After sweeping Le Moyne 3-0 last Tuesday, the Binghamton volleyball team won two out of its three games at the Lehigh Steel Classic in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, defeating Farleigh Dickinson 3-2 and Lehigh 3-0 while dropping its final contest to Delaware State 3-1 over the weekend.
“I scheduled that weekend because I knew it was going to be a hard weekend,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “I wanted to be challenged. So playing all the teams that we played this weekend were more competitive for us, and I’m really happy with coming out two and one.”
On Friday evening, BU (6-4-0) took on Farleigh Dickinson (1-9-0) in its first matchup of the tournament. After a back-and-forth opening set, the Knights took the first set of the match 25-19. BU bounced back in the second set, winning 25-17. The back-and-forth nature of the match continued with Farleigh Dickinson winning the third set 27-25 in overtime to go up two sets to one. However, the Bearcats managed to take the fourth and fifth sets 25 -21 and 15-8, respectively, winning their opening match of the tournament.
“I would say we were very hot and cold,” Yaeger said. “We were very inconsistent, we’re still really dealing with a bunch of injuries right now. We’re kind of having to throw out there some new things [and] some old things, so it leads to a little bit of inconsistency on our end. Overall, I was really happy with our performance.”
Binghamton played its second match of the tournament on Saturday afternoon against Lehigh (7-3-0), looking to build on its win on Friday. Despite the Mountain Hawks taking a 6-2 advantage early on in the first set, BU made a comeback and managed to take the set 25-23. The Bearcats then went on to defeat Lehigh in only three sets, winning the final two sets of the match 25-19 and 25-17, respectively, to improve to 2-0 on the weekend.
Later in the evening on Saturday, the Bearcats played their final match of the tournament against Delaware State (4-6-0). BU got off to a strong start in the opening set but was unable to close things out, dropping the first set 25-21. After the Hornets took set two, 28-26, in overtime, Binghamton won the third set 25-21. However, Binghamton’s comeback fell short as Delaware State proved to be too much as the Hornets secured the fourth set, 25-18, completing a 3-1 match victory.
Despite the loss against Delaware State, senior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva recorded a career-high 27 kills in the match and 13 digs while hitting .317, earning her fifth double-double of the season.
“We need to get more consistent with our six-two offense, but you know we have a lot of freshmen and we’re very inexperienced and we just need to get experienced,” Yaeger said. “Due to a lot of injuries from our older players, it forced a lot of our new players and our new freshmen to kind of get thrown in there really quickly this season. And I think they’re doing such a great job adapting to the physicality and the quickness and the speed of division one volleyball.”
Ilieva tallied 59 kills, 34 digs and five blocks over the entirety of the tournament. She also leads the nation in service aces with 23, which put Binghamton within the top 10 in the country in team service aces with 79. In addition to Ilieva, freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort went on to earn All-Tournament honors with 35 kills, 16 digs, eight blocks and seven service aces over the weekend.
“[Ilieva] is really unbelievable for us,” Yaeger said. “She plays at such a high level and you always kind of know what you’re going to get with her. We played the Lehigh match at like 12:30, and then as soon as we were done we had to start warming up for Delaware State. So our girls were exhausted but [Ilieva] managed to make her career-high still against Delaware State being exhausted and playing in all six rotations. She’s really the backbone of this program.”
Binghamton will compete at the UConn Dog Pound Challenge next, with its first matchup against Brown on Saturday, Sept. 16. First serve is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Gampel Arena in Storrs, Connecticut.