The Binghamton volleyball team went undefeated in its three matchups against Merrimack, Duquesne and Saint Peter’s, defeating Merrimack 3-0, Duquesne 3-1 and Saint Peter’s 3-0 at the Bearcat Classic. In their first tournament of the 2023 season, the Bearcats welcomed the teams to Vestal, New York and took home the Bearcat Classic title.

“We really wanted to kind of mix some lineups up, see what we’re working with, what works, what doesn’t work,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “Get everybody in and just start to head toward a starting lineup … just be consistent, no bad errors and to win the serve and receive game.”

Binghamton (3-0) opened up the tournament against Merrimack (1-2) on Friday night. The first set saw both squads going back and forth, with the Warriors staying within two points of the Bearcats early on. However, a four-point run from BU to go up 15-9 gave the squad the necessary momentum to keep Merrimack at bay for the set, eventually winning 25-21. The next two sets saw Binghamton stay in control throughout, taking both at 25-13 and 25-17, respectively, and sweeping the match 3-0.

“We kind of distributed the ball really well,” Yaeger said. “Setting everybody who was in the front row, we were able to get the middles going, the right sides going [and] the outsides going. So we were really in system against Merrimack which really helped us.”

Then, on Saturday afternoon, the Bearcats took on Duquesne (2-1), continuing to build on their momentum from Friday by controlling the pace in the first set, winning 25-16. The subsequent sets, however, would see momentum shift toward the Dukes. Duquesne held onto the lead throughout the second set and led the Bearcats 22-21 late into the game. However, 4 crucial kills from freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort allowed BU to edge out the Dukes 25-23 and go up 2-0. The Dukes would take an early lead once more and keep the pressure on in the third set, holding off a comeback attempt from Binghamton and handing the Bearcats first set loss of the tournament, 25-22.

“We could not get a ball in from the 10-foot line and neither could they,” Yaeger said. “I mean, both teams were really struggling in the serve-receive game. And so then it turned into an outside game. Who’s outside [was] better? Was it our outsides that were better who can hit out of system or was it their outsides that could hit better out of system?”

The Dukes carried their momentum into the fourth set of the match, going up 4-1 early. Binghamton, however, would even the score 5-5 and set a set-long back and forth into motion, always remaining within striking distance of the Dukes. Entering the final stretch down 23-20, the Bearcats rallied behind senior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva who nabbed three kills in a four-point stretch to bring the Bearcats to match point, 24-23. While the Dukes evened it out, two critical errors from Duquesne allowed the Bearcats to win the set, 26-24, and the match overall.

“In that game, I thought I really struggled in serve receives,” Ilieva said. “So I wanted to help my team by serve-receiving better. And at the last set when we had to come back and get the set to win, in my mind was just like, ‘pass the ball and then finish it when they sent [it to] me.’ And that’s what happened.”

BU then took Saint Peter’s (0-3) in its final matchup of the tournament on Saturday evening. After a bit of back and forth between both sides in the first set, the Bearcats would take control and run away with the lead to win 25-13. From there, the Bearcats never looked back and took both subsequent sets 25-13 and 25-10, winning the match 3-0, and finishing the tournament undefeated.

In recognition of their strong run and tournament title, multiple Bearcats took home tournament honors. Illieva was named the Bearcat Classic MVP, ending the tournament with 32 kills and nine aces, while Schabort and graduate student middle blocker Anna Sprys were named to the All-Tournament team.

“This tournament showed us where we are and what we need to work on,” Ilieva said. “And I feel it … gave us a lot of confidence. And it gives us the confidence that we need because we’re a pretty young team.”

Binghamton will hit the road next weekend to compete in the Buffalo Invite Tournament starting on Thursday, Aug. 31. First serve is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Alumni Arena in Buffalo, NY.