The Binghamton volleyball team participated in its second weekend volleyball tournament of the season and struggled its way through it. The team dropped all three of its matches in the Seton Hall Classic Friday and Saturday, and, six games into the season, the Bearcats (0-6) are still searching for their first victory.
“It’s always tough to lose,” said BU head coach Glenn Kiriyama. “But the team fought hard, they’re learning, and that’s what we want. We’re making a lot of unforced errors and a lot of forced errors, so there are a lot of things to work on … A little bit more skill in certain areas to reduce some of the errors, but mostly we’re heading in the right direction.”
The opening match for the Bearcats took place against La Salle Friday afternoon and saw the Bearcats get swept. The Explorers (3-3) earned 11 more kills than Binghamton and had nearly triple as many aces. Junior outside hitter Francela Ulate led the Bearcats with 12 kills.
Though the Bearcats trailed in the entire first set, they did take a few brief leads in the second. The team managed to work its way to a 16-16 tie in the second set, but then a six-point run by La Salle, powered by four straight kills from junior outside hitter Samantha Graver, put the set out of reach. The Explorers then used another late run in the third to seal the sweep.
Binghamton won its first and only set of the season in its second matchup of the weekend. Facing the hosts, Seton Hall, the Bearcats avoided a fifth straight sweep by taking the third set against the Pirates (1-6). Ulate added 16 more kills to her stat total while sophomore setter Kiara Adams put in 32 assists. Ulate also contributed five of BU’s six aces, two of which came in a crucial moment down the stretch of the set the Bearcats won.
In that set, the Bearcats found some of the offensive consistency that has otherwise eluded them so far in the season, as they were able to string several points together and put some separation between themselves and their opponents. Kiriyama hopes the team can find that level of offensive play again in its future matches.
“We’ve got to improve our team offense, which starts with the pass, and then the hitters being able to execute,” Kiriyama said. “Those are the components that we are going to emphasize the most this coming week.”
The closing match of the weekend immediately followed the Seton Hall contest on Saturday afternoon, and the Bearcats were swept once again, this time by Northeastern, the eventual winners of the Seton Hall Classic. The Huskies (4-2) won each of the three sets by eight points or more and prevented BU from gaining any traction in the contest.
Though the Bearcats once again posted a winless record at a tournament, the weekend wasn’t completely without success, as Ulate was awarded a spot on the All-Tournament Team. The junior accumulated 32 kills and 38.5 points across the three contests, and Kiriyama expects that Ulate will have to play a central role on the team going forward.
“[Ulate] had a nice tournament,” Kiriyama said. “[She] made All-Tournament Team. She has a lot of power as an outside hitter and as a server. She was able to make some great plays out of certain situations … I think she’ll be one of the better offensive players this coming season once conference [play] starts. We’re going to need her to continue to do what she’s doing.”
The Bearcats’ schedule of nonconference tournaments continues next weekend with another three-game slate at the Black Knights Invitational, hosted by Army. Despite the difficult start to the 2019 season, Kiriyama is confident that the team is heading in the right direction, and that the team’s first victory is not far off.
“We got the talent,” Kiriyama said. “We’ve just got to get things going.”
The Bearcats begin their run at the Black Knights Invitational with a match against Kent State at 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 13 at Gillis Field House in West Point, New York.