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Junior Bianca Anderson and senior Megan Burgess are key returning places for the Binghamton University volleyball team.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Volleyball season preview: Bearcats aim for America East title
August 25, 2015Tweet
In 2015, the Binghamton volleyball team will try for its sixth postseason appearance in the last eight seasons. A roster that features a mix of youth and experience will face a tough non-conference schedule before entering a competitive America East campaign.
Coach Glenn Kiriyama begins his 17th season at the helm of the program. He has won 241 matches in his Binghamton tenure, giving him the second-most victories among active America East coaches. Kiriyama has guided the Bearcats to three America East Tournament titles, most recently in 2012.
“Our goal is to win the conference championship,” Kiriyama said. “We have to progress from preseason to non-conference to the America East.”
In 2014, Binghamton advanced to the conference tournament with a 7-5 mark in America East action. It marked a return to the playoffs after missing out in 2013. Junior Allison Hovie returns following her All-America East First Team performance in 2014, while sophomore Alexis LaGoy is back after winning the 2014 America East Rookie of the Year award. Bailey Walker, a junior libero, set the school’s single-season digs record (558) last season.
The Bearcats will have to replace three seniors, as Amanda Dettmann, Kristin Hovie, and Alexa Zbytniewski graduated in the spring. Dettmann was an All-America East First Team choice as a senior, dishing out 1,000 assists. Hovie posted 225 kills and Zbytniewski tallied 162 digs in the back row.
Allison Hovie leads a group that features a senior, a junior, a sophomore and two freshmen. Hovie recorded a team-high 319.5 points as a sophomore, putting up 270 kills, 230 digs, and 32 aces on her way to all-league recognition. In 2015, the native of Neenah, Wis., is a team captain.
“She’s one of our top returners and we’ll lean on her offensively at times,” Kiriyama said. “We’re looking for her to increase her leadership responsibilities this year.”
Megan Burgess is the only senior on this year’s roster. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native scored 309 points last season, second-most on the team. “Megan continues to get better. She’s our hardest hitter and our strongest player,” Kiriyama said. “As a senior, the underclassmen look up to her. She’s the only one to have been here in 2012 (when Binghamton won the America East Tournament), so she knows what it takes.”
Sophomore Mirei Kato and freshmen Erin Shultz and Gabby Alicea will compete for playing time this season. “We want to have a better offense this year, and to do that, we need to diversify and more balance from our hitters,” Kiriyama said.
LaGoy is the headliner at this position, as the Baldwinsville, N.Y., native won the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2014. She totaled 289.5 points, hitting a conference-high .294 in 29 matches. LaGoy added 70 blocks, good for second on the team. “She had a good freshman year and we’re eager to see what she can do as a sophomore,” Kiriyama said.
Bianca Anderson leads the front row defense, having registered a team-leading 96 blocks last year. The junior added 119 kills in 2014. “She’s a mainstay for us in the middle. She’s improved and we’ll look for her to contribute more on offense this year,” Kiriyama said.
Sophomore Kristella Morina is back after seeing time as a rookie. “She came to preseason in good shape and we’ll look for her to contribute with our blocking,” Kiriyama said.
Walker enters her second season as the primary libero for Binghamton. In 2014, the native of Bayport, N.Y., compiled 558 digs, setting the program’s single-season record. She also served 34 aces and put up 89 assists—both of those numbers lead Bearcat returners.
“Bailey did a good job for us last year,” Kiriyama said. “We’re looking for her to do the same this year, with some added leadership responsibilities.”
Kasey Muchnicki and Kelly Leach will both be factors in the back row this season. Muchnicki, a junior from East Northport, N.Y., appeared in all 29 matches last year, totaling 150 digs. Leach, who split time between outside hitter and defensive specialist in 2014, will largely focus on defense for her sophomore year. She put up 43 kills and 81 digs. “We’ll look to them to bolster our back row defense,” Kiriyama said.
Sarah Ngo and Kaelan Haag will have to replace Dettmann as the Bearcats’ playmaker this year. Ngo is a sophomore from Franklin, Tenn., who saw time in 15 contests last season. “She had a good spring for us,” Kiriyama said. “She’s worked really hard to get better.”
Haag, a Naperville, Ill., native, is a 6’2 freshman. “Kaelan is versatile. With her size, she can contribute blocking and hitting, along with setting,” Kiriyama said.
Binghamton will take on a tough schedule, as 12 different opponents won 13 or more matches in 2014. It opens the season at the Florida Atlantic Invitational on Aug. 28. It then competes in events at Cleveland State, Temple, and Cornell in September. Binghamton will face nine schools for the first time in program history.
“We have a good variety on this year’s schedule, both in terms of quality of opponents and that we’re facing some teams we’ve never seen before,” Kiriyama said.
The Bearcats open the home portion of their campaign against Albany on Sept. 25. Binghamton has seven home contests in 2015, including an Oct. 4 date with defending America East champion New Hampshire at the West Gym.
At the end of the regular season, the top four teams in the America East standings will advance to the America East Tournament on Nov. 20-21, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“The conference is getting better, so we know we have to get better to keep up with that,” Kiriyama said. “We’re looking forward to the competition.”