Following a deflating loss against a formerly winless Albany squad last week, the Binghamton volleyball team downed UMass Lowell and the reigning America East (AE) champions, New Hampshire, on its home court this weekend.
BU (5-11, 2-1 AE) swept the River Hawks (5-11, 0-3 AE) to earn its first conference victory of the season on Friday night. Despite trailing in points, kills, aces, assists and digs, the Bearcats pulled out a win in three contested sets.
Junior outside hitter Gaby Alicea quarterbacked the offense by posting a team-high 10 kills and 13 points while senior setter Sarah Ngo added 29 assists.
Binghamton edged UMass Lowell by scores of 26-24, 25-22 and 26-24 in the first three frames, respectively. With no extensive advantage by either team throughout the match, BU was able to effectively close out each set and secure the confidence-boosting win.
“It was definitely that win against Lowell that helped us out,” said BU head coach Glenn Kiriyama. “It gave us a lot of confidence going into today and New Hampshire is always a tough opponent for us and we play them pretty close most matches. We knew it was going to be a pretty big battle today.”
Unlike the opening match of the weekend, the Bearcats had the statistical advantage over UNH (7-10, 2-1 AE) as they lead in points, kills, aces, assists and digs. For Alicea, it was just another day on the court as she logged 23.5 points and 21 kills, the second-highest number of kills in a match for her career.
Even though the Wildcats took the first frame, 25-21, they ultimately fell to Binghamton in four competitive sets. The win against New Hampshire proved that BU is capable of defeating top AE teams, as UNH has captured the past five conference titles. The Bearcats also overpowered the Wildcats at home last year in four sequences.
“It gives us a lot of confidence because they just beat Albany, who we lost to,” Kiriyama said. “I think that anyone can beat anybody in this conference but definitely a win over New Hampshire is a big win for us.”
Despite dropping all five road games this season, the Bearcats have remained perfect at home with three wins, two of which were sweeps. The team undoubtedly appears more comfortable and focused when it plays in front of its home crowd.
“The crowd is awesome; they make a lot of noise and we can hear it,” Kiriyama said. “I know our girls really appreciate that and they do feed off it. Their energy level increases as they feel the energy from the fans.”
Searching for its third conference victory and its first win on the road, BU is headed next to Baltimore, Maryland to face off with UMBC. The Retrievers (9-7, 1-1 AE) suffered their first conference loss against Stony Brook, who leads the conference with two wins, Sunday afternoon in a three-game sweep.
“UMBC has been a tough opponent also for us, we lost twice to them last year in conference,” Kiriyama said. “We know they’ve been playing pretty well, but we don’t know a lot about them. We’re at the challenge and hopefully we’ll have a good match this upcoming weekend.”
Hoping to carry over its momentum from this past weekend, Binghamton is slotted to take on UMBC on Friday night. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Retriever Activities Center Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.