On Sunday afternoon, the Binghamton volleyball team defeated New Hampshire in its first matchup of America East (AE) conference play. The Bearcats were relentless throughout the match, not allowing the Wildcats to take a single set and defeating them 3-0.

“Getting that first conference win is always one of the hardest things to do,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “We played very clean, simple, focused and error-free … We distributed the ball well and everybody contributed. Our defense was good and our serve receives were consistent … We just didn’t make a lot of errors.”

Despite a back-and-forth start to the match’s opening set, with both teams exchanging points, BU (10-4, 1-0 AE) was able to slowly pull away against UNH (11-6, 1-1 AE). After going up 4-3, the Bearcats held their lead for the remainder of the set. The Wildcats, however, mounted a late comeback when they went on a run to cut the deficit to 19-17, but Binghamton managed to pull away and went on to win the first set 25-19.

“I always tell the girls, that if you can get kills in out of system, you are going to be a very good team, so that’s something we have been working on all season,” Yaeger said. “The fact that we were still able to put the ball away when our passing wasn’t great is probably what pulled us ahead in that first set.”

In the second set, BU took a quick lead. The Bearcats grew an early 10-5 advantage that continued late into the frame, when they went on to take a 21-15 lead. Binghamton led by as many as eight points during that stretch. Similarly to set one, the Wildcats staged a late comeback, going on a small run and cutting the deficit to just three, forcing BU to burn a timeout while leading the set 21-18. After regrouping during the timeout, the Bearcats’ lead continued to lessen as the score was 23-22 moments later. BU did not fold however, as it earned a point off of service error and then closed out the penultimate set 25-22 thanks to a kill from junior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva.

“[Ilieva and freshman outside hitter Giulia Bonifacio] were so consistent for us,” Yaeger said. “When they get set a ball, you have so much confidence that they are going to put that ball away. And our setters, when they set them, I know that’s how they feel too. When we needed a point or needed a kill, we rely on them to come through for us, and they always do.”

In the third set, the Bearcats initially struggled to find their groove. UNH controlled the lead early until Binghamton matched the score at eight points a piece. BU then began to pull away and eventually lead the set 23-16. After another small 3-0 run by the Wildcats to make the score 23-19, the Bearcats called a timeout. New Hampshire closed the gap but was unable to take the lead. Despite a slow start, BU eventually took the set 25-20, securing its first AE win against the Wildcats.

“We were just very focused,” Yaeger said. “They were very confident and you could tell that they trusted each other … They relied on people to put the ball away, and they got excited for each other … I just reminded them we were in the driver’s seat. We had full control over that match the entire time. I never didn’t feel in control.”

Bonifacio and Ilieva led the team on offense, with a combined 30 kills and only seven errors. Overall, the team had a combined hitting percentage of .302. Freshman setter Lottie Scully set up her teammates all game, finishing the match with a team-high 34 assists. She also contributed on the defensive end with 12 digs of her own in the victory. Junior right side hitter Stephanie Gatto also reinforced the defense with four blocks, as the Bearcats’ defense altogether held the Wildcats to a hitting percentage of just .177.

“I think it was a statement for us,” Yaeger said. “I don’t think people know what to expect from this team. To go in on the road and win in 3 … It was huge. It was everything and more than I wanted and could have imagined.”

BU continues conference play on Friday, Oct. 7 against UMBC. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m at West Gym in Vestal, New York.