Volleyball turned upside down in America East semifinals

VESTAL, NY — Top ranked and host Binghamton Volleyball (17-7) lost two All-Conference players to injury and then lost to fourth-ranked New Hampshire (19-9) in America East’s semifinals on Saturday afternoon in the West by 3: 0 gym. The Wildcats won 30-28, 25-23, 25-16 to advance to Sunday’s championship game where they will face second-place UMBC for the tournament title.

The Bearcats are already playing without an all-conference setter Lotte Scullyhung hard in two tight sets but then lost the first-team all-conference hitter Stephen Stan midway through the third set and couldn’t recover. Binghamton had defeated UNH during the regular season, winning 3-0, 3-2. It was only the second time BU had been defeated 3-0 all season (3-0 v Boston College on Aug. 27).

“It’s hard to go into a game where we haven’t had a lot of time to prepare with this lineup (after Scully’s training injury on Thursday),” head coach Allie Hunter said. “I thought Jess (backup setter Bilello) did an excellent job but New Hampshire wanted it and it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season. It’s disappointing for us… but it just wasn’t our day. We don’t run. We’ve been talking about the serve and receive game all week and it wasn’t there today. We were so out of the loop in the first two sets. New Hampshire did a great job with their serving and passing game, I feel like they beat us there.”

Binghamton hit just .197 for the game – one of the lowest percentages of the season.

The opening set went to the extras after 14 draws and four lead changes. The Bearcats broke away from an 18-18 tie after two Player of the Year kills Tsvetelina Ilyeva and two UNH attacking errors and led 22-19. But a couple of reception errors allowed the Wildcats to tie it 24-24. Binghamton had three set points but UNH countered every time and then the Wildcats scored the last three points to seal the opener.

In the second set, BU trailed 8-2 before uncorking their own 8-2 run to a 10-10 draw. It was even at 15, 19, 21 and 22 before UNH delivered back-to-back kills. Stan helped the Bearcats repel a set point with a kill, but the Wildcats put the winner away to take the set again by the slimmest margin.

In the final set, the Bearcats trailed 10-9 before taking a 16-11 lead on a 6-2 UNH run. Binghamton brought it back to three, 16-13 when Stan went down with an injury. At that time, she led BU with 11 kills. New Hampshire finished the game on a 9-3 run as a boisterous BU crowd of nearly 500 was deflated.

Ilieva and Stan led the BU attack with 11 kills each. Bilello dished out 29 assists and freshmen Julia Bonifacio and Madison Konopka recorded 15 and 11 excavations respectively.

Binghamton will continue his season at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC), a 32-team tournament whose bracket will be unveiled on November 27. The Bearcats earned a spot with their America East regular-season title.