The Binghamton volleyball team dropped all three of its matches against Montana, DePaul and Buffalo after traveling to Buffalo, New York for the Buffalo Invite over the weekend. BU was defeated 3-2 by Montana, 3-1 by DePaul and 3-0 by Buffalo.

“This weekend was meant to be really challenging for us,” said Binghamton head coach Allie Yaeger. “I knew these teams were really good and if we want to be the best in the conference, we’ve got to prepare and play the best teams before we hit conference … I was happy with how competitive we were.”

Binghamton’s (3-3) first matchup of the tournament was on Thursday afternoon against Montana (1-5). Despite dropping the first set 25-17, BU was able to regroup, taking the second set 25-23. The back-and-forth nature of the match continued as the Grizzlies took the third set 25-16 and BU won the fourth set 25-16. Ultimately, the Bearcats went on to drop the fifth and final set of the match, 15-11, losing 3-2 and suffering their first loss of the season to Montana.

“When I think back to Montana and when I think back to DePaul and Buffalo, everybody was just a lot more experienced than we were,” Yaeger said. “A lot of those [Montana] players have been [in five-set matches] and for a lot of our players that was the first fifth set that they’ve ever played in college.”

Senior outside hitter Tsvetelina Ilieva and freshman outside hitter Ella Schabort led the way on offense for the Bearcats, combining for 26 kills. In addition, freshman setter Zoe Myint added 18 assists in the losing effort.

After dropping its tournament-opening match to Montana on Friday, BU took on DePaul (2-3), both teams looking to capture their first win of the tournament. Binghamton struggled coming out of the gates against the Blue Demons, losing the first set of the match 25-12. Despite bouncing back to take the second set 25-19, the Bearcats dropped the third and fourth sets, 25-16 and 25-20, respectively, as they suffered their second loss of the tournament.

“[DePaul was] very experienced,” Yaeger said. “They’re just big and physical, and they could really put the ball away. A lot of times our defense didn’t have answers for them. I was glad that we hung with them … but their defense was just really good. We had a hard time putting the ball away.”

Ilieva tallied 17 kills in the loss. Freshman middle blocker Misa Dlouha was not far behind her, adding 11 kills of her own. However, as a team, Binghamton was held to just a .120 hitting percentage in the match.

On Saturday, Binghamton took on Buffalo (6-0) for its third and final matchup of the tournament. Despite keeping the score close in all three sets, the Bearcats were unable to win a set and were eventually swept 3-0 by the Bulls, 25-22, 25-19 and 25-22, respectively.

“We did a lot of really good stuff against Buffalo,” Yaeger said. “I’m glad that we were able to keep it close in all three [sets] … our defense was able to pick up a lot of Buffalo’s stuff which I was really impressed with.”

Despite it being early on in the season, Binghamton has dealt with several major injuries to starting players in recent weeks. First-team all-conference senior outside hitter Stefana Stan suffered a torn ACL and second-team all-conference sophomore setter Lottie Scully has been harboring an ankle injury for the past few weeks. As a result, BU has had to rely more heavily on its newcomers and young players, which Yaeger addressed.

“For the longest time, we felt like we were going to be the same team as last year, and slowly with injuries that unfortunately have occurred with us,” Yaeger said. “We all of a sudden are not the team that we were last year. At times, there are five new players out there on the floor and a lot of the time those five players are freshmen that are out there … individually we are very talented, we just have to figure out a way to get this whole thing going together as one unit to be able to perform.”