Following its sweep of New Hampshire in the America East (AE) Semifinals, the Binghamton volleyball team fell in three consecutive frames to Stony Brook in the AE title game. BU (12-15, 8-4 AE) captured six consecutive victories before dropping what ultimately became its final match of the season to the Seawolves (18-12, 6-6 AE).
“We’re coming in on sort of a roll here, so hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up and come out strong against the University of New Hampshire,” said BU head coach Glenn Kiriyama prior to Friday’s match. “As the season has progressed, I can see the confidence level of the whole team just get stronger, especially our outsides who have been carrying the load a lot for us.”
Having beaten the defending champions twice during the regular season, Binghamton was in prime position to take down UNH in the playoffs. Capitalizing on their strong play, the Bearcats could not have had a better start to their weekend as they dominated in almost every category. BU’s advantage in points, kills, aces, assists and digs propelled them to the championship match.
“From the get-go, you can tell the intensity was there on both sides,” Kiriyama said. “It was good to see our girls were ready to go at the start and they just never let up through the whole match. They didn’t have any lapses and played hard the whole time, so it was really good to see that consistency and that amount of effort. They put a lot into this match.”
After taking the victory by scores of 25-20, 25-19 and 25-23, Binghamton awaited its next challenger — the winner of the match between Albany and Stony Brook. With the Great Danes (11-14, 11-1 AE) as the clear favorites, the team may have been expecting to face off with the conference-leading No. 1 seed.
To seemingly everyone’s surprise, the Seawolves dominated the host and completed a three-game sweep as the underdogs. With scores of 25-20, 25-21 and 25-20, Stony Brook appeared to be rolling even with the No. 4 tag.
The news of the upset may have appeared initially fortunate for the Bearcats as they already defeated SBU on two occasions this season, the most recent of which was the final regular-season match. As opposed to the Seawolves, the Great Danes swept the season series against BU.
Despite what seemed to be a great opportunity for the Bearcats to win the title, the outcome of the match was far from great for Binghamton. BU ultimately fell to Stony Brook in three sets by scores of 25-20, 25-18 and 25-19.
The first frame featured SBU jumping out to an early 13-7 lead and the Bearcats attempting to mount a comeback. BU was able to trim the deficit to just 19-18; however, the Seawolves closed out the sequence on a 6-2 stretch and claimed victory in the game, 25-20.
Hoping to bounce back, Binghamton was unable to stop a 7-1 run that put Stony Brook up with a familiar 13-7 lead. Even though BU went on to trim the margin to only three points, the Seawolves logged seven straight and ultimately took the second frame, 25-18.
With the match, title and season on the line, Binghamton was trying to hang on in the third set as the score read 10-9. Unable to keep the game within reach, SBU went on a 7-3 run that powered it to a 17-12 edge. Maintaining at least a four-point cushion for the remainder of the sequence, Stony Brook cruised to a victory and captured the conference title with a sweep.
Although Binghamton came up short during its playoff weekend, senior setter Sarah Ngo turned in two strong performances to conclude her collegiate volleyball career. The AE Setter of the Year posted 62 assists in the postseason and close to 1,000 assists in her senior year alone.
“I’ve been playing volleyball since I was seven years old and to work my whole life to get even to college volleyball and to be able to end with even making it to a finals for the conference is just amazing, and it’s really the cherry on top to my volleyball career,” Ngo said.
Even though BU was unable to take the title, it did finish its regular season with five straight AE victories, claimed the No. 2 seed in the tournament and advanced to the conference finals for the first time in five seasons. It is undeniable that volleyball fans have much to be happy about with the amount of success the Bearcats had this year.
“It was a pretty amazing season for the team,” Kiriyama said. “We struggled even in preseason trying to find some identity on the court and trying to work things out. In conference, the first part, we had some pretty bad games there and some good ones too. Finally … we found our way and it was good to see them come together. It’s just night and day, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”