After defeating Manhattan 3-1 in its final nonconference matchup on Wednesday, the Binghamton women’s volleyball team dropped their regular-season finale to UNH in a 3-0 sweep on Sunday afternoon. Despite defeating the Wildcats earlier in the season at home, the Bearcats were unable to take a set as they were swept for just the second time in America East (AE) conference play.
“Today was not our day,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “It’s always tough playing on the road at UNH. They play very well in their gym. Our offense struggled to click today and UNH seemed to be one step ahead of us at all times.”
Binghamton (14-12, 6-4 AE) and Wildcats (18-8, 7-3 AE) went back and forth to open the match, with BU maintaining a slight advantage thanks to multiple kills from senior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva and freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort. UNH would soon tie things up before gradually taking an 18-15 lead, forcing a BU timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Wildcats continued their momentum with back-to-back kills to increase its lead to five. The Bearcats kept the set close to the end, with a kill from freshman middle blocker Misa Dlouha that made the score 23-20 which led to a UNH timeout. This momentum change was short-lived, however, as the Wildcats took the first set 25-22.
“[In] set one, we made too many errors,” Yaeger said. “We just were not efficient enough to gain control, with 10 hitting and two serving errors.”
An early back and forth continued with the second set, with the score tied at 6-6 tie early on. Things continued to go back and forth until kills from Ilieva and Schabort gave the Bearcats a slight advantage. Lead exchanges would continue to the midpoint of the set, before UNH took the lead at 18-16, forcing a BU timeout. After the timeout, the Wildcats kept up the momentum, taking a 21-16 lead into a second BU timeout. Binghamton brought the set within four, but the Wildcats held on to win set two 25-20.
“I thought sets one and two were very similar,” Yaeger said. “They were both close and then UNH would pull away. They had a lot of momentum going and did a good job playing with confidence. Our serve-receive started to fall apart and we couldn’t get anything going.”
UNH jumped out to 7-0 lead in the third set before a kill from Ilieva stopped the bleeding and got the Bearcats on the board. By the midpoint, the Wildcats maintained the lead, up 12-4, but a 5-0 run by the Bearcats brought them within three. UNH would continue to grow its lead, however, leading 17-10 later in the frame. BU continued to try and claw back into the match, forcing the Wildcats to take a timeout up 22-17, but the visitors closed things out with a 25-19, earning a 3-0 sweep over Binghamton.
“Again, we just had a hard time finding the momentum,” Yaeger said. “It’s hard too when the refs have calls like that as well. We put good pressure on them when we served the ball. We just couldn’t take advantage of the easy stuff that UNH sent back over.”
Ilieva and Schabort led the Bearcats with 12 kills a piece, while sophomore setter and right-side hitter Lottie Scully set up the offense up with 29 assists for the match. BU was held to a .120 hitting percentage, compared to UNH’s .270 hitting percentage as a team, en route to the 3-0 sweep in the season finale.
“With the regular season said and done, we still have an opportunity to win this whole thing,” Yaeger said. “Whichever team has the best weekend will win and that could be any of us. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. We will go back to work tomorrow and will be prepared for Friday.”
Despite the loss, the Bearcats clinched the No. 3 seed in the AE tournament and will look to flip the script against No. 2 UNH on Friday, Nov. 17. With top-seeded UMBC hosting the tournament, first serve is set for 8 p.m. at the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.