Heading into the UT-Arlington Tournament without a victory early in the season, the Binghamton volleyball team’s skid continued this weekend as it was swept by Loyola University (MD.), Air Force Academy and UT Arlington. The Bearcats (0-6) have been outmatched in what has been a tumultuous first half of the preseason.
“Overall, we’re not clicking on all cylinders yet,” said BU head coach Glenn Kiriyama. “But we show glimpses of what potential we have. It’s good to see that they are progressing, and they are getting a little better. We still have a lot of little things to work on and hopefully we can iron some of the things out over the next couple of weeks.”
Binghamton first took on the Greyhounds (3-3) Friday evening and arguably put forth its best showing of the weekend despite not taking a frame. The Bearcats posted scores of 23 and 21 in the first and second sets, respectively, before falling apart in the third sequence with only 11 points. As Kiriyama noted, the team regularly failed to show signs of cohesion while offering glimpses of unreached potential.
Part of the lack of chemistry has undoubtedly been the result of the new group Kiriyama is tasked with coaching in his 20th season. Still searching for a consistent setter, veterans such as senior outside hitters Erin Shultz and Gaby Alicea will have to become accustomed to the playing styles of those trialing the middle position.
“We have a couple of new setters playing and it takes a little bit of experience for the hitters to get used to the different sets and vice versa,” Kiriyama said. “We’re hoping that some of the hitters will come around and our passing and defensive will continue to get better.”
Just as consistency eluded the Bearcats in the opening match of the tournament, the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday appeared as much of the same. Air Force (5-2) held Binghamton to just 36 points and kept Alicea from recording double-digit kills for the first time this season and the first time since Oct. 6, 2017 against UMBC.
Similar to Alicea’s lack of production as emblematic of the second game on the weekend, she was unable to get things going offensively against the Mavericks (3-3) as well. UT Arlington held Alicea from reaching double-digit kills for her second straight contest as she amassed only seven in the game. The team as a whole was overpowered in points, kills, aces, assists and digs, as was the case for most of the tournament.
Although the team had a weekend to forget, one of the few bright spots was Shultz’s dependable level of play. Despite not typically blowing away the competition with 15 to 20 kills, the Carrollton, Texas native’s reliable output may be an indication that the outsides are developing chemistry with the setters.
“[Shultz is] from Texas and she was up for this tournament,” Kiriyama said. “She had some nice games there, not just her hitting but I thought she dug well, especially in the last match. She puts in continual effort every play and she’s great to coach.”
For the Bearcats, the upcoming Wyoming Tournament may result in outcomes identical to this weekend. Both Arizona State University and the University of Wyoming have 5-1 records and have defeated high-caliber teams.
“These tournaments are not getting any easier,” Kiriyama said. “The Wyoming Tournament is going to be a tough one, but we want to see how we can match up against some of these better teams. Hopefully we can raise our level of play as the level of play increases.”
Binghamton is slated to take on Wyoming on Friday, Sept. 7. First serve is expected for noon from Laramie, Wyoming.