Coming off a 3-1 home win over the University of New Hampshire on Friday night, the Binghamton volleyball team earned a 3-0 sweep over Bryant University on Sunday afternoon at the Events Center. After a tight first set, the Bearcats picked up their momentum to take the second set and the third set — by double digits, earning their third win of America East (AE) play as they remain undefeated in conference play.
“We have to continue to take steps forward, and we have to continue to get better,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “We had a lot of injuries early on in the season with [sophomore setter Lottie Scully], our starting setter, who was out for four to five weeks. We’re kind of four to five weeks behind schedule … so that connection in that relationship with the setter and the hitters takes a little bit to get going. That is one of our biggest things — is getting our setter connected with everybody again.”
The first set went back and forth right from the jump, with Binghamton (9-8, 3-0 AE) and Bryant (12-9, 1-2 AE) trading points. A kill from senior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva, however, resulted in a four-point run to give BU a 6-2 lead. Bryant continued to chip away, however, eventually regaining the lead to make it a 13-12. After a BU timeout, another 4-0 run made it 16-13 for the Bearcats, but Bryant came back once more to knot things at 18-18. Then, with BU leading 24-23, Ilieva secured the set for the Bearcats with a kill — giving Binghamton a 1-0 lead over the Bulldogs.
“Volleyball is always about momentum,” Yaeger said. “You can go from being down by five points, all of a sudden you’re winning by five points. So momentum was key.”
BU took an early 7-5 lead to open the second set, keeping the Bulldogs at bay. However, Bryant kept pace and eventually went on to take a 10-9 lead over BU. A Bryant attack error helped Binghamton regain the lead, but the Bulldogs managed to tie it again at 11-11. After more back-and-forth, a bad set from Bryant allowed BU to retake the advantage. Not long after, a diving dig from sophomore libero Madison Konopka on the next point led to a Bryant attack error, keeping the lead at 16-14 in favor of Binghamton. From there, the Bearcats maintained their momentum as they went on to earn a 25-20 win in set two to go up 2-0 against Bryant.
“When we’re diving into stands and we’re diving into chairs and [Konopka] makes a great play like that … it gets us going,” Yaeger said. “Big time digs, [and] big time blocks. I felt tonight at big-time moments it really helped put us over the edge and get that little bit of a lead on the other team.”
Looking to avoid a sweep, the Bulldogs took the lead to start the third set, but multiple Bryant attack errors swung the momentum back in BU’s direction as the Bearcats went up 6-3. While Bryant would continue to look for opportunities, more Bulldog errors propelled Binghamton to a 12-8 advantage. With the score at 13-10 in favor of BU, Scully spearheaded an eight-point BU run with a kill, three assists and a service ace to make it a 21-10 game. The Bearcats went on to complete the sweep a few points later, as an Ilieva service ace completed a 25-11 set win and a 3-0 match victory.
“It’s fun as a coach to watch these players learn as a division one player to rise to the occasion, to get smarter, to get faster, and that is what [Scully] is doing,” Yaeger said. “She’s learned so much last year and already into this season. You can see her developing out on the floor, and it’s so much fun to watch. She’s such a huge, important piece to our puzzle.”
Ilieva extended her double-digit kill streak with a team-leading 13 kills in the victory. Freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort was right behind her with 10 kills while also hitting .500. On defense, Konopka led the Bearcats with 16 digs.
“I think this weekend built up confidence a lot,” Yaeger said. “I think both of these teams — Bryant and New Hampshire — challenged us well, and they both made us better after this weekend. We’re a better team right now than we were Friday afternoon before we played New Hampshire, and that’s hats off to the two teams that we played.”
BU will take a break from AE conference play to take on Long Island University on Tuesday, Oct. 10. First serve is set for 6 p.m. at the Steinberg Wellness Center in Brooklyn, New York.