Emily Earl/Pipe Dream Photographer Junior outside hitter Erin Shultz led the Binghamton women’s volleyball team with 30 kills in the UNLV Invitational this past weekend.

Participating in the UNLV Invitational this past weekend, the Binghamton volleyball team opened the 2017 season with a series of matches in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first and second games took place on Friday against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Eastern Washington University, respectively. The stretch wrapped up with a game on Saturday afternoon against University of California, Davis, marking BU’s third consecutive loss to start the year.

Although Binghamton (0-3) started strong with a 9-6 lead, the Rebels (2-1) went on to outscore BU by 19 points to finish the first set. UNLV controlled the second set from the first serve, taking it to a 25-16 victory. With a chance to pull out a win in a back-and-forth third frame, the Bearcats were unable to put a run together and suffered their first loss of the season in a three-game sweep.

The game against the Eagles (1-2) featured the Bearcats capturing the first set 25-19, dropping a contested second frame 25-21, taking the third 25-22 and then falling in the final two sequences 31-29 and 16-14, respectively. The fourth set concluded in the Eagles’ favor, as they managed to score on a Binghamton serving error. With the series tied at two games, the final set had both teams neck-and-neck as they vied for victory, but EWU took the lead after a 14-14 tie, scoring the 15th and 16th points to win the set and the match.

“I think we’re a fairly scrappy team,” said BU head coach Glenn Kiriyama. “Meaning on defense, we’re able to do fairly well. Keep a lot of balls in play and convert those to points.”

On Saturday, UCD (3-0) overpowered the Bearcats, winning all three sets and handing BU its second sweep of the weekend. In the first set, the Aggies rode an early 12-5 lead to take the first match, 25-14. The second set went back and forth up until a 14-14 tie, after which UCD went on a run to close out the frame, 25-18. The third set featured both teams trading points up to a 23-23 tie. The Aggies proceeded to score the next two points to win the set 25-23 and the series.

Two standouts from the Bearcats over this weekend were senior setter Sarah Ngo and junior outside hitter Erin Shultz. Ngo had a combined 88 assists throughout all three matches, as well as a double-double against UNLV. Shultz earned 30 kills, leading the team’s offensive effort over the weekend.

“[Ngo]’s got a lot of energy — she was able to actually distribute the ball pretty well,” Kiriyama said. “With [Shultz] … she was getting pretty aggressive for the most part. She was able to work with the block that was in front of her and use it to her advantage.”

After starting the season 0-3, Kiriyama hopes the Bearcats can improve their performance in the upcoming stretch of games.

“We just got to control the ball a little bit better on our side, communicate a lot better,” he said. “But we did see some improvement in those areas throughout the weekend, so hopefully we can carry that forward.”

Looking to bounce back and earn its first win of the season, Binghamton is scheduled to compete in the Marist Tournament next weekend. First serve is planned for 7 p.m. on Friday at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.