning winning records in two of the three.
“Being home is awesome,” Yaeger said. “Having the confidence going into America East play with a win on our back after this is great.”
The second set saw a slower start for BU, as it was much more tightly contested. After going back and forth, both sides were knotted up at 10 points a piece. Despite the tight start, BU was able to take the lead with a 7-0 run to close out the set.
“I felt like [game two] was very chaotic and sloppy on both sides,” Yaeger said. “[Niagara] was winning rallies and we were missing a lot of serves. We were making errors in serving, we were missing the ball deep and long, we weren’t picking up tips. We just kept it close in that first part, but it’s nice to be able to get over that and pull ahead.”
Freshman setter Lottie Scully spent the majority of the game setting up her teammates offensively, as she finished the game with 33 assists. However, she added four kills — two coming back-to-back in the penultimate set — to give Binghamton the momentum to close out the set.
“We constantly tell [Scully] that she needs to be more aggressive when she’s in the front row,” Yaeger said. “Without running a 6-2 and when she’s in the front row, we only have two hitters, so she has to make up for getting the kills … Lottie has been nothing but aggressive, and I think that builds her confidence.”
For the third week in a row, freshman outside hitter Giulia Bonifacio has earned AE Rookie of the Week honors. The Bearcat led the way offensively with 17 kills and only two errors. Junior outside hitter Stefana Stan added 11 kills, and senior middle hitter Anna Sprys tallied six blocks to reinforce the defense.
“[Bonifacio] is killing it,” Yaeger said. “She hit .577 [hitting percentage] and 17 kills in three sets, that is absolutely ridiculous. Consistency is what she always brings for us. We can always look to her for that. It’s nice getting her in six rotations right now and getting her kills out of the back row and the front row. We look for her a lot and we will continue to look to her throughout the season.”
In set three, BU pulled ahead early once again, going up 9-1 before Niagara called a timeout. After the timeout, the Bearcats continued their dominant start to the game, going up 13-1 before the Purple Eagles finally scored. Despite a six-point run by Niagara at the end of the set, Binghamton was able to close out the game 25-16.
“It’s fun to watch them for me,” Yaeger said. “They look like they’re having fun, and when they play like that and we get that comfort zone and those leads, they can take riskier decisions … It’s fun to watch them, it’s fun to work on things all week and see it come together on the floor.”
BU begins conference play on Sunday, Oct. 2 against New Hampshire. First serve is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, New Hampshire.