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On the final play of the game, Polina Shemonova dove to the floor, arms outstretched as she saved the ball. Her pass found setter Elena Karakasi, who pushed it off her wrists and set up Abby Casiano, whose swing landed between two diving Boston College players.
That last play was one of many examples of Syracuse’s (3-4, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) ability to spread the court and use quick play up the middle. Syracuse forced a 3-0 shutout victory against Boston College (0-5, 0-5) on Friday, the Orange’s first win of October.
“It’s not just something you try to do, you have to have people who are able to do this,” head coach Leonid Yelin said postgame. “And we have to make good use of our middles. When we are passing well, they are so effective, and it’s giving opportunities to the left and right to not hit against an organized block.”
Up the middle, blocker Casiano had eight kills on the night. Using quicks and her right-side slide, Marina Markova led the Orange with 12 kills, marking the first game this season that Shemonova didn’t lead SU in kills.
The Orange’s offense showed it could adapt and be more dynamic. During the first points of the first set, Karakasi sent the ball to Shemonova time and time again, only for her to be met with two or three blockers on every play. The repetition and predictability made it difficult for the junior to get many clean swings. Once SU started spreading the ball out more, points came easier.
Karakasi was aggressive on many plays, often trying to send it over with a second-touch setter dump, or even taking a full swing at it. Although sometimes effective, the hits were blocked or dug by Boston College a few times.
Casiano said Karakasi had gotten away from her usual style during the past few weeks. Because the outside hitters were struggling early in the game, Karakasi felt the need to be more aggressive on second touch.
“By attacking on the second ball, that gets the outsides to have a single block a lot of the time,” Casiano said. “It helps the offense just work better.”
Casiano, Markova and Yuliia Yastrub combined for nine of the Orange’s 10 total blocks. Yelin was especially pleased with Markova’s performance, as she hasn’t played many games at her new middle blocker position.
“We threw her in the lake and told her you have to swim,” Yelin said. “She’s doing a hell of a job for us.”
Boston College was able to cleanly dig hard-hit spikes from Syracuse, passing them right back to the Eagles setter. Even Shemonova’s full swings were occasionally dug by a well-placed BC defender. Points that looked sure to fall were slapped back into the air by a diving BC hand, giving the Eagles multiple second chances on points they might have otherwise lost. Multiple offensive options to attack with helped the Orange get around the Eagles’ floor defense.
“When you’re hitting from all positions … it’s really successful because they are always moving their opponents,” Markova said. “They feel unprepared. They’re guessing usually where to go, and they switch positions, and they won’t find the right spot.”
Syracuse will look to continue its offensive success and finish the season at .500 when they take on Boston College Saturday night for the final game of the year.
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