The Binghamton volleyball team went on the road Friday night for a matchup against America East (AE) rival UAlbany. With the match tied at two sets apiece, the Bearcats came up short in the fifth set, resulting in the team’s second conference loss of the season.
“We came out really slow and it just wasn’t good enough,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “We made too many unforced errors and Albany showed up to play. Since everyone kind of knows we’ve kind of turned things around, we’ve got a target on our backs.”
BU (13-7, 4-2 AE) went down early in the first set, as the Great Danes (7-16, 2-4 AE) got off to a hot start, leading 16-8. BU struggled to get into a groove as they found themselves frequently out of system, while UAlbany built on its early momentum. Despite being down for the majority of the set, the Bearcats staged a late comeback, going on a 19-10 run to take the lead 27-26. However, BU came up short as the home side took three straight points, securing the first set.
“By the time we figured it out it was too late,” Yaeger said. “It’s something that we can learn from, and we need to be challenged like that for sure … I like the experience with it.”
In the second set, Binghamton went down quickly once again, trailing Albany 7-2. However, the Bearcats bounced back, scoring a couple of quick points and knotting up the score at 11 apiece. After going on a 9-1 run, BU then led the set 19-12. The Great Danes responded with five unanswered points of their own, cutting the deficit to two. Despite the late comeback by Albany, Binghamton did not relinquish the lead as it would go on to take the second set 25-21, evening the series at 1-1.
“We served more aggressively at the end line and we were able to block a lot of balls,” Yaeger said. “I felt like we kind of figured them out as we went on and that helped in the second set.”
During the third set, BU started off hot out of the gates, building on the momentum from the end of the second frame. After going up 5-3 early, the Bearcats did not give up the lead, as they swiftly took the set 25-17.
“We did a better job,” Yaeger said. “We blocked, we executed. Albany would do something good and then we would come right back and we would execute.”
The penultimate set proved to be more highly contested. The Great Danes took an early lead of 9-6, but were unable to pull away. The Bearcats refused to surrender as they went on a series of small runs, eventually knotting the score up at 20. However, Albany would later go on a 4-0 run, after trailing 22-21, to take the set and tie up the match at two sets apiece.
“It just wasn’t good enough,” Yaeger said. “We didn’t show up to play and it’s tough. We couldn’t really stop [Albany’s] pin hitters … We struggled defensively, and I would say that Albany won the serve and pass game.”
In the fifth and final set, BU struggled as the Great Danes quickly grew an 8-5 lead. The home team refused to look back as it halted any signs of life from the Bearcats, closing out the set 15-9 and taking the first match of the season series.
“We’ve got to start figuring out fifth set matches,” Yaeger said. “We need to start closing more and finishing more. We’ve got to come out the gate in the fifth set hungry and focused, with a sense of urgency.”
Junior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva and senior middle hitter Anna Sprys propelled the Bearcats’ offense, both tallying season highs in kills with 23 and 17, respectively. On the defensive end, freshman libero Madison Konopka added 16 digs in the match.
“[Ilieva] played awesome,” Yaeger said. “She continues to challenge herself when hitting, to not be afraid to make mistakes. Sprys continues to amaze me … We set her over thirty balls … She’s doing an outstanding job putting balls away for us.”
Binghamton will conclude its two-game road trip on Sunday, Oct. 30 against UMBC. First serve is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.