The Binghamton volleyball team hosted an America East (AE) matchup on Sunday evening against New Hampshire, in its second meeting this season. In its first matchup, BU won swiftly, shutting UNH out in three straight sets. After a long, hard-played match from both sides, the Bearcats pulled away — winning the match in five sets.
“I knew that was going to be a hard match,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “I know it’s nerve-racking going five [sets] and when things are going back-and-forth … we need that experience so badly.”
The first set started off close, with both teams exchanging points. However, BU (13-6, 4-1 AE) quickly pulled away against UNH (14-7, 2-3 AE) in the opening set, with its timely blocking and error-free volleyball. After going down 14-7, the Wildcats burned their first timeout. Shortly after, the Bearcats refused to concede their lead and took the set 25-14, courtesy of a kill by junior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva.
“I feel like we still have work to do,” Yaeger said. “I just want to make sure that we are making the right decisions and doing the right things … I still feel like we are learning every step of the way. Every time we step on the floor we’re learning more and more about how to play together as a team.”
In the second set, both Binghamton and UNH struggled to get hot as they exchanged points for the majority of the set. After New Hampshire went up 15-14, BU called its first timeout. After the break, both teams stayed stagnant, continuing to go back-and-forth as the Bearcats trailed 19-18. This forced Binghamton to burn its second timeout of the frame. Right after, the Wildcats took two straight points as the Bearcats’ deficit grew to 21-18. When the score reached 22-20, UNH took three straight points and won the set 25-20.
“That match was all about momentum,” Yaeger said. “We had it in the first, and they had it in the second. We have a history now, I feel, this season of really taking over in the first set and letting down in the second set, so that’s something we really need to work on.”
In set three, New Hampshire quickly jumped out to a 5-3 advantage, but the Bearcats proved to be resilient as they took the lead 7-5. This forced UNH to burn a timeout, and the Wildcats slowly crawled back, tying the score at 14-14. Although BU would soon trail 19-17, the home team promptly turned in an 8-0 run and took the set to lead 2-1.
“If we serve and serve receive better than they do, that’s usually when you’re winning sets,” Yaeger said. “So we really put a lot of emphasis on that. The girls really dug in, and they played really well at the end of the third.”
In the penultimate set, BU got off to a slow start once again as the Wildcats took an early 9-5 lead. The Bearcats continued to struggle to find their groove as they went down 14-9. Later, the Bearcats shortened the deficit to two, with UNH leading 22-20. However, this was the closest BU got, dropping the set 25-21.
“We talk all the time about how momentum is everything in this sport,” Yaeger said. “When you have it, it’s great. And when you don’t, you gotta find a way to get it back.”
In the fifth and final set, BU quickly applied pressure with an early 9-2 lead. The Wildcats began their comeback with a pair of points over four serves.
However, the resistance was short-lived as BU closed out the set and game to sweep the season series.
“I felt like we completely controlled that fifth set,” Yaeger said. “It wasn’t a panic moment. We’re still learning so much as a group together … We had to match their intensity. If they were gonna make big plays, we gotta make big plays.”
Junior outside hitter Stefana Stan and Ilieva led the way on offense with 16 and 20 kills, respectively. Overall, BU had a 23.5 percent hitting percentage while UNH was kept to just 12 percent.
“Stan was outstanding,” Yaeger said. “Her line was awesome. When you’re a player that only comes in for three rotations, it’s so crucial that you really make an impact on the game for those three, and she really did today.”
Binghamton will begin a two-game road trip on Oct. 21 against Albany. First serve is scheduled for a time yet to be announced at Robison Gym at the Kahl Campus Center in Albany, New York.