After its semifinal loss to UNH in the 2022 AE tournament, the Binghamton volleyball team flipped the script on Friday night at the Events Center, defeating UNH 3-1 as it improved to 2-0 in America East (AE) play. After BU took the first match of the set, UNH bounced back to take set two. However, the Bearcats were able to win the third and fourth sets — in nail-biting, overtime fashion, as they closed out the 3-1 victory over the Wildcats.
“I’m happy with how we played,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “Being able to hang with a team like [UNH], that’s making us better every single time they’re hitting at us or we’re digging against them.“
As set one got underway, BU (8-8, 2-0 AE) and UNH (9-7, 0-2 AE) went back and forth, exchanging points. Neither team was able to gain a significant lead until the 12-12 mark. BU managed to go on a 6-1 run, topped off by a kill from freshman middle blocker, Misa Dlouha, bringing the score to 20-13. The Bearcats never relinquished their lead as they controlled the rest of the set, winning 25-19.
“When we had to put balls away and we had to win at the end, we were able to come through,“ Yaeger said.
The second set began in a similar fashion with both teams going toe to toe. Once again, nearly midway through the set with the score at 11 apiece, Binghamton began to gather some momentum. The Bearcats strung together a 5-0 run to take a 16-11 lead over the Wildcats. However, UNH mounted a comeback this time, tying the score at 17-17 later in the frame. The Bearcats could not find a way to get the momentum back as the Wildcats closed out the set on an 8-1 run, taking the second set 25-18.
“We’re young and, at times, we’re just inexperienced,” Yaeger said. “We’re still kind of in our preseason.”
Binghamton put the second set in the rearview, coming out of the gates hot in the third set and jumping out to a 9-1 lead. Later in the frame, with BU leading 19-10, the momentum shifted in favor of UNH. An 8-1 run by the Wildcats cut the Binghamton lead to three. Still, the closest UNH managed to get was cutting the BU lead to one at 23-22. With set point and senior outside hitter, Tsvetelina Ilieva, at the service line, she dropped the ball into an empty space in the middle of UNH’s court to record a service ace that iced the set 25-22, in favor of Binghamton.
“They played tough,” Yaeger said. “They played hard. When needed to put the ball away, when the game was on the line, they came through.”
Both teams went point for point to kick off the match’s final set. Eventually, at the 9-8 mark, the Bearcats began to pull away. Binghamton continued to pace the set, leading 16-9 later in the frame. However, UNH did not give up as it managed to keep pace with BU. With an opportunity to seal the game at 24-20, Binghamton was unable to close out the match as the Wildcats came back to tie the score at 24. Going into overtime, both teams went point for point, struggling to close out the set. The momentum shifted back and forth as the Events Center crowd watched with suspense. After a kill from Ilieva put BU up by one, a UNH attack error ended the match as BU secured the set 32-30, as well as the 3-1 victory over the Wildcats.
“I think [the win] shows a lot of our personality,” Yaeger said. “[UNH] just made us better, whether [we] realize that or not.”
Ilieva and Dlouha led the way on offense for the Bearcats with 23 and 10 kills, respectively. In addition, freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort added 12 in the victory.
“My favorite part about the match was that everyone really contributed,” Yaeger said. “[Ilieva] always has a lot of kills for us and she’s our go but if you look at our kills, [Schabort] had 12, [Dhlouha] had 10 … we haven’t had [the stat sheet] look like that in a long time, if ever this season.”