Powered by the offensive prowess of junior outside hitter Gaby Alicea, the Binghamton volleyball team captured its first and second victories of the season against Rider University and Cleveland State. Despite dropping a closely contested match against Marist, BU left Poughkeepsie, New York, winning two of three games in the Marist Tournament.
Following a three-game sweep at the UNLV Invitational last week, the Bearcats (2-4) were searching for their first win of the season against Rider (2-3) in the opening game of the tournament.
After surrendering a four-point run to the Broncs, BU found itself down early in the opening set. Binghamton went on to eventually tie the game at 10 with its own four-point stretch. Although the Bearcats were able to create a five-point advantage with the score at 21-16, they were unable to close the game and lost the first sequence of the morning.
Even though the team was unable to pull out the victory in what seemed to be a winnable first set, Binghamton appeared refocused during the rest of the match. BU unquestionably dominated the rest of the way, capturing three straight wins to ensure a 3-1 victory against Rider.
“Gaby Alicea got off on a really good run on her serving and that sort of set the tone for us,” said BU head coach Glenn Kiriyama. “We never looked back there.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, Kiriyama’s squad was unable to gain a substantial edge against the Red Foxes (3-1). The Bearcats fell in the first two sequences, neither of which was lopsided by any means.
BU was able to claw its way back and capture the next two sets, 25-18 and 25-19. In the final frame, service errors partially led to Binghamton ultimately dropping the last game, and the Bearcats lost the series, 3-2.
“It was good to compete well against all three teams this weekend, even the one we lost,” Kiriyama said. “It was a tough loss, but it was a very competitive match.”
During the third match of the tournament, the Bearcats faltered in the first set for the third time over the weekend. Although the Vikings (2-3) defeated BU in the opening frame, the Bearcats went on to win the next two sets. After Binghamton squandered the fourth game, 25-15, the team overpowered Cleveland State in a competitive fifth set to earn its second win of the season and the tournament.
“It was important to play well this weekend, at least to build off our first weekend,” Kiriyama said. “We saw a lot of good things out there. The players played hard and played a little bit smarter this weekend.”
Alicea’s performance was a major component in the Bearcats’ two victories, especially her ability to capitalize on passes from senior setter Sarah Ngo. During the Marist Tournament, Alicea posted a total of 67.5 points, connected on 56 kills and corralled 41 digs.
“She’s become a very dominant hitter for us, and she’s got the confidence now that she can go up against any block and convert for kills,” Kiriyama said. “She’s running a really high confidence level right now and swinging aggressive, taking advantage of all the sets that she hits.”
With the Marist Tournament in its rearview mirror, BU will head home to continue its nonconference schedule. For several members of the team, such as freshman setter Jaclyn Smith and freshman middle hitter Elis Gadelha, the matchup will mark their first home game.
“It’s always fun to be at home, but they know every match is going to be tough,” Kiriyama said. “We can’t relax at any time the ball is in play. We try and stress just play each point as hard as you can and then relax after the whistle blows.”
Binghamton is scheduled to take on Siena College in its first home game of the season on Tuesday. First serve is slotted for 7 p.m. from the West Gym in Vestal, New York.