Coming off a three-set sweep over NJIT last Sunday, the Binghamton volleyball team was defeated by Bryant 3-2 in an America East (AE) matchup that went the distance. After winning a highly contested first set, BU dropped the second and third sets to go down 2-1. However, the Bearcats’ defense secured a set-four win as BU forced a fifth set. Despite leading early on in the fifth set, the Bulldogs gained momentum late and pulled out a five-set victory.
“We struggled from start to finish,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “Bryant completely dominated from the first set all the way to the fifth set. With how much they dominated us, [Bryant] should’ve beat us in three [sets]. We never had control of the match.”
Bryant (18-10, 5-3 AE) came out of the gates hot to take a 4-0 lead. Despite trailing for most of the set, Binghamton (13-10, 6-2 AE) slowly crawled back, stringing together a set of runs to take a 24-23 lead late in the frame. Eventually, a kill from freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort and a Bulldog attack error gave BU the 26-24 victory in set one.
“Our serve receive is everything,” Yaeger said. “We’ve got to be able to pass the ball because we have some of the best hitters in this conference, waiting to put the ball away.”
Similar to the first set, BU went down early in the second set to the Bulldogs and could not recover. Despite a late effort from Binghamton to knot things up in the set, Bryant maintained its lead to take the set 25-22.
“Our serve receive couldn’t be consistent,” Yaeger said. “We didn’t dig enough balls. We missed 15 serves yesterday. You cannot win a match missing 15 serves.”
Heading into the third set with the match tied at one set a piece, both teams went back and forth at the beginning of the set. Midway through the set, a 6-0 run gave the Bulldogs a 15-11 lead. Bryant continued to run away with the set, closing things out with a 10-4 run to defeat BU 25-15 in set three.
“[Bryant] dug everything that we sent over to them,” Yaeger said. “It was just hard for us to get anything going last night.”
Looking to close the match out, Bryant continued its offensive prowess in set four, jumping out to a 6-0 lead. The Bearcats, however, managed to stay in the set and slowly chipped away, despite the Bulldogs’ best effort to put the set out of reach. Timely blocks from graduate student middle blocker Anna Sprys and freshman middle blocker Misa Dlouha allowed BU to tie the score at 23. BU went on to win the set 25-23, forcing a fifth set.
“Our blocking was really good,” Yaeger said. “Especially toward the end of that fourth set it helped us get going … We’re a good blocking team so we rely a lot on our blocks. The defense in the fourth set really helped.”
With the match deadlocked at two sets for each team, the fifth and final set decided the winner. The Bearcats continued to click after its set four wins, taking a 5-1 lead early on in the set. Despite this, the Bulldogs stayed in the set, taking their first lead with the score at 7-6. After some back-and-forth play, Bryant regained the lead ultimately winning the set 15-8 and the match 3-2, respectively.
“We’ve got to be better in our out-of-system [play],” Yaeger said. “But we’ve [also] got to be more consistent being in system.”
Schabort and senior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva each added 12 kills in the losing effort. However, Ilieva also tallied 12 errors and recorded her lowest hitting percentage in a match this season at .000. Notably on defense, Dlouha had a season-high 13 blocks.
With Ilieva struggling to get things going on offense — a rare occurrence for both her and the Bearcats — Yaeger expressed that it was difficult for the team to adjust.
“[Ilieva] really struggled yesterday,” Yaeger said. “It’s tough because we haven’t had a match in a very long time where she’s struggled like that. Nobody really knew how to react to something like that … it wasn’t a great day for her. She had an off day, and I think this group didn‘t know how to respond to something like that.”
Binghamton faced off against UMBC on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. in its second AE matchup of the weekend.