The Binghamton volleyball team played two games this weekend, as it hosted UMBC on Friday night and traveled to NJIT on Sunday. Despite losing its home match in a five-set thriller, the Bearcats bounced back against the Highlanders, earning a 3-0 sweep.
On Friday night, BU (11-5, 2-1 America East [AE]) hosted the defending AE champs in the Retrievers (9-5, 2-0 AE). Although the Bearcats won two of the first three sets, a tight loss in the penultimate set forced the match into the fifth frame, where Binghamton conceded its first conference loss.
“[UMBC] was just a little cleaner at the end,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “Every set that we lost, it was our errors. I felt like we did it to ourselves. The sets that we won, we absolutely dominated, so we went into this match saying we’re gonna learn a lot. We were really hoping it was going to be a close match, and that’s exactly what it was.”
Set two was the most tightly contested of the entire match. The Bearcats dug a hole for themselves early, going down 8-3 initially, however, a 5-0 BU run knotted it at 8-8. Both teams went back-and-forth for the remainder of the set, but the Retrievers closed it out 26-24 to tie the match at one set apiece. Junior outside hitter Stefana Stan tallied 13 kills for the game, four coming in the second set.
“[Stan’s] been outstanding,” Yaeger said. “It’s so important when you’re a player that comes in for three rotations. It’s so crucial that you make an impact [because] you’re not in there for six. She makes an impact. I love having her in [the game] … She brings a lot of energy and her teammates love watching her succeed. It’s fun.”
Binghamton made light work of the Retrievers in set three, winning 25-14. The penultimate set was back-and-forth until retrievers got up 13-9. BU attempted to spark the offense but found themselves in a hole down 21-14. The Bearcats began to chip away, but still trailed 24-22 and were unable to complete the comeback as they dropped the set 25-22.
“We really couldn’t stop [UMBC’s] two best players,” Yaeger said. “We gotta play better defense … We worked on triple-blocking them and the couple times we were able to do it, it worked and it was good. But then they made the adjustment, and we couldn’t really do it anymore.”
Going into the final set, each team had two sets to their name as it came down to one final frame for it all. It was a back-and-forth set for the most part, with each team making plays on offense. BU went down 10-6 and responded with a 6-2 run to tie it at 12. Despite the comeback, UMBC went on a 3-0 run to end it 15-12 and take the match three sets to two.
“It’s still so early,” Yaeger said. “And I know it was such a big match, but it’s too early for that to be the match of the year. We take away so much from it and learn so much. That is such a good UMBC team, but we’re right there with them. It was a fun environment. The crowd was outstanding tonight.”
The Bearcats hit the road on Sunday afternoon to face NJIT (6-15, 0-3 AE) for their second match of the week. They made quick work of the Highlanders, defeating them in three sets. BU won the sets 25-22, 25-17 and 25-20, respectively.
”I’m happy with the win,” Yaeger said. “It’s nice that we had a sense of urgency to get it done in three [sets]. We could’ve drawn [the game] out and we didn’t which was good … It was a team win.”
Junior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva led the offense, tallying 16 kills against NJIT. Additionally, Binghamton’s defense stepped up to play a role in the win with 22 combined blocks. Junior right side hitter Stephanie Gatto and senior middle hitter Anna Sprys led the defensive effort with six and five blocks, respectively.
“We have to continue to get better at defense,” Yaeger said. “Blocking is something I think we’re really good at. I think it’s one of the best blocking teams I’ve ever had, so it’s exciting to watch them … We rely heavily on our block, so it was huge.”
Binghamton returns to action on Wednesday, Oct. 12 for a one-game break from conference play against Colgate. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Wesley M. Cotterell Court in Hamilton, New York.