After its five-game winning streak was snapped against UMBC last week, the Binghamton volleyball team captured two America East (AE) conference victories at home against Albany and NJIT this weekend. On Friday, the Bearcats took on Albany, dropping a closely contested first set, before going on to take the final three sets. BU then competed once again on Sunday, sweeping NJIT in three sets.
“Every game from here on out is so important,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “We have everything to lose. Every time we take the floor we have to be very focused. We’re gonna find teams like Albany that play really hard, they never went away tonight.”
In the first set, the Bearcats (13-9, 6-1 AE) got on the board first before Albany (7-15, 2-6 AE) put together a five-point run to go up 5-1. The Great Danes controlled the pace of the set from there on out. Ultimately, Binghamton tried to close the margin with a few key blocks, but Albany maintained its lead to close out a 25-18 win in set one.
BU went down early to the Great Danes to begin the second set before a kill by graduate student right-side hitter Lydia Adam helped BU take control. The set would go back and forth from there. Later in the frame, a Great Danes attack error followed by a service ace from senior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva gave BU a 19-18 lead. Binghamton stayed in control from there with a kill from Adam securing a 25-22 set win for the Bearcats.
“Our blocking and defense really picked up,” Yaeger said. “With the run going back and serving by Ilieva, it’s all about momentum. Volleyball is all about momentum. Once we had it in that set, I felt like we ran with it.”
In the third set, BU jumped out to an 8-3 lead, spearheaded by a kill from sophomore setter and right side hitter Lottie Scully alongside a pair of kills from graduate student middle blocker Anna Sprys. The Great Danes fought back to tie the game before a sequence of Albany errors gave the Bearcats the momentum and the 25-22 set win to go up 2-1. In the final set, the Bearcats managed to pull away early on. Later in the set, two kills from Adam gave BU the lead. A final effort from Albany came up short as a closing kill from Sprys gave BU a 25-19 set win and a 3-1 match victory.
Following the victory over Albany, the Bearcats earned a 3-0 sweep in another conference matchup against NJIT (9-14, 1-6 AE) on Sunday afternoon.
“I felt like the second half of every single set we played was really good,” Yaeger said. “I’m still just a little disappointed with our starts in every single set. Too many errors, too many missed serves, but I’m happy with how we’ve finished.”
The Bearcats pulled away with double-digit wins in the first two sets against NJIT. In the first, multiple kills from Ilieva, freshman middle blocker Misa Dlouha and freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort gave BU the momentum. In the second set, BU stayed strong with Scully adding two more tip kills at the net. Binghamton’s strong play at the net in the second set helped the Bearcats earn its second double-digit win.
“Our blocking definitely picked up,” Yaeger said. “The net play was really good, our passing was good and our serving was really strong. And [Scully] having four kills today as a setter was really good.”
To close things out, the Bearcats got multiple kills from Adam and Schabort to keep the momentum going after Ilieva’s historic moment. Dominance at the net continued for BU, with two key blocks from Dlouha helping to give the Bearcats the 3-0 sweep.
“We needed the win,” Yaeger said. “We have to play like our lives depend on it if we want to host and want to take first. We gotta continue to get better. It’s obviously a good 2-0 win this weekend, heading into next weekend which is huge.”
Ilieva led the Bearcats with 32 kills throughout the weekend, including her 1,000th career kill on Sunday against NJIT. Adam finished the weekend with 21 kills of her own, and the Bearcats’ defense made its presence known at the net with 55 blocks for the weekend.
“It feels awesome [to reach the 1,000 kill mark],” Ilieva said. “I’ve been thinking about that for a while. My goals for this season were to break the school record for most kills in a season and get a thousand kills. One goal is off the table, now on to the next one.”
Binghamton will continue AE play against Bryant on Friday, Nov. 3. First serve is set for 7 p.m. in the Chace Athletic Center in Smithfield, Rhode Island.